A few years ago, my friend’s daughter made a decision that seems very unusual in today’s “secular” Canada. She decided to go to a university that was close to a church she wished to attend. She told me that she felt that this would support her university life in many practical ways and be good for her mental and physical health.
At a time when many feel that Christian churches are irrelevant to daily existence, and “For Sale” signs seem to be popping up on church lots around the country, this young person’s choice is not as surprising as it may seem.
Despite the decline in church attendance, Canadians are not so indifferent to religious life as you might think. Last Spring the United Church Observer conducted a survey of 3,000 Canadians on the subject, and discovered some interesting statistics. For example, 40% of us think that organized religion is good for us, as opposed to 10% who consider it bad.
But are religious teachings relevant to our technologically fast-paced, chip-laden, biomedical modern life?
This young woman feels they are. Far from home, she turned to a support system she felt she could rely on. Throughout the four years she was in university, the members of that church included her in their activities and supported her spiritual progress. She learned to apply what she was learning from her study of the Bible to overcome challenges such as exam anxiety, relationship challenges, financial concerns and illness. She also learned to look outside of herself to care for and about others.
Another young woman also felt that The Bible was deeply relevant and useful in all aspects of her life, even amid the aftermath of the American Civil War, the beginnings of the modern industrial age and the very early days of biomedicine. Mary Baker Eddy saw this Biblical relevance in the willingness to recognize God as an ever-present divine influence within – the still, small voice that speaks when we listen. In her writings about Christian Science, she poses the following question:
“This age is reaching out towards the perfect Principle of things; is pushing towards perfection in art, invention, and manufacture. Why, then, should religion be stereotyped, and we not obtain a more perfect and practical Christianity?"
Eddy saw healing – through prayer – as one of the most perfect and practical aspects of Christianity.
The world is catching up to this idea. Conferences on the connection between health and spirituality are being held all around the world – from Europe to Australia, and in North and South America. “Providence Health” in Vancouver regularly hosts one for example. Additionally, new studies are emerging more frequently about this important link. And it is not just confined to the word “spirituality.” A religious practice and significant ties to a community of faith are also seen to have an important positive impact on our well-being, and in all areas of our lives.
Humanity is reaching out for a practical spirituality that is not only meaningful and comforting, but that also produces healing results that can clearly benefit anyone – from a college student away from home for the first time, to someone with a chronic illness, to a family working to lift itself out of poverty. And, this spirituality needs to be applicable, no matter the ups and downs of human innovation surrounding it.