Archive for December, 2012

Faith Matters: Jesus & Great Marriages

December 11th, 2012 1 comment

This next series of blogs is dedicated to establishing the vital role our Christian faith plays in establishing healthy families and communities. While many today see religion as unnecessary or even detrimental to society at large, the social science data repeatedly make clear that the practice of the Christian faith is a great public and private good. The indirect benefits of religious practice save the individual taxpayer money while contributing to the public revenues.

According to social researcher and scientist, Dr. Pat Fagan, “Worship’s benefits flow over to all the other major institutions of the nation: the family, education, the marketplace and income, and government. Worship’s rewards are visible, for example, in education and human capital development, sexual behavior, relational strength, psychological and physical well-being, and in a significant decrease in a variety of social ills.” (95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice)

Consider the powerful impact of Christianity makes in the institution of marriage:

Numerous sociological studies have shown that valuing religion and regularly
practicing it are associated with greater marital stability, higher levels of marital
satisfaction, and an increased inclination to marry.(1)

Religious attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability. Couples who worship Christ together have more solid, stable marriages.(2)

Couples who acknowledged a divine purpose in their marriage were more likely to
collaborate, to have greater marital adjustment, and to perceive more benefits
from marriage.(3) When couples live for the glory of God their marriage is infused with a greater purpose than mere self-fulfillment.

Couples whose marriages lasted 30 years or more reported that their faith helped
them to deal with difficult times, was a source of moral guidance in making
decisions and dealing with conflict, and encouraged them to maintain their
commitment to their marriages.(4) In short, your faith matters when the storms of life hit!

The more frequently husbands attended religious services, the happier their wives
said they were with the level of affection and understanding they received and
the amount of time their husbands spent with them.(5) Godly men have happier wives!

(1) Andrew J. Weaver, Judith A. Samford, Virginia J. Morgan, David B. Larson, Harold G. Koenig, and Kevin J. Flannelly, “A Systematic Review of Research on Religion in Six Primary Marriage and Family Journals: 1995-1999,” American Journal of Family Therapy 30, no. 4 (July 2002): 293-309.

(2) David B. Larson, Susan S. Larson, and John Gartner, “Families, Relationships and Health,” in Behavior and Medicine, ed. Danny Wedding (St. Louis: Mosby Year Book, Inc., 1990), 135-147.

(3) Lee G. Burchinal, “Marital Satisfaction and Religious Behavior,” American Sociological Review 22, no. 3 (June 1957): 306-310.

(4) Linda C. Robinson, “Marital Strengths in Enduring Marriages,” Family Relations 42, no. 1 (1993): 38-45.

(5) W. Bradford Wilcox, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 186.

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Freedom’s Two-Sided Coin

December 5th, 2012 4 comments

In our understanding of liberty, it is important to revisit an important debate dating all the way back to the Middle Ages. Freedom, according to the ancient argument, can be defined in two different, yet equally important, ways.

To use the analogy of a common coin, whether you call heads or tails, it’s still the same coin. The coin of freedom can be defined positively or negatively. Negative freedom is freedom FROM. This side of freedom’s coin emphasizes the freedom from restraint, constraint or interference.

Positive freedom, on the other hand, is freedom FOR. We must have freedom to pursue whatever ideals, goals or visions we have before us.

While our founders understood the inherent tension between these two sides of the coin, they realized that both are necessary if freedom is to be preserved. Neither is complete without the other. A freedom from, without a freedom for, is a freedom without a point of reference. In other words, what is the whole point of freedom if we have no overarching vision? We may be free, but free for WHAT?

When we overemphasize negative freedom, we end up with a very individualistic, private hybrid which exalts personal expression (freedom from) to the neglect of public responsibility. We see this imbalance in our American republic today. Freedom often means, “Stay out of my business” or “Leave me alone.”

The problem with this imbalance, as Guinness points out, is that “unconstrained negative freedom can easily degenerate into apathy and moral callousness, for what begins as freedom from interference easily slides into the freedom of indifference.” My plea to stay out of my business often leads to an attitude where I could care less about your business. The result is a callous indifference for others ending in the death of true community.