Is Religion Good for Growing Kids?

4934176625_fd548deea7_m“Religiously aware adolescents who feel connected to a higher power are 40 percent less likely to abuse substances, 68 percent less likely to battle depression, and 80 percent less likely to engage in at-risk sexual behavior.” It surprised me recently to read this information on RealClearReligion.com.

The statistics come from the work of Lisa Miller of Columbia University. She is quoted in an article, “Spiritual IQ In A Secular Age” by Betsy VanDenBerghe, and carried on Real Clear Religion during the last week of April, 2016.

My experience makes this information seem plausible. Still I was surprised to see it because up until the 1970s or thereabouts adding spiritual aspects into this human developmental research was viewed skeptically if not with outright hostility. In particular, influences from “the Christian church” were dismissed or denigrated.

And, today in some respects, the resistance to religion as a positive force in human development seems even stronger. Think of calls for the removal of “In God We Trust” from American currency and the Ten Commandments from public spaces; the prohibition of prayer at public events; the legalization of abortion; and the widespread claim that morality is relative and only subject to personal choice.

It is no wonder that Millennials and others are falling away from the church in significant numbers when such negatives are arrayed against their training five days a week. The above article does not, however, promote any particular religion. Specifically, it does not stump for Christianity. In fact, the article’s studied neutrality in that regard makes it all the more interesting.

Lisa Miller writes, “It is scientifically plausible that human beings, particularly teen agers and young adults are wired for transcendence and possess inborn spirituality that must be used – or lost.”

Christians can correlate such insights with theological beliefs the Christian church has held through the ages. For example, the Apostle John writes of the incarnation of Jesus, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Every person! Methodists and others would call this “prevenient grace” – the grace that goes before and is actively drawing each person toward God even before the attraction is personally recognized and saving grace is offered.

But how should this prevenient grace be nourished in children? Blessed are the children who hear their first prayers at Mother’s knees, or sit on father’s lap even before understanding develops to hear the Bible read daily with the family. Also blessed is the teenager who is sent off to school day after day with a short parental prayer recognizing that God is over all.

Even doubly blessed are single parents who must shoulder the load of the religious training of little ones alone but who do it resolutely.

And blessed are children and young people who receive the benefits of regularly meeting in a company of Christians who gather weekly to worship God. We might say in secular terms, “to feel connected to a higher power.”

Add to these bedtime prayers and easy discussions at meal time. These practices will develop easily with parents who have a heart for God. “Out of the heart the mouth speaketh”.

It’s encouraging to be reminded from outside the Christian community that children and adolescents have an easily-awakened sense of the transcendent. For Christians it’s an encouragement from a secular publication from work at Columbia University to nurture in children a Christian awareness of God in Christ, and his call to salvation and discipleship.

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Photo credit: GeniesWords (via flickr.com)
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5 thoughts on “Is Religion Good for Growing Kids?

  1. Wow, the news you brought Don is an eye-opener–about the positive results of the Faith on youth. I’m wondering if I might be able to slip something of your blog into the column I have with a local paper. Well done Don.
    RCKenny

  2. ‘A heart for God’ is a perfect phrase for being open to God in daily life -seeking God , looking to God , depending on God.

    Having a heart for God gives young people a secure foundation as they learn to live cooperatively ,relating well, in family and society .A heart for God is a valuable asset for children and adolescents as they face the uncertainties and challenges of growing up.

    The adolescent years can be frought with challenges as the young person encounters bodily and emotioal change. Adapting , learning to live in harmony with others can be difficult.A heart for God is a steadying anchor in turbulent seas.

    The years of childhood and adolescence are crucially important for life as a whole.They are the foundation years of a good life,well lived.

    Living in tune with God’s grace, with His power of love, is the way to safely circumnavigate the pitfalls along the path of growing up..These pitfalls can include dependence or addiction to drugs alcohol and tobacco with their attendant physical and mental health risks .Another pitfall may be the negative physical and emotional effects of inappropriate sex..

    Lisa Miller’s research at Columbia University isinteresting.Her findings are salutary reading. The concept of spiritual intelligence quotient seems a sound and useful idea.

    It’s not good or clever when the worldly wise adopt scepticism or cynicism toward the spiritual part in human make up and development. To dismiss or denigrate millennia of Christian thinking and experience,as is fashionable, constitutes a dangerous avoidance , a denial , an ostrich like burying ones head in the sand. Such a posture may be fashionable, but it puts our children at risk and is deeply irresponsible.

    I’d heard, with surprise, of the calls in America and Canada, for ‘Happy Christmas’ to be secularized into ‘Happy Holidays’.I was surprised because North American churchgoing and declared Christian faith adherentce , as reported in surveys, is proportionally much higher than in UK.

    I didn’t know about the calls to remove ‘In God we trust’ from American currency.Something similar occurs in UK.

    In UK ,some , who know Latin ,on deciphering the Latin acronyms engraved on our coinage, object to the inscription :

    ‘ ELIZABETH II DG REG FD.’

    This appears on UK coins and stands for –

    ‘Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensatrix ‘.

    In English this translates as ‘’ Elizabeth 2nd ,by the grace of God ,Queen,Defender of the Faith ‘’

    There are regular calls to remove all reference to ’Defender of the faith and ‘by the grace of God’ from our coinage .Britain is an established protestant Anglican nation.Our head of state ,who is our monarch not our prime minister , must, by law , be a protestant Anglican Christian.

    Furthermore Christianity is built into our political system and our parliament.Our parliament consists of two chambers,an upper and lower. The lower has prerogative but laws must pass through both to become statute.

    Our lower chamber,the House of Commons ,consists of members elected by the people at General Election.

    The upper chamber comprises 3 groups of people .First , hereditary peers, those lords and ladies by birth , born into the aristocracy.Second, non hereditary peers , appointed by Her Majesty’s Government and Opposition ,to sit in the upper chamber for life but unable to pass their title down , hereditarily,to their eldest child. .Third , the Lords Spiritual.The Lords Spiritual are the Bishops of the Anglican Church.

    I visited Parliament , the House of Commons, at the invitation of my elected member at thetime,,the late Hon Mrs Audrey Wise MP .Now ,this year I’m invited to visit Parliament again,this time The House of Lords , through my church ,at the invitation of Christopher,Bishop of Coventry. As an Anglican Bishop ,he is one of the Lords Spiritual and he sits in Parliament by right and responsibility.

    This shows how embedded in politics the church is .That is our national Anglican church ( the Church of tngland, the Church in Wales,the Church in Scotland and the Church in Ireland) . Of course there are many other Christian denominations in UK.

    I value Christian input in our political system at a time when very few British people go to church and surveys reveal the proportion of those who believe in God are nearly exceeded by those who do not.Time and time again it is the Lords spiritual who stand up for children,unborn children,family values ,the poor ,the sick and the vulnerable.Even many who oppose Christian influence admit this.

    Christians stand up for the unborn baby.They stand against using the bodies of babies for stem cell research, without permission of their grieving parents.They stand against the legalization of euthanasia, so called ‘mercy killing’.

    It’s good that scientists recognize the plausibility of inborn spirituality, something which Christians, who believe in the Holy Spirit, know by faith.Every baby is born with prevenient grace deep within,assured,ready to become saving grace upon recognition ,acceptance and embrace.This with or without parental support.

    What an empowering foundation those children have,whose Christian parents dedicate them to God in infancy, raise them in holiness , introduce them to scripture , to the habit of daily prayer, to church and Sunday school.

    A baby was born to a dear friend of mine last October. Her Christian mother ,supported by her Christian family,recently took her to the family church to dedicate her to Christ , blessed infant.What a wonderful start in life Baby has.How wonderful if every baby had such a foundation.

    • Hello, Francis: You always write such fresh thoughts in response to my blogs. And with such clear diction. I’ve believed for a long time that the British have a special gift of speech. I notice it when I hear news clips from BBC or otherwise. Thanks for you thumbnail sketch of how the parliament is laid out. You in that part of t he world make more of tradition than we do in the new world. Even so, my friends, especially in the USA think I am more traditional than Americans generally are, although we all have our own little traditions. Thanks, Francis, for continuing to read my blogs. Don

      • Thankyou Pastor Don.Your weekly blog is an important resource for me.Your blogs inspire me to think more clearly about my faith, consult my Bible and think more deeply about God’s message and to apply what I have learned in my daily Christian living.I share the thoughts and ideas in your blogs and talk about them with a few friends who don’t have internet access One church friend particularly , looks forward each week to the weekly subject of your blog Also I told an online friend,a Baptist internet friend in Orlando, Florida ,about ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ Like me, that friend finds Just Call Me Pastor a valuable resource and we discuss it online. So thankyou , Pastor Don,for your regular writing on important questions of faith.

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