AFA-IN: Mental Health and Church Attendance

Mental Health, Society and Family Breakdown

One of the issues in the recently concluded 2019 Indiana General Assembly surrounded mental health problems in schools.   As you may have read in our many email alerts, there was a heavy push to expand mental health exams, surveys, and outside referrals in schools.  Some proposals would have required all 330,000 high school students to go through a mental health assessment.  Another bill would have set up a massive database, tracking mental health issues and beliefs of all 900,000+ public school students in Indiana from birth through age 22.

AFA of Indiana had concerns with these efforts because the proponents of these measures often seemed to blame the family for all these problems and look to the government for all the solutions.  One legislator boldly stated in her presentation of a bill, that “we (teachers) have to be the parents now.”   

AFA-IN has never denied that there are mental health problems in society.  But we questioned the government’s ability to fix this problem without involving parents, the very cornerstone of healthy families and children. (The government’s track record on fixing any social ill is mediocre, at best.)   Blaming parents for children with mental health issues may undermine the foremost, front-line institution that students most need to succeed.

There is an interesting article on mental illness from the Institute for Family Studies that asks a fascinating question. What if modern society is undermining the very institutions such as marriage, faith and community that have long upheld a healthy citizenry?

Researcher David Lapp writes:

“Mental illness is like any other bodily illness” is a common thing we say—and, in many ways, it’s true.  But what if modern society is also sick, tearing apart organic groups meant to grow and stick together? A mom and dad for a child, an extended family and a community to shelter the nuclear unit, and a web of meaning and support surrounding those core communities. What if there is something about modern life and modern family structures that make our brains more vulnerable to mental illness

You can see Lapp’s research and read his article, “The Mind in a Lonely Age” here:
https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-mind-in-a-lonely-age

Religious Holidays Are Important to Society

AFA-IN supporters are a diverse group in many ways such as age, income, demographic backgrounds, religious and policy beliefs.   One thing that I really count as a blessing is that while there are times that I certainly express strong viewpoints, overall, I seldom receive harsh criticism from actual AFA-IN supporters.

There have been many times that I have hit the send button on these weekly emails wondering if I have doomed our future as an organization, worrying that we will lose donors by the droves after something I have written.  That has never happened, in fact, it seems that when I am angry with our culture or political leaders, many of you are even more upset and thankful that I wrote what you felt.

I certainly get more than my share of hatred from those who hold a liberal worldview regarding the stands we take. That’s just a reflection of our impact and the spiritual battles in which AFA-IN engages.  I take those things in stride.

Yet, I always appreciate hearing where I may be mistaken from our supporters.  Those who have held me accountable or had concerns about, or disagreements with, things I have said, have always been very gracious.  I have learned as much from our supporters as some may have learned from my writings.

I have often told my staff that after years of surveying AFA of Indiana supporters there is only one thing that they all have in common.  Almost every Sunday, they are in church. 

Two weeks ago, Americans celebrated the Easter holidy.  In fact, 80% of Americans celebrated Easter, though not all did so in a religious manner. Recent surveys showed that nearly half of all Americans had planned to attend church on Easter.  According to the National Retail Federation, total spending for Easter, including purchases of apparel, decorations, gifts, candy, food, flowers and more, is more than $16 billion a year.

Clearly this religious holiday has a huge economic impact, but what impact does church attendance have?    Attending a religious service on Easter or Christmas, the two Holidays when churches see the highest attendance, may not be life or society changing by itself, but it is something important to consider.

I recently put together a fact sheet on the importance of church.  I intend to include this resource in a mailing this summer.  (If any pastor, church leader or reader would like a copy of this now, feel free to email me.)

If you have ever wondered how important churches are, and maybe you did after seeing the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, here are just a few interesting research findings.  These would also apply to regular attendance at temples, synagogues or mosques:

  • Couples who attend church regularly together and are more religious have, on average, higher-quality marriages, which can serve as a buffer against societal breakdown and the social ills connected with it.
  • Individuals who attend church regularly, compared to those who attend only rarely or never, are significantly less likely to engage in violent behavior against their partners.
  • Youth who participate in religious activity, such as prayer or reading or watching religious content, are less likely to display antisocial behavior.

Active faith matters to a healthy society.  It is something to be encouraged rather than denigrated or dismissed.

In Their Own Words:

“Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies.” – Whittaker Chambers

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