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The Social Science of God's Love


Here’s an interesting excerpt from an article pulled from LiveScience.com on the effects of religion on children, and by intimation, the home (all emphasis mine).
Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.
John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.
The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children’s parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued about religion in the home.
The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.
But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. “Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family,” Bartkowski noted.
Why so good?
Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home,” he said.
Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response,” he said.
Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.
What I find most interesting in the article is this statement: “The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.”

Following the command to “Love the your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might,” comes this command in Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them (God’s commands) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” In fact the whole picture in Deuteronomy 6 is one where expressing the love of and for God and his Word is paramount in every aspect of life. Look at the whole chapter carefully and you will find elements of expressing love for God to him directly, within the home (and especially to children), in the neighborhood, and workplace/community. Even expressing love for God through heritage and history is presented in the latter part of the chapter. When God’s love permeates every area of our lives, our lives are transformed.
Reinforcing at home the messages that kids hear outside the home is critical to understanding the mess that has arisen in much of Western culture. When kids are bombarded with negative, sexual, criminal, and immoral messages through media and popular entertainment, when the values in 6-8 hours of daily schooling are “value-neutral” or worse, then what is to be expected when the parents of those same children leave their kids to their own devices to “find their own way” rather then intentionally instructing and encouraging them in a love for God and his Word?
Is it any wonder that when a love for God is absent, and the expression of God’s love is absent from the most important areas of life, that complications arise? This is not to say that people who know Christ don’t have problems—indeed they do. But a strong foundation in God’s love, expressed through and for Jesus Christ, is a strong foundation that remains even when the rafters sometimes shake loose.

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