Obviously the most important benefit of following Christ is spiritual; salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). However, even those who do not accept Christ can benefit socially from the presence of authentic Christianity. This article seeks to highlight one area in which this is true. That is the area of keeping down healthcare costs. This is because today, as in the past, much of the cost of healthcare is related to behavior and is therefore preventable.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Chronic diseases are the most common and costly of all health problems, but they are also the most preventable. Four common, health-damaging, but modifiable behaviors—tobacco use, insufficient physical activity, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol use—are responsible for much of the illness, disability, and premature death related to chronic diseases.”[i]
“The American Medical Association says the growth in health-care expenses today can be traced largely to ‘lifestyle factors and social problems.’ Some studies indicate that up to 70 percent of all diseases result from lifestyle choices.”[ii]
In the article “Voluntary Health Risks: Who Should Pay?” the authors note, “Alcohol abuse cost the U.S. health care system $85.8 billion in 1988. The tab for cigarette smoking totals over $65 billion annually. Costs related to obesity now surpass $27 billion per year. As the government scrambles to reduce the staggering explosion in health care costs, the American Medical Association recently revealed that at least 25 cents of every health care dollar is spent on the treatment of diseases or disabilities that result from potentially changeable behaviors.”[iii]
Patrick Fagan demonstrates religion’s positive results in the areas of happiness, sense of well-being, lowering stress, better personal relationships, greater sexual satisfaction for women, lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, longer life for the poor; it affects blood pressure and different cancers; it decreases illegitimacy, crime, delinquency, welfare dependency, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and suicide; it enhances general overall mental, physical and social well-being.[iv]
Apart from the progressives’ success with expanding science beyond its proper domain (to scientism or epistemic naturalism gauzily clad as science), it is difficult to understand why many leaders are openly hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular since the empirical evidence attests to its contribution to the welfare of the nation, its positive impact on impeding rising healthcare costs, and its prevalence.[v] Fagan notes, “The overall impact of religious practice is illustrated dramatically in the three most comprehensive systematic reviews of the field. Some 81 percent of the studies showed the positive benefit of religious practice, 15 percent showed neutral effects, and only 4 percent showed harm.”[vi]
Even the oft-mentioned harm inflicted by “Christians” can be explained in part by what many Christians have known for a long time. Faith that is not serious or directed at knowing and following God is of no spiritual value (James 2:18) and has limited social value. Social scientists also distinguish between the two by the terms ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ religion. “Intrinsic practice is God-oriented and based on beliefs that transcend the person’s own existence. Research shows this form of religious practice to be beneficial. Extrinsic practice is self-oriented and characterized by outward observance, not internalized as a guide to behavior or attitudes. The evidence suggests this form of religious practice is actually more harmful than no religion.”[vii] Some of the positive psychological effects of intrinsic religion are characteristics like a greater sense of responsibility, self-motivation, better performance in their studies, greater sensitivity to others; in contrast to ‘extrinsics’ who are more likely to be dogmatic, authoritarian, less responsible, inferior in their studies, more self-indulgent, indolent and less dependable, more prejudiced.[viii]
True Christianity can bless the believer and unbeliever as well.
[i] http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/chronic.htm accessed 9/23/14.
[ii] Louis W. Sullivan, “Foundation for Reform” (Washington, D.C.: Department of Health and Human Services, 1991) 15, as quoted by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1999), 309.
[iii] http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v6n1/voluntary.html accessed 9/23/14.
[iv] Patrick McNamara, “The New Rights View of the Family and Its Social Science Critics: A Study in Differing Presuppositions,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol.47 (1985), 449-458, as quoted by Patrick F. Fagan, “Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability”, The Heritage Foundation, no. 1064, January 25, 1996, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Religion/BG1064.cfm. Fagan sources numerous studies that corroborate the benefit of religion in a person’s life. Some of them deal specifically with the positive impact on areas of life from church attendance. Accessed 9/18/14.
[vi] Fagan, Why Religion Matters. Page 2-3
[vii] Fagan, Why Religion Matters. Page 2-3
[viii] From articles by Ken F. Wiebe and J. Roland Fleck, “Personality Correlates of Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Non-Religious Orientations,” Journal of Psychology, vol. 105 (1980), 111-117 and Michael J. Donahue, “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiousness: Review and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 48 (1985), 400-419 as quoted by Fagan, Why Religion Matters, 20-21.