Religious Activity Helps Prevent
Addiction, Adventists Told
BY ROBERT MONCRIEFF, student news writer, Andrews University Office of University Relations
ear-weekly participation in religious activity--attending worship services, Sabbath School, prayer and Bible reading--can significantly curb the use of alcohol, and presumably other potentially addictive behaviors, participants were told at a recent Seventh-day Adventist Church-sponsored conference on addiction held at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. The conference was sponsored by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists Health Ministries Department, in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and the Institute for Prevention of Addictions at Andrews University.
Throughout the week, an array of speakers discussed topics ranging from tobacco and alcohol addictions, to mental health, to sexual addictions.
In a presentation entitled “The Church: The Key to Successful Prevention,” Duane McBride and Gary Hopkins put forth a meta analysis of data they had compiled over the course of twenty years of research on “risk behaviors among SDA youth at SDA colleges.” Although some of the numbers might cause concern, the message is clear: involvement in religious activity decreases the potential for abuse.
According to their studies, 23 percent of students at Adventist colleges who attended church nearly every week had used alcohol in the last year. Among those who did not attend church nearly every week, 72 percent had used alcohol. Similar protective trends were discovered in correlation with Sabbath School attendance, as well as weekly prayer and Bible reading.
This message was echoed on Sabbath morning by Harvard University sociologist David Williams. According to Williams, “94 percent of 97 studies of religion and alcohol found that religious participation was associated with a reduced tendency to initiate alcohol use or have problems with alcohol, if used.”
Williams emphasized that “addictive problems and disorders affect all aspects of an individual’s life.” Therefore, “effective interventions must be holistic and seek more than recovery from illness but seek to promote living a full life,” he said
Dr. Dewitt Williams, North American Division Health Ministries Director, expressed the hope that this conference would set the stage for renewed commitment on the part of the church to address the addictions that many church members face.
A crowded seminary chapel heard the July 12 keynote address given by Christian author Keith Miller. Miller said he was at the conference to learn, as well as to share.
“I’m trying to see why many of us in the church appear to be so emotionally dishonest,” Miller said. Answering his own question, Miller suggested that it was “for fear that our brothers and sisters will reject us rather than forgive us. But I think Jesus gave us a new culture with new values, hopes, and dreams that lead to a creativity about problem-solving in real life that the world seems to have forgotten.”
Practical answers of an interesting sort came on Sabbath afternoon, when Kathleen H. Liwidjaja-Kuntaraf, associate director for Prevention at the General Conference Health Ministries Department held a “Youth Alive” workshop, “Reducing At-Risk Behaviors.” Participants in the workshop engaged in a number of re-affirming activities that might be used with a roomful of at-risk teens.
Charlie Schaub of Silver Spring, Maryland, appreciated the mix of speakers, as well as the variety of workshops. “There is a good balance between people discussing theory, and those who are speaking from their practical experience down in the trenches,” he said.
Duane McBride, conference director, said he was pleased with the outcome: “The conference reminded attendees how many in the church face addictions in their own lives and in the lives of their relatives and close friends.”
Gordon Fraser, a seminary student, said the conference brought attention to the fact that “the Adventist Church needs to open up and become more vulnerable, so that true healing can take place.”