Walking in the Right Direction A column by Bill Ellenberger for The Daily Herald

Church attendance can strengthen society

A recent study has shown that church attendance can improve one’s marriage, strengthen bonds between fathers and children, lower divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates, and enhance social stability. Those are some of the conclusions from a recent report issued by the Center for Marriage and Families.
The report was written by W. Bradford Wilcox, author of the book, “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands.” While his faith-based views will likely prompt some to throw stones at his conclusions, critics will have a hard time explaining away his analysis of three national surveys that didn’t originate with the Church.
Societal benefits
“The societal benefits of stable marriage can’t be overstated. Bradford notes in his report there is an increasing void between fathers and their children, with more and more men living apart from their offspring.
In addition to spiritual leaders, the resulting problems have prompted concern among scholars, policy makers and civic leaders. This is where the Church comes in to play.
“Notwithstanding recent reports to the contrary, religious Americans enjoy happier and more stable marriages than their peers who are secular or only nominally affiliated with a religious tradition,” Wilcox says.”
Numerous positive indicators
Among his findings based on the national surveys:
• Married couples 18 to 55 who attend services several times a month or more have happier marriages—70 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women, compared to 59 percent of men and 57 percent of women who rarely or never attend church.
• Fathers who attend church regularly are more involved with their children and are more affectionate toward them than their secular peers. Dads in church are more likely to devote at least two hours a week in youth activities (such as Boy Scouts or coaching sports) and are more likely to engage in one-on-one activities with their school-age children.
• From 1988-93, Americans who attended religious services regularly were approximately 35 percent less likely to divorce than those who do not. Wilcox notes that many news media and commentators picked up on George Barna’s 2004 finding that born-again Christians were as likely to have divorced as non-church goers. However, Wilcox says that research failed to distinguish between nominal and church-going believers.
• Consistent church attendance is linked to lower levels of non-marital childbearing. Thirty-four percent of mothers who attended church once a month or less had a child outside of wedlock, compared to 25 percent of mothers who attend church at least once a week (not a real great statistic, but another message.)
Wilcox attributes the family-oriented effects of religion on family men to a variety of factors, such as preaching and rituals that instill sacred character, social networks that sustain marriage, and helping men deal constructively with life’s stresses.
“Men and women who are fortunate enough to live in families centered around high-quality, stable marriages enjoy a range of benefits: better health, greater wealth, and more happiness than their peers,” he says.
The whole report can be found on the Internet at: http://www.center.americanvalues.org.
Our actions matter
While society often buys into the myths of individual expression and responsibility-free relationships, God made us for family and community where our actions do matter to those around us. Nowhere can people learn how to traverse this sticky wicket called life than the places where God’s Word is proclaimed.
Stay focused on the king, Bill

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