Will Government Replace God?

Friday's Wall Street Journal contained an excellent article written by none other than Dr. Brad Wilcox, The Family Foundation's very own Marriage Commission member. OK, he's more than a Marriage Commission member.  When we are not utilizing his expertise, he also serves as a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. Seriously, we've been so honored to have Brad be apart of our organization that we have soaked him for all the time we can get. We had him speak at our 2007 Lobby Day, our 2008 Board of Directors Retreat and to the General Assembly House Education Committee in 2009. Imagine what 2010 holds for you Brad! Dr. Wilcox' WSJ article outlines the inverse relationship between size and scope of government and the religious observation. Basically, the more folks turn to the government to provide all of their needs (Scandanavia, etc.), the less they need to turn to the church. Anyone who has fallen on hard times knows that the blow is softer when cushioned by a loving and supportive church community. While it might have been good enough for Paul and his cohorts to "sell their possessions and goods and give to anyone as he had need," today this wonderful human experience requiring self-sacrifice and a sense of community is less desirable if the government can provide "cradle to the grave" health care, education and housing. 

Combine these findings with a study we co-released with the Family Research Council in December 2008 that showed children have fewer problems at school and home when they frequently attend religious services. Coauthored by Drs. Nicholas Zill[1] and Philip Fletcher [2], this research found that religious attendance had an effect on the likelihood of repeating a grade level, having their parents contacted by school for behavioral issues, diminished social development and much more. These differences held up even after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity.

So, bigger government means less religious participation and less religious attendance means behavioral and educational challenges for children. As we continue on the road to the great welfare state, let's be sure we know the end game.

[1] Dr. Nicholas Zill is the founding president of Child Trends and the former vice president of Westat, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

[2] Dr. Philip Fletcher is a research psychologist at Westat.