The "Big Man Upstairs" is getting accolades from mental health specialists who say they are finding that a belief in God plays a positive role in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
University of Toronto psychologists reported last year that "believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress," their research showcasing "distinct brain differences" between believers and nonbelievers.
A new study released Wednesday by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago took the idea a step further.
In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, "belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment," said the new research, which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
The operative term here is "caring," the researchers said. "The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement."
The researchers compared the levels of melancholy or hopelessness in 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression with their sense of "religious well-being." They found participants who scored in the top third of a scale charting a sense of religious well-being were 75 percent more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression.
"In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief," said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values.
"It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared," she said.
"For people diagnosed with clinical depression, medication certainly plays an important role in reducing symptoms," Ms. Murphy added. "But when treating persons diagnosed with depression, clinicians need to be aware of the role of religion in their patients' lives. It is an important resource in planning their care."
Public opinion polls — from Gallup to the Pew Research Center — reveal that large majorities of Americans believe in God. It is a factor among the researchers as well.
Data released last year by sociologists from the University of California at Berkeley, in fact, revealed that 93 percent of the nation believes in God, a finding that has remained unchanged since 1988.
The Canadian researchers who found that belief in God lowers anxiety and stress also based their conclusions on measurements — monitoring the brain activities of believers and nonbelievers charged with some challenging tasks.
"We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors," said Michael Inzlicht, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who led the research.
"They're much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error," he said.Print This Post
Egyptian Maher El-Gowhary and his 15 year old daughter Dina never pray twice at the same church, never stay longer than a month in any one apartment. They are constantly under threat, always on the run because they converted to Christianity in a largely Muslim country.
Maher and Dina nervously agreed to meet us at a Church in Cairo. The priest at the Church said he feared problems from the Egyptian authorities and while he agreed to have us watch his Sunday mass, the Priest declined to speak to us about what is happening in Egypt and to the El-Gowhary's.
They tell their story out of fear and desperation. Born Muslims they chose to convert to the Christian Church after both claim they had religious visions.
Now Maher says "Muslims try to kill us, and will kill us if they find us."
Several religious fatwas have been issued for "spilling his blood" after Maher asked an Egyptian Court to legally recognize his conversion, so he can one day be buried as a Christian and so his daughter won't be forced into a marriage by her Muslim mother.
The court ruled a legal conversion to Christianity would threaten public order. His lawyer told us it's a dangerous double standard because in Egypt a Christian can convert to the Muslim faith in a week, but a Muslim cannot convert to the Christian faith.
Ten percent of Egypt is Christian, largely the Coptic Christians who increasingly say they face daunting discrimination and even death.
We had to hide our camera as we followed the El-Gowhary's because we were told if the authorities discovered we were preparing our story we would be arrested.
Religious tensions are running high in Egypt.
On January 6th, the Coptic Christmas eve, three Muslim men sprayed gunfire at a Church in Upper Egypt killing six Christians and wounding up to a dozen more. Christians rioted the next day and the area is still closed to outsiders including the press.
Human rights activist Hussein Bahjet say's Egypt has the potential to become like Lebanon because of growing sectarian violence.
"Civil strife that could engulf the country" Bahjet says.
The U.S. State Department reports respect of religious freedom in Egypt is declining, Christians are denied Government jobs, Priests are threatened and harassed, Christians are increasingly attacks in what State describes as "a climate of impunity that encourages violence."
In some cases authorities turn a blind eye to attacks on Christians, in other cases there is evidence police sparked the attacks.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been largely silent about the problem, but this week he spoke out saying Egyptians must up-root "fanaticism and sectarianism, which threatens the unit of our nation."
Dina has written a letter to President Obama which has been published on Christian websites. She has been pulled out of school. She has only a blue jean jacket to stay warm and little food to eat. Her letter was a desperate plea. "I wrote that we are a minority Christian Community treated very badly and I want to tell President Obama to tell the Egyptian Government to treat us well."
Her father Mayer says he can't stay in Egypt anymore. He and his daughter are in such grave danger we can't report where they are in Egypt now, or where they are planning on moving tomorrow.
In recent days the two met with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Cairo. They asked for refugee status to get out of Egypt.
A source at the Commission say's its a complicated matter because Dina has a Muslim mother and there are legal issues, but their request is being considered.
The Commission source also says because of religious discrimination in Egypt, last year the State Department down graded Egypt to being on a watch list. This year it could potentially be downgraded further to a Country of particular concern. That means the U.S. might even consider sanctions against a Country which receives some 2 billion dollars in U.S. aid every year.
As I write this Dina and her father are packing, moving to another area of Egypt. Out of money. And running of out hope.Print This Post
Affiliation with organized religion is at a 50-year low among young people, according to a study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion. The study focused on the generation known as The Millennials — those under 30, born after 1980.
But the data "doesn't necessarily mean that young people are more secular," says Greg Smith, one of the researchers who conducted the study.
According to the study, one in four people (25 percent) between 18 and 30 say they are "unaffiliated."
By comparison, one in five (20 percent) Generation Xers — people born between 1965 and 1980 — identified themselves as unaffiliated at the same age.
And the number of unaffiliated Millennials is nearly twice that of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) at the same age. Among Baby Boomers in the late 1970s, 13 percent said they had no religious affiliation.
But there's a twist to the study. When measuring other religious benchmarks, young people begin to look very much like their elders. On the question of whether they believe in a heaven or hell, three-quarters (75 percent) of the Millennials answered "Yes" — the same as for people over 30.
Asked if they believe in life after death, the same 75 percent say yes, just like the Gen Xers. And 80 percent of Millennials say they believe in miracles, the same as for those over 30.
"What this shows," says Smith, "is that the U.S. is still pretty unique, still very, very religious."
"Nine out of 10 people say they believe in God ... but there's an openness as to the way Americans approach religion," he said.
Smith said eight in 10 Americans still describe themselves as Christian — "but there’s an openness.... They’ll borrow meditation practices from Buddhism, for instance, or belief in the Hindu understanding of reincarnation.
"But more and more people from all age groups and faith backgrounds (two thirds) say that many religions can lead to eternal life."
The researchers say what they don't know is what these numbers bode for the future. Will young people join a faith, lose a faith, or switch faiths? "We just don't know," Smith said.
But what the numbers have shown is that the percentage of the unaffiliated tends to stay consistent as each generation gets older. The number of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who said they were unaffiliated when they were under 31 remains the same today.
Researchers could expect the same for the Millennials. The only thing they can have faith in is that nothing is certain.Print This Post
It is early in the morning here at the Global Outreach house north of PAP that the NC Baptist Men are renting for their medical mission teams. I’ve got a hot cup of good coffee, with Splenda in it no less, and am feeling pretty rested. And maybe even on the cleaner side of the spectrum, with a shower last night and use of a bathroom this morning. We make the drive over the border to Santo Domingo today, a short night on the floor of Iglesia Bautista, and a 6:50 AM flight to Miami tomorrow.
It is difficult to comprehend all I’ve seen this week, so it may take me a bit of time to process and explain. One thing is certain – the Haitian people are, in general, a beautiful group. They are not aggressive, are sweet in disposition with wonderful smiles and spirit. They try to dress well with what they have and stay clean and neat. Yet they live amidst garbage and, now, rubble and death. The garbage problem is immense, with open sewers, trash everywhere. And this isn’t just since the earthquake. One of the docs on our mission team is an ex-patriot from Haiti. He moved in ’81 but, obviously, has followed the politics closely. He described the dictatorship of Papa Doc and Baby Doc as being poor for the spirit and attitude of the people, but there wasn’t garbage in the streets and Haiti was a beautiful, safe place to live – as long as you were on the right side of the leadership. Since they’ve left power, corruption has run rampant and there is no control over the country, resulting in the obvious things such as garbage on every street corner, and the more subtle things, like every dollar coming to the government for aid being confiscated and misused. We may think our political system is broken, but here, it is destroyed, much like the Palace and the Cathedral.
My question to myself over the last few days – what next? God asks us to “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) He doesn’t ask me to act justly once, or for 10 days. So I have no right to be proud of what I’ve done, to be satisfied that I have done my share. God opened my eyes this week. And I can hear his voice, more clearly than I think I have before – “Now what, Kurt? What will you do?” I’m a big picture guy, so I’d love to start from scratch. But a single orthopod from North Carolina probably won’t succeed at that. My mind is spinning with things to work with and through. I know one “easy” thing to do – St. Damien’s needs things, things that our church and the people in my reach can provide. They have families and incomplete families that have no homes, so tents are sorely needed, 8 to 10 person tents to comfortably house a family of 4 to 5. The babies at the hospital need clothes, especially premie clothes, but anything up to age 8 or so. I have an address in Miami of an NPH individual who will send these directly to Father Rick at St. Damien’s. No graft, no corruption – 100% to the correct people.
I have a bunch of photos I’d like to share. Once I get home tomorrow, I will organize them and put them up somewhere so everyone who wants to can view them.
Folks, Haiti is a broken country. It was before 5:00 on January 12th, and it is even more so after that horrible 36 seconds. Yet they are our neighbors in geography and our brothers and sisters in Christ – let’s pray and act so that this tragedy can be an instrument for change.Print This Post
Today was my last full day in Haiti and we went out with a bang. The clinic was crazy, with the clinic having been closed for the weekend. Lots of burns, skin grafts, neglected fractures. CRAZEE! Then did a tough fracture with Ken Thomas, my partner in crime here, along with an Italian orthopedist.
Really wonderful people working to help. I can't tell you of all the great stories of the nurses, doctors, and other people who've rushed down here. But there are other , much worse stories. Like the Italian medical team getting robbed at gunpoint yesterday. Or, even more hideously, the dead nun, killed in the quake, buried in the nunnery, whose head was decapitated and placed on a pole by an ex-convict who escaped during the quake. Father Rick had to go take it down and bury it on the hospital grounds near the chapel. This place is not all roses certainly.
But my experience has been life changing, at least I hope. You guys will decide as time goes on.Print This Post
Join us this Sunday as we begin our new series, Questioning Jesus. The series will run through March and center around questions that Jesus asked of others.
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Typing from my phone, so a short update. Got to the hospital, did rounds - bed after bed of amputations, broken bones with various implants in place. 6 surgeries by the team. People doing work here are amazing - team of 4 from Seattle we've spent the day with. They will be here 5 weeks and are doing great work. Nurses leaving today got hugs from all the kids in one ward - amazing! The next 3 days are national days of mourning for Haiti as it is one month tomorrow since the quake. Will be very little surgery done those days to give the Haitians a chance to grieve and rest.
This country is so poor, so devastated it is incomprehensible.
We’ve finally made it to Haiti! Today was an O’ Dark 30 day – we got up at 3:30, trying to leave Santo Domingo by 4:00. This was after a night when the last part of our group didn’t get there until midnight. Slept quick, I guess. We packed up a van full of food for patients and staff for part of our team to cook with. As in Nicaragua, when you’re an inpatient in a hospital, the hospital doesn’t feed you – your family has to bring food. With the overwhelming number of patients and missing family members, that has been near impossible. So the Baptist Men have started cooking for the patients at the big community hospital. Pretty cool!
The ride through the Dominican was interesting. I think our driver was practicing for the “Avoiding Potholes” event in the next Xgames and, I’m proud to say, I think he really has a shot at medaling. It wasn’t really the traffic, although in Port-au-Prince, it was very crowded – it was the road conditions. The border crossing was interesting. As we pulled up to the border, there was a line of flatbed trucks at least a mile long, bumper to nose, all filled with supplies for Haiti. I have no idea how long it would take them to clear all those trucks. We bypassed them and got in pretty easily. Once over the border, there is a pseudo-Border Shanty Town, with people selling things, trying to get into the Dominican, money-changers – bizarre!
We haven’t seen the most affected area as yet. We might on our last day here. We’re up north of town in a very large compound run by Global Outreach. The director is renting us a house on the compound, just down from Samaritan’s Purse and the US Army. The house is very nice, but not really made for 40 people, which is what it will hold for the next two nights. Then, the previous team leaves and we’ll be here by ourselves for a few nights until the next group comes.
Now for the more personal news – I may not even be staying at this house. The hospital where most of the orthopaedics is being done wants the orthopaedists to stay at the hospital. There apparently is a place to sleep, shower, etc. but it will be challenging to pack what I need from what I’ve brought. It also may prevent me from contacting by email much since I’m not sure how my cellphone will work there, so blog entries may be a bit light.
I miss Raleigh already, but I’m excited to get going on the real work tomorrow.Print This Post
We made it! Flights were fine, got picked up at Santo Domingo's airport by members of Iglesia Bautista Ozama. (See Facebook page for a picture). They have been housing all the mission trips from NC Baptist Men since the quake (91 people so far). Have 6 of our group here, the remaining 10 are coming in tonight. Played some spoons to pass the time, now at Worship Band rehearsal. Started 30 minutes late, so some things are universal (sorry, Lee!) We're to leave at 4 in the morning for the long bus ride into Haiti. I'm hoping to be able to sleep on the bus - we'll see.
Is it bad if I'm tired on the first day and haven't even worked yet?Print This Post
Tomorrow is the day that I leave with Medical Team 6 of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s mission to support Haiti from a medical standpoint (www.ncmissions.org). We have two orthopods (Ken Thomas from Erie, PA is the other – pray he can make it out of his home with the snowfall they’ve had), along with generalist doctor, 6 nurses, one nurse anesthetist, two handymen (“men” in the generic sense since one is a woman), and the trip leader. We leave from a combination of places: RDU for 4 of us, Charlotte for most of the rest, and Philadelphia for Ken. Then, we will meet up in Miami for the flight to Santo Domingo. We’ll be staying at a Baptist church there, apparently on mattresses on the floor, for the night, then a bus ride described as long and painful, anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, to get to Port-au-Prince. We’re staying at a compound of houses and dorms that Global Outreach has set up north of PAP and will be bused back and forth to the hospitals we’ll be working at.
I’ve got two check-in duffels full of medical supplies that the orthopods on the ground say they need, primarily dressings for the constant wound dressing changes and the surgeries they are doing. I had to pick up screwdrivers that are used to place plates and screws in bone today from my friend, Isaac Murdock. Isaac is the area representative for Synthes, the most well-known trauma company in the world and a great supporter of orthopaedics in the third world. It is amazing how much I’ve learned about the situation down there since I found out about this trip just 10 days ago. And how much stuff I’ve had to collect/buy/borrow – personal and professional. The great folks at CarolinaEast in New Bern provided almost all the dressing supplies I’m bringing, with no complaint and very quickly. The president of Rex Hospital has offered his complete support. My former group, Triangle Orthopaedics, had 4 boxes of stuff for me to take today, but I only had room for a small amount of it. In short, I am astonished at the heart of the medical community in NC.
I’m excited, certainly, but I know I’m nervous as well – I can tell by my poor sleep pattern. The unknown is always a challenge for me. When I went to Nicaragua for the first time, I was even more nervous as I’d never worked in a non-US facility at that point. My partner, Bob Caudle, has just returned from PAP last week and he assures me that having been to Nicaragua (the other country besides Haiti that just can’t get a break) is a huge benefit. We certainly learned to work with little there, making decisions based on limited resources. But things are improving, orthopaedically at least, daily in the hospital I’m going to. I’m anxious to get started.
Keep us in your prayers, folks. I hope to be able to send some pictures along with of our team and Haiti.
KurtPrint This Post
1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a boy in my father's house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother,
4 he taught me and said,
"Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, [a] get understanding.
8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will set a garland of grace on your head
and present you with a crown of splendor."
10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil men.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot sleep till they do evil;
they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.
17 They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man's whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
24 Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Make level [b] paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
1. Proverbs 4:7 Or Whatever else you get
2. Proverbs 4:26 Or Consider the