Empty Pews Are an American Public Health Crisis

Americans are rapidly giving up on church. Our minds and bodies will pay the price.

TYLER J. VANDERWEELE AND BRENDAN CASEOCTOBER 19, 2021 for Christianity Today

photo from Anglican Diocese of the South

The Reverend William Glass is an Anglican priest and theologian, fluent in five languages and possessing an impressive résumé in marketing. His story isn’t one of privilege, however. In Glass’s view, the church saved his life.

Glass grew up desperately poor in a Florida trailer park. His family went to church perhaps once a year, but his religious background was, in his words, “Southern alcoholic.” His father was either absent or abusive, he had no close friends, and when he attended school it was a torment. Barely into his teens, he began to manage the stress with drugs and alcohol.

But then Glass visited a Presbyterian youth group to “impress a girl.” It didn’t change everything overnight: He continued to have a rough life, including a brush with homelessness. But Glass also had friends in churches who took care of him during crises, helped him stay connected, and showed him another way to live.

As Glass sees it, church above all offered him “social and relational capital” that was in short supply in his fragmented communities. “The bonds I formed in church,” he says, “meant that when things got bad, there was something else to do besides the next bad thing.”

Glass’s case might be a dramatic one, but it illustrates a documented pattern in our society: People find their social and personal lives improved—sometimes their lives are even physically saved—when they go to church often.

In 2019, Gallup reported that only 36 percent of Americans view organized religion with “a great deal of confidence,” down from 68 percent in 1975. The study’s authors speculate that this trend has been driven in part by the highly publicized moral failures and crimes of religious institutions and leaders.

My cmnt: While certainly the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests has gotten a lot of press (though in actual percentage is roughly the same as other professions including teachers and medical personnel) my observation is that it is the pervasive lies of the scientific establishment and democrat-media complex (which includes the public schools and most colleges and universities) pushing the neoDarwinian synthesis concerning the origin and advancement of life on our planet that has corrupted the hearts and minds of generations of people. As to the numerous books and articles by top scientists refuting this narrative I would recommend “Taking Leave of Darwin” by Neil Thomas as an nice introduction to this material.

My cmnt: Now deceased Law professor Phillip E Johnson has written that whoever gets to tell the creation story to a culture becomes the arbiter of what is real for that society. By pushing the false doctrine of Darwinism (from goo to you by way of the zoo) which claims that natural selection and random mutations operating on the first, primitive life form over hundreds of millions of years has produced the myriad species of plants and animals that now (and in the past) inhabit the earthmany people have been led to believe there is no God so why go to church.

My cmnt: Darwin simply assumed the first life form and speculated that it might have arisen from a warm little pond eons ago by natural causes. We now know that to be utterly false. No one truly has any idea how the first life form came to be. The living cell is the most complex entity in the known universe. Even the most simple single cell bacteria, which have been on the planet for several billion years, are complex beyond even the understanding of biologists. It is an indisputable fact that chance plus natural laws plus time does not and has never been observed to produce any type of informed complexity such as working computer code or DNA.

My cmnt: As we take back the creation story we take back the authority to answer for people the big questions of life: who am I, how did I get here, why am I here, how then should I live? Even the misuse of the Covid-19 crisis by the democrats cannot keep people out of the churches when they start to understand that Darwinism is quite simply the creation myth of our time.

The decline in confidence in churches has been accompanied by steep recent declines in both church membership and attendance. Barna Group found that 10 years ago, in 2011, 43 percent of Americans said they went to church every week. By February of 2020, that had dropped 14 percentage points to 29 percent.

But when Americans describe the reasons they seldom or never attend church, scandals don’t get top billing. Instead, people who think of themselves as Christians are more likely to say that they practice their faith in other ways (44 percent) or that there’s something they don’t like about the service (38 percent).

Whether or not outrage is involved, the most common experience of Christians who don’t go to church seems to be less a deliberate choice and more a substitution of habits. Put differently, a large share of Christians are opting to go it alone, moving their faith into quarters so private that even the church is not allowed in.

Obviously this trend drives down church attendance and membership. But less obvious until recently is that it is also harming the well-being of those who have stopped attending. A sizable body of research developed over the past couple of decades suggests that Glass’s story is a powerful instance of a broader reality: Religious participation strongly promotes health and wellness.

This means that Americans’ growing disaffection with organized religion isn’t just bad news for churches; it also represents a public health crisis, one that has been largely ignored but the effects of which are likely to increase in coming years.

Of course, the point of the gospel is not to lower your blood pressure, but to know and love God as you are known and loved by him. We have to distinguish between the imperfect flourishing that is possible in this life and the perfect happiness and joy that is made full in the life to come.

So what are the public health benefits of church attendance? Consider how it appears to affect health care professionals. Some of my (Tyler’s) research examined their behaviors over the course of more than a decade and a half using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 70,000 participants.

—– You can read the rest of this interesting article by clicking on the link to Christianity Today provided above.

One thought on “Empty Pews Are an American Public Health Crisis

  1. The (fake) church has never been more irrelevant than it is today. The materialism origins myth is only cool until everything’s on fire. Well, now nothing is sacrosanct; everything is burning. But will people be hungry for the holy and true? I’m not so sure. That very story so readily rejected says the citizen delegates will try to cancel the installation of the king. But may there be increase in the ragtag commoners who enter in humility – dressed for the wedding banquet of the Lamb.

    Like

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