LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
October 26, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. – 813-835-0129
My Father’s Business
Young Jesus of Nazareth responded to his parents, who lost him during their pilgrimage to Passover in Jerusalem, that they should have known he would be about his Father’s business. Actually the text in Luke doesn’t give us the object of the verb. The King James Version conjectures the object as “business.” In any case the task of the Church today is generally understood as carrying out the business of the Father. However, according to a recent Pew study Americans are increasingly ignorant of the role religious institutions play in our society and culture. From 2001 to 2016 the percentage of Americans who think religion is important to the culture dropped from 75 to 58 percent. A few facts may help clarify that issue.
According to the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research in Religion, “Religion in the United States contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.” That’s more than the top ten tech companies combined. If American religion were a nation it would rank 14th or 15th among the world’s economies or just ahead of Russia and just behind Australia.
A Berkley Center for Religion study reminds us that the 334,000 religious congregations in the United States are not just houses of worship but they are the nucleus of many communities. They serve as “centers for job training, charity, child care and social events.” They employ “hundreds of thousands of people, creating jobs, and spend billions of dollars on goods and services, which support local businesses.” They also fund 1.5 million social programs and gather 7.5 million volunteers.
One example of the outreach of the religious community in America is the 78,000 programs that help “people struggling with mental illness.” That’s three times as many programs as there are Starbucks in the entire world.
Think of the hospitals, orphanages, schools and colleges, rescue missions that are established and operated because of what religious people believe about God, the world and the nature of man. Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus and love God and neighbors as themselves operate out of this faith commitment. The recent attempts to force Christians and others to change their world view are, to say the least, dangerous.
The government cannot replace the work of the churches. It is the churches which function as the conscience of the government in the tasks they do assume, and there are forces at work to erode this function.
Economic indicators are a poor measure of the importance of religion in our society. However, they do point to a deeper reality. Religion accounts for a little under seven percent of our economic output. It has shaped The United States and made it the land of the free and the home of the brave. If you are interested in making America great again get involved in the fellowship of believers and be about your Father’s business. This is the way to increase in wisdom and in favor with God and man.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs