Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Relationship of Religious Participation to Relationship with God

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Relationship of Religious Participation to Relationship with God

Article excerpt

This study explored relationships of three dimensions of religious participation (involvement in religious/spiritual activities, frequency of religious meetings/church attendance, and time spent in private religious activity such as prayer, meditation, reading of scripture, etc.) to empirically derived components of spirituality. Multiple measures of spirituality were subjected to principal components analyses, resulting in three spirituality components (Positive Relationship with God, Negative Relationship with God and Utilitarianism). Three multiple regression analyses were conducted using a linear combination of the three religious participation variables to predict each of the empirically derived spirituality components. The relationship of the linear combination of religious participation variables to Positive Relationship with God was statistically significant, but the relationships with Negative Relationship with God and Utilitarianism were not.

With the increased focus on religious and spiritual aspects of human functioning, it is not surprising that there is a substantial volume of empirical literature examining connections between religiousness and spirituality and both physical and mental health (Hall, 2004; Hill & Pargament, 2003; Miller & Thoresen, 2003; Wulff, 1996). As research has expanded in this area, religion and spirituality have been revealed as robust and reliable predictors of mental health (Gartner, Larson, & Allen, 1991; Hall; Hill & Pargament; Miller & Thoresen). However, people who consider themselves religious or spiritual may not emphasize emotional or physical health as their primary health concern. Instead, such people might emphasize the development of their spiritual lives over mental or physical health (Hall; Hill & Pargament).

The emphasis on spirituality has increasingly emerged in the popular and professional media. Researchers examining religion and spirituality continue to grapple with the distinctions and similarities between these two constructs. Furthermore, the concept of spirituality as something different from religion has only recently surfaced (Hill et al., 2000; Hill & Pargament, 2003). However, scholars have argued that the concepts of religiousness and spirituality are not fully independent of one another (Hill et al. ; Hill & Pargament; Zinnbauer et al., 1997). In fact, Hill et al. argued that there is a danger of "losing the sacred" when contrasting religion and spirituality as the word spirituality is often used as "a substitute for words like 'fulfilling,' 'moving,' 'important,' or 'worthwhile'" (p. 64). Hill et al. argued that lifestyles, activities and ideologies can be very fulfilling and important but typically lack a spiritual quality as they fail to consider the sacred. Hill and Pargament extended this argument stating "the sacred is the common denominator of religious and spiritual life. It represents the most vital destination sought by the religious person, and it is interwoven into the pathways many people take in life" (p. 65). Clearly, adherents to various faith traditions believe that participation in one's faith life propels them toward this vital destination and for Christians, this destination involves a process of spiritual development that draws one closer to the divine.

Relationship with God: Personal and Communal

Personal Relationship with God

For centuries, people have claimed to have personal encounters with the divine. Hill and Pargament (2003) noted that "to know God is, according to many traditions, the central function of religion" (p. 67). Early Christian theologians, serving in active pastoral roles, reached similar conclusions as they believed that failing to see God as relational "had a potentially negative impact on their communities and the lives of people under their care" (Nelson, 2005, p. 5). Without surprise, the centrality of a personal relationship with God is reflected in the beliefs of many Christians today. …

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