This familiar Bible verse points to the freedom people experience when they feel the actual presence of God in their lives. This is one reason religious faith is so important to individuals and to society, and why there are longstanding organizations that support it. Religion bears witness to God’s goodness in the world and the liberating and healing outcomes this realization brings — mentally, physically, and spiritually — to people in all walks of life.
Yet, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, more Americans than ever are disaffiliating with organized religion. Nearly one-third declare religion is unimportant to them. This decline in public regard for religion is attributed to an increased demographic diversity and a widening social and political divide within the country. Even so, organized religion can still play a central role in reconnecting people and mending divisions among us — a role in which it is uniquely suited to bring healing.
Meet Daniel Alexander. He probably thought he’d hit rock bottom when he was sentenced to prison. But it was there — behind bars — where his life began to change for the better, thanks in large part to church services he attended. “I did it as an excuse to get out of my cell,” he recalled of going to his first service. At this meeting, however, he learned about a God that is Love (I John 4:16) and the healing that comes with this understanding of God. Daniel continued attending. “I actually enjoyed it,” he said.
Following his release, Daniel visited a local congregation of that denomination, where he was warmly welcomed by members. “It was a love like I’d never seen before,” he said. “There was no challenge for me to embrace this as my family.”
But it was more than just the members’ outpouring of affection that attracted him to the services. It was there, he said, where “I actually met a God who is present in my life right now.”
Daniel later joined that congregation and has attained a higher purpose in his life, one that’s committed to healing. “What could be better than coming to church and trying to heal a community?” he said. “What could you do better?”
Correctional institutions often rely on religious groups to meet the spiritual needs of inmates, restoring and regenerating their lives. The Church of Christ, Scientist, commonly known as the Christian Science Church, is one of the denominations that ministers to prisoners. It was through attending Christian Science services in prison that Daniel’s life changed for the better, and his experience was shared this summer at the worldwide annual meeting of Christian Scientists in Boston. The meeting’s theme, “The discovery today — where hearts catch fire,” points to the potential we each have to find greater individual purpose, which can lead to opportunities for experiencing more freedom and healing in our own lives as well as in our communities.
Of course, one doesn’t have to be in an actual prison to begin experiencing the freedom offered by a greater realization of God’s presence in one’s life. Freedom from poverty, broken relationships, and illness, both physical and mental, are all attainable as we gain a better understanding of God as Love, to whom “all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
Healing is the greatest need of society today, and religion is especially suited to meet this need. It uplifts and changes individuals in all stages of life, which benefits not just the person, but also families and communities. As this is better understood, the public’s perception of religion — and the organizations that support it — will improve.
About the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oklahoma
Leroy Gatlin serves as the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oklahoma. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 314-8602.
The Church of Christ, Scientist is the official name of the Christian Science Church. It was founded by the Reverend Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 “to commemorate the word and works of our Master [Christ Jesus], which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” The First Church of Christ, Scientist — also known as The Mother Church — is located in Boston, Massachusetts, and has congregations around the world.
(Written by Leroy Gatlin, Christian Science Committee On Publication For Oklahoma; Editing by Robbie Robertson)
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