Thursday, December 5, 2013

Faith and Race

His faith led Manut Bol back to the Sudan in Africa to share his wealth and wisdom and Christian love. Christianity is growing faster around the world than any other faith group. Conservative Christians lead all groups in serving and donating to poor minorities. They also lead all groups in adopting children from around the world.

Building social capital
Faith may be one of the most personal areas in the lives of individuals, but it can also collectively exert moral influence over a community, scholars say.

As a crime stopper, faith may be particularly effective in setting moral norms, building social ties and investing communities with a sense of meaning and purpose, counteracting the “moral cynicism” and individualism that can foster criminal behavior, researchers Ulmer and Casey Harris of the University of Arkansas note in the latest issue of The Sociological Quarterly.

Ulmer and Harris explored “Race and the Religious Contexts of Violence” in their study. They analyzed data from the U.S. Census, the Religious Congregations and Membership Study and crime reports from nearly 200 counties in New York California and Texas. All of the counties had substantial numbers of black, white and Latino residents.

What they found was not only evidence that religion may exert a protective influence discouraging violent crime, but that there are also racial-ethnic differences in the role of faith communities.
Consider these findings:

• Black and white violence decreased significantly as the percentage rose of county residents who belonged to congregations or were regular attenders.

• Black and Latino violence was lower in communities where residents belonged to similar types of religious institutions, indicating faith groups from similar traditions were able to exert greater influence on community values when they had a significant presence.

• Religious homogeneity was not associated with overall rates of white violence, but further breakdowns showed communities with larger percentages of evangelicals had lower rates of white violence. Latino violence was significantly reduced in communities with large numbers of active Catholics.

• Black violence dipped dramatically in counties with high levels of poverty, unemployment and low levels of education where large percentages of residents were active in congregations. This is a key finding, as communities with severe social and economic disadvantages are more likely to have high violent crime rates.

The findings suggest that religious groups have the ability to cultivate moral attitudes “that counteract the code of the streets,” Ulmer says. All of us realize that it is safer to attend a Bible study or worship service in the ghetto than to attend a bar.

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