Faith-Based Research:
Implications and Practical Outcomes of Christian Thinking

"Faith-based research." That may sound like a marginalized pursuit among sectarian ivory tower enthusiasts, but actually, it's legitimate, alive and well. In fact, faith-based research is increasingly helping to drive public policy decisions. Certainly, faith-based research has been challenging the wholesale exclusion of religiously-informed scholarship on the campus for some time now. Philosophers have been integrating it for several decades, coming full circle to less intolerant times.

One example of mainstreaming research that leaves room for religious perspective while not using it as the basis of research is the Intelligent Design movement. Researchers in the hard sciences have left room for the possibility of divine design and intervention and allow the science to speak for itself. And what the evidence speaks is compelling indeed. (That is a topic fit for a complete Special Focus feature, or you can visit our Origins website).

In this Special Focus we discuss how, for example, research has helped provide evidence for the effectiveness of prison rehabilitation programs that employ spiritual approaches to reduce recidivism (rearrest) rates. Once the data was in and publicized, politicians were freer to create public policy that works--and happen to reflect biblical principles. We also look at the ins and outs of faith-based social initiatives for the poor, the government's role in the process, etc.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

The "God Pod"
Charles Colson
In a radio commentary describing the result of decisions made based on Dr. Byron Johnson's research (see above) on rearrest rates:
"I've just returned from a very unusual weekend--one that reminded me of a spiritual retreat. The governor of Texas, George Bush, was there, singing hymns with an enthusiastic choir. One man after another testified of God's grace in his life. Tears were shed and there were many hugs. But this was no woodsy retreat center. It was a Texas prison. And what's going on there offers a glimpse of what America needs to do to break the vicious cycle of crime. Last April Prison Fellowship opened the first 'Christian prison' in America."

Doctors Differ on Issue of Assisted Suicide
National Institute for Healthcare Research
From a nonprofit organization specializing in research on the nexus of spirituality and healthcare:
According to the [cited] study, "Those [physicians] who considered religion very important in their lives were much less likely both to support legalization and to consider personal involvement in assisted suicide...." David B. Larson, M.D., president of the nonprofit National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR), agrees. "Such findings are consistent with past studies showing that strongly religious individuals are less likely to choose suicide for themselves."

The Truth About Crime and Welfare
Professor John J. DiIulio, Jr.
The author, having worked in the criminal justice field for some time, shares his thoughts about the current American prison system. He also suggests reforms for welfare programs. Excerpt: "With the Reverend Eugene Rivers of Boston and others, I am actively working toward the goal of organizing one thousand black inner-city churches around a faith-anchored ten-point youth and community development plan. The plan has already shown miraculous results in Boston and a few other cities. We aim to organize at least fifty churches in each of the nation's twenty largest cities around the same plan. As Pastor Rivers says, 'It's either barbed wire and more black juvenile superpredators, or civil society and stronger black churches. It's that simple.'"

The Place of Religiously Informed Scholarship in the Contemporary Academy
Michael Murray
This paper is a transcript of a presentation made at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in April of 1998 about the potential role of faith-based perspectives in philosophical theorizing and in academic research programs generally.

Articles on Faith-Based Social Organizations and Public Policy:

"Saving" the Poor
Daniel P. Moloney
Moloney describes the new freedoms (and funds) granted "faith-based organizations" by the federal government to address social ills.

Institutional "Faith Alone"
Richard John Neuhaus
First Things editor-in-chief Neuhaus agrees that opening faith-based social services up to the kind of public funding proposed by former senator John Ashcroft (also endorsed by Al Gore), known as "charitable choice," is risky. He concurs with critics that funding may well send such services down a slippery slope to onerous oversight or worse, yet he contends that it is worth the risk. The outcome, he writes, is up to us (people and institutions of faith).

Beating the Bearhug: The Hard Work Of Charitable Choice Is Just Beginning
Marvin Olasky
Olasky, editor of World magazine, personal advisor of George W. Bush and originator of the "compassionate conservatism" concept, gives prescriptions for faith-based poverty-fighting groups on their interaction with government.

Books in Review: When Sacred and Secular Mix
Review by Keith J. Pavlischek
When Sacred and Secular Mix: Religious Nonprofit Organizations and Public Money was written by Stephen V. Monsma. Reviewed by Keith J. Pavlischek, this book explores the relationship between religious nonprofit organizations and the government.

Fighting poverty in Jesus' name...and with taxpayer funds?
Roy Maynard
Discusses Mississippi's Faith and Families program, which preceded former Senator John Ashcroft's Charitable Choice initiative, a plan to help move families off the welfare rolls while creating partnerships between faith-based groups like churches and governments. Although some of the news content is dated, the articles gives a clear, simple view of the pros and cons of such efforts.

Books in Review: Renewing American Compassion
Review by Amy L. Sherman
'Renewing American Compassion' was written by Marvin Olasky and reviewed by Amy Sherman. This book follows the author's previous work, 'The Tragedy of American Compassion,' by criticizing the bureaucratic responses to those in need.

True Faith at Work: Habitat's "Theology of the Hammer"
Charles Colson
"...As the presidential campaign heats up, we're going to hear a lot about faith-based solutions to social problems. If you hear others saying it won't work, tell them about Habitat for Humanity. This is faith in action."

Related Link:

Leap of Faith
America is beset with vexing problems that defy the best intentions of government. Despite federal spending on social programs, 12 million children live in poverty, schools are failing, and urban neighborhoods languish. President Bush wants the government to fund the churches and their "armies of compassion" to operate charities like food pantries, homeless shelters, and prison ministries. However, the Constitution implores us to keep church and state separate, and many warn the president's plan will dilute religion and threaten individual rights. Reporter Anthony Brooks examines the issue in a three-part documentary.

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