I’m a lifelong journalist, from my high school days till now. Many of you know I’m a former broadcaster, 17 years covering news and sports and talk. And in my current day job of nearly 20 years I’m a yearbook journalist, helping school students to improve their own yearbook journalism. It’s all about the stories.
But the journalism business is tough these days.
Look no further than our local State College daily newspaper.
In their hey day years ago the local daily paper was the center of storytelling in our area. The departments were alive with many hard working writers and editors who cranked out quite a few fresh stories every day.
But in recent years they’ve watched their circulation numbers plummet. Budgets have been slashed and so has staffing. With so many other new information outlets now available, the stately local paper seems like a dinosaur in a museum.
Today they’re a shadow of their former self, to the point where they’ve essentially given up on any high school reporting of any kind, unless it involves controversy or mold.
Good luck finding scholastic sports coverage in there – it’s gone. Want to start a new business? Cover local high school sports – people still want the information and coverage of their kids, but the old standby paper no longer cares. If it isn’t Penn State, it’s not worth covering.
So, many of us probably only give the local daily paper barely a glance anymore, if that.
But resist the urge, because there are still some interesting stories and investigations to be told. The local paper’s recent feature story on the effect of alcohol on the State College area is one example.
And they still occasionally reprint a story or column that grabs the eye.
This past Sunday’s paper had an example, a column originally published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution several days ago.
One thing hasn’t changed much – most people barely get past the headline of a story before moving on. But this headline should have grabbed eyes.
The local headline said “Study shows value to children of attending religions services.” The original headline from Atlanta stated “Children who attend religions services are happier adults.”
One subheadline, in large type, stated “The study found that children raised in a religious or spiritual environment were better protected from depression, substance abuse and other risky behaviors.”
You mean...taking kids to stodgy old church is actually GOOD for them?
This information obviously came from some right wing, biased, cross hugging bunch, right?
Actually the study mentioned came from the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. Yes, that HAAAA-verd, thought by many to be a bastion of secular thought and ideals.
And it followed a pretty staggering 5,000+ young people for a period from eight to 14 years. In other words, pretty thorough.
Key stats from the study?
Folks who attended religious services while children or adolescents were 18 percent more likely to have happier young adulthoods than those who didn’t attend any services.
These same people were 29 percent more likely to do some volunteer work in the community, a good thing. They were 33 percent less likely to do drugs, doubly good.
Those who prayed or meditated daily were far more likely to have happier lives in their 20’s, far less likely to have sex at a young age and even more less likely to get a sexually transmitted disease. No condoms needed.
At this point the heads of the secular atheist champions must be spinning like tops. They always want to be the ones calling the tune.
Expect some “reasoned” academics to now do their best to tear this study down. Has to be a fluke, or flawed, or misguided.
No way this can be right, because if it is...
An obvious question here is WHY these results are accurate. The story points out that having a shared set of beliefs or a communal gathering of like-minded people gives a certain strength in numbers.
But there may be a much simpler reason for these positive results...
The good news of the Bible, the Gospels and Jesus Christ is that there is always hope in life. From birth to death and beyond, our belief in God means we WILL be saved. There is always HOPE.
Even when we stumble, and we ALL stumble, Jesus is there to help us get up again. We can ask and our sins are forgiven – “go, and sin no more.” John 8:11
It’s the hope that you can never get from wild living, or boozing and drugs, or selfish interests, or a video screen, or a “me first” attitude.
It’s the hope that shows us that His universe is unbelievably vast, and science tells us that – but there’s only one of each of us and ALL of us are special in His eyes. Every – single – one – of us.
Jesus’ parables from Luke Chapter 15 – the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Prodigal Son – all show that a religious upbringing means you’re never lost. Even when you go off the track, He is there searching for you, waiting to bring you home again.
Too many kids these days have no experience with church at all. Sunday mornings are for sleeping in, watching television, playing video games or blasting out the songs. Or worse.
The stories of those hopelessly lost in life are heartbreaking. Suicide, depression, substance abuse, destitute, lost in the crowd. No hope.
But there IS hope. And for parents a lot of that hope lies in the teaching and learning of those Bible stories that many of us know so well, stories of courage and hope and faith. Stories that our children and young people need to hear and learn.
They’re counting on us. The stats don’t lie, right?
Want to read the original column from Atlanta for yourself? https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/religion/this-life-children-who-attend-religious-services-are-happier-adults/u2Z8vkktyachtftmMpmJzL/.