It is with fear and trembling that I venture to comment about faith and science. I recently wrote about how I disagreed with the concept of scientifically trying to prove the effects of prayer. The article was based on my experience with people praying for my wife’s breast cancer surgery. I was a bit surprised to see a couple of sites mocking what they perceived to be my flawed logic. I am learning that the blogosphere is best described by the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield who often said, “I’m telllin’ ya’, this is a tough room!”
So I would imagine the following article could draw the ire of the praya-haters. The story by Robert Roy Britt appeared on the LiveScience website.
So There are many things you can do to increase your life expectancy: exercise, eat well, take your medication and … go to church. A new study finds people who attend religious services weekly live longer. Specifically, the research looked at how many years are added to life expectancy based on:
Regular physical exercise: 3.0-to-5.1 years
Proven therapeutic regimens: 2.1-to-3.7 years
Regular religious attendance: 1.8-to-3.1 years
Bad Christian Comment: I have to admit that in some of the churches I have experienced I might not live longer but it will certainly feel that way. The article continues…
“Religious attendance is not a mode of medical therapy,” said study leader Daniel Hall, a resident in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “While this study was not intended for use in clinical decision making, these findings tell us that there is something to examine further.”
Hall is also an Episcopal priest.
“The significance of this finding may prove to be controversial,” he said. “But at the very least, it shows that further research into the associations between religion and health might have implications for medical practice.”
In a telephone interview, Hall speculated that the social aspect of religion could play a role in the results: “There is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect,” he told LiveScience. Perhaps, he said, being involved in a religion “can then decrease your level of stress in life or increase your ability to cope with stress.”
Another possibility: “Being in a religious community helps you make meaning out of your life,” Hall suggested. The findings are detailed in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
So what do I make of this study? Not much, to be honest. I have found the value of community in church. And my faith has, without question, given meaning to my life. But I am totally disinterested in the idea of increased longevity as a benefit of church. I am far more interested in the quality of my time on earth than the length of time. Joni’s cancer again punctuated how precious every day is and should continue to be for us. Her prognosis is excellent and we are confident. But why don’t we apply the reality of our mortality to the way we live daily? Why do we get so upset over such insignificant and trivial nonsense? If I knew I had just a few months to live how would that impact my life?
Would I care if someone cut me off in traffic?
Would it matter if I got that important position or a title?
Would that new car or new house look so important?
And what would my relationships look like?
Who would I make sure to tell that I love them?
What relationships would I try to repair?
What messages would I impart to family and loved ones?
And perhaps the biggest question of all.
Why aren’t I living like that now?
I wrote about what matters a couple of days after a dear friend died earlier this year. The article was called “The Good Stuff” and I closed out that post with the following words.
I am getting better at discerning and treasuring the good stuff. I am getting slightly better at not allowing the irritants of life to rob me of the good stuff. Every day is a treasure. Every day that you can look into the eyes of those you love is a gift. Jesus knew what the good stuff was all about. He wasn’t a cosmic killjoy trying to keep us from pleasure. Jesus taught us what mattered.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? Luke 9 NIV
Loving your family. Having friends who will be there when things are rough. Knowing that you and those you love have a relationship with the living God. That’s the good stuff. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise.
I had no idea how soon I would get to apply that in a very personal way.