~ Think about These Things ~
“ Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Dear Members and Friends,
January is surely the most virtuous month of the year. In January, people eat healthier, exercise more, pray more, and spend less time on the Internet than at any other time of the year—even Lent. Why? Because in January, we’re still trying to keep all of our New Year’s resolutions. February? The year’s second month is less ambitious than its older sibling. By the time February rolls around, either our resolutions have established themselves as new habits or, more likely, they’ve gone the way of all flesh. The almond milk starts to go bad in the fridge. The in-home treadmill sits untouched. You’ve got thirteen daily emails from Richard Rohr (devotional writer) sitting unopened in your inbox. In order to develop new ways of thinking and living, we need regular disciplined exposure. Otherwise, we fall back into the same old default postures that we’ve been developing, like spiritual callouses, over the decades.
Forbes magazine recently said this: “A new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that kids and teens who are raised with religious practices tend to have better physical and mental health as they age.” 5,000 young people were followed for about fourteen years, and the findings were strongly supportive of raising kids in church. “It turned out that those who attended religious services at least once a week as children or teens were about 18% more likely to report being happier in their 20s than those who never attended services. They were also almost 30% more likely to do volunteer work and 33% less likely to use drugs in their 20s. Those who prayed or meditated every day had more life satisfaction, were better able to process emotions, and were more forgiving compared to those who never prayed or meditated.” They were also less likely to engage in promiscuous behaviors and contract STDs.
If church attendance and prayer can keep our kids healthier as they age, then surely they have the same effect on adults. It’s interesting to observe that suicide rates in the US are the lowest among middle-aged African American women and highest among middle-aged white men. The least suicidal demographic is also the most likely to attend church, and the most suicidal demographic is among the least likely.
I have a theory about this. The world around us is forever regaling us with unhealthy notions of human worth and worthlessness. It’s forever modeling for us unwholesome ideals of wealth, and physical beauty, and sexuality, and achievement, and power. Everything from “toxic masculinity” to eating disorders can be learned from subtle-but-persistent messages that we pick up daily. This is why churchgoing is a healthy “alternative lifestyle.” It makes us think better thoughts. It gives language to nobler things. It exposes us to principles that we don’t get anywhere else. A person’s character is pretty much the sum of his or her thoughts, isn’t it? In the face of all that’s broken and bad in our world, let’s make sure we expose ourselves to things of goodness, truth, and beauty. In Christ’s Peace, ~Brian
PS: Our Chancel Choir has been invited to take part in the “Anointed Praize” concert at Brown Chapel AME, on Saturday, February 9, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. A soul food dinner will be available for $12 following the concert. Brown Chapel is located at 1400 Boyle Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. We hope you’ll join us for a fun afternoon of new friendships.