Do people active in religious communities focus so intently on that aspect of their lives that they become sort of disengaged from other activities and their communities?
But, in fact, a new survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates shows, as the press release says, that "religiously active Americans are more trusting of others, are more optimistic about their impact on their community, think more highly of their community, are more involved in more organizations of all kinds, and devote more time to the groups to which they are active."
As Jim Jansen, author of the report, concluded: “Those who are religiously active are more likely to participate in all kinds of groups and more likely to feel good about their communities. Those who are active in religious groups seem to be joiners.”
To read the full report, which is part of the Pew Internet and American Life project, click here.
That's generally been my experience of people of faith. Why are they like that?
Well, no doubt for many reasons, but my own experience is that people's faith motivates them to want to be engaged in their communities.
In Christian terms, they are anxious to provide small demonstrations of what the reign of God will look like when it's fully realized. So they work to alleviate poverty because in the kingdom of God there will be no poverty. They work to alleviate many other social ills, too, for the same reason.
I'm certainly not saying that all altruistic behavior found in our culture is motivated by religious faith. Many atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and others outside traditional faith communities also get engaged in various groups that work to better society. But in a nation so full of people with strong faith connections, it's no exaggeration to say that much of this kind of work finds its impulse in religious teaching.
By the way, the new survey also has information about how people of faith view and use technology, in case you want to poke around in it to see that aspect of the study.
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A PAKISTANI CHRISTMAS
Well, yes, Pakistan is a poor, unstable, dangerous country, but it was not without Christmas, as this report suggests. Three members of my congregation recently went to Pakistan to work for awhile with the Presbyterian Education Board there, a wonderful agency that is helping to educate both boys and girls. PEB could use your help and your prayers.
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P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online. To read it, click here.