E-pistle October 29

The Mall is a Bad Place for the Pursuit of Happiness (ask Anthony and Edith)
 
A friend recently sent the link to this story, “For Happiness, Sitting in Church Beats Shopping at the Mall.” The report tells of a new study released by researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University using University of Chicago data on the relative happiness of Americans pre- and post- the end of the blue law era when most commercial activity on Sundays was prohibited by law (16 states, 1973-1998). If you read the story, you will see that the study was specific to Christians because of our Sunday worship traditions and that it is sophisticated and nuanced, taking into account a variety of other factors that may have influenced our sense of well being. The bottom line: there is a direct correlation between church attendance and levels of happiness, and, specifically, exchanging worship for the mall leads to less happiness.
 
Apparently, at least according the study, if you increase your average worship attendance by one Sunday per month, your level of happiness will increase by 10.7%. So, you non-attenders, just think of it; come back to church on a regular basis and you will find yourself 42.8% happier.  And there may be some compounding of the interest there, so it could be better than that.
 
Evangelism Committee, print some flyers and post some placards. Forget that gospel stuff about dying to self and daily cross bearing. Let’s appeal to self-interest.
 
But let’s face it, we can advertize our 42.8% solution all we want, but those malls – head either direction on Route 1 and you’ll hit a mall in three miles – are going to keep outdrawing us with their lies about shopping our way to happiness.
 
The authors of the study figured it would be that way: If attending services makes people happier, why don't people go more regularly, or go back if they've stopped going? (Danny Cohen-Zada, PhD, assistant professor in the department of economics at Ben-Gurion University and lead author of the study) has a few theories, he says, foremost among them is simply that shopping provides more immediate gratification. "Since immediate satisfaction from shopping is higher than from religious participation, they choose shopping even if they know that in the long run they would be less happy," he says. "In addition to this, the addictive nature of shopping helps them to choose the immediate lower satisfaction over the long-run higher satisfaction."
 
Turns out that shopping is like chocolate and worship is like an apple. My guess is that an apple is at least 42.8% better for you than a Hershey bar.
 
Yesterday afternoon I dropped by Anthony and Edith Fortunato’s for a quick visit. Anthony is doing well and says he’ll be back in worship with us soon. Anthony is 97 years old and Edith just a few years younger. They have been married for 72 years. Their home is modest and their lives simple. And they are happy. Really happy. Oh, and most of you know where to find Anthony and Edith on Sunday mornings. Hint: it isn’t at the mall.
 
So, I guess we’ll stick with the gospel and then if anyone wants to know about “long-run higher satisfaction,” we’ll have them talk to Anthony or Edith.
 
See you Sunday – and just think, if you missed last Sunday, you’ll be 10.7% happier this coming week than you were this past week.