January 6, 2009

Mom, Dad and God, the City and the Wilderness

After catching up on the Internet, here are some articles that caught my eye.

Girls Need a Dad and Boys Need a Mom  by Janice Shaw Crouse. 

The latest issue of The Journal of Communication and Religion (November 2008, Volume 31, Number 2) contains an excellent analysis of the importance of opposite-sex parent relationships.  The common sense conclusion is backed up with social science data and affirmed by a peer-reviewed scholarly article: girls need a dad, and boys need a mom. 
The authors cited numerous studies that link religious beliefs and practices to a strong family unit and noted the fact that the most noticeable impact of religiosity is during adolescence.  The majority of studies found an inverse relationship between religiosity and high-risk adolescent behaviors (drinking, drug use, sexual activity, depression, etc.).  Other studies indicate a strong relationship between the family's religious belief and practice and a teen's emotional health and family well-being.  This is especially true of teenage boys.

While family communication and interaction is critical to high-quality relationships for children and adolescents, this study suggests that the opposite-sex parent is especially important in making children feel validated and encouraged.  This is true of boys as well as girls, but it is especially true of daughters.  Fathers have the greatest impact on their daughters' vitality as an adolescent college student.  Daughters with a strong relationship with their father are more self-confident, self-reliant, and are more successful in school and career than those who have distant or absent father

The nondenominational evangelist group known as the Gideons have given out 76.9 million free Bibles in 85 languages in 187 countries to hotels, hospitals, schools, prisons, and the military.  This year the Gideons celebrate 100 years of Bible distribution.

"This is not a church-sponsored, clergy-led effort," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group for evangelical churches and organizations. "It's individuals that go around and distribute Bibles. It's an astonishing accomplishment."  "What it's done is actually changed our culture. People expect there to be a Bible in a hotel room. There's hardly anything that's parallel to it."

Power of Wilderness Experiences As a Catalyst for Change in Young Offenders.

The researchers monitored the young people’s psychological health before and after the two wilderness trips, as well as during the months in between. At the outset behaviour was described as disruptive, disrespectful and undisciplined. However, as the programme progressed, the frequency of negative events reduced, criminal activity and substance abuse declined and the young people displayed less anti-social behaviour.

Findings of the self-reported measures of self-confidence, trust, belonging and connectedness to nature showed that after each wilderness experience, feelings increased and during the months in between levels fell, as participants had less contact with nature.

No wonder if the City hurts your brain.

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control.
One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.

An atheist,  Matthew Parris writes I truly believe Africa needs God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Posted by Jill Fallon at January 6, 2009 12:48 AM | Permalink