Opinion: Churches can shine

News  /  Opinion

Ahriana Platten

There’s a proverb that suggests one bad apple spoils the barrel. It’s certain that when one church comes into question — all churches are affected.

Few people understand the big picture when it comes to the contributions of organized religion in our country. As an ordained minister and former church leader, I’m aware of the many ways churches make a difference economically and socially.

Here are a few examples. Churches conduct prison ministry that addresses recidivism. They host AA meetings to address addictions. They collect and donate tons (literally) of food to address food security issues. Churches offer free or reduced-price counseling to address mental and emotional health, and often aid families with housing needs. The list goes on (and on). How do you put a price tag on the person who doesn’t commit suicide because a spiritual leader answered the phone in the middle of the night, picked the person up and took them to the hospital for help? How do you quantify the value to society when a clergy member coaches a couple through marital troubles and helps keep a family intact, thereby supporting children who always do better when they have family stability? What’s it worth when a minister or person of the cloth appears on-site at a crisis such as the November mass shooting tragedy at Club Q, and prays with the grieving for days and weeks afterward?

Churches make a difference economically and socially.

In both tangible and intangible ways, churches and spiritual leaders contribute to the welfare of a community. Tangibly, they employ thousands in our city, purchase supplies locally, and contract with local vendors.

In their 2016 analysis, published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Brian and Melissa Grim calculated that faith-based organizations contributed $378 billion annually to the U.S. economy, including funding for health care, food, education, media, charities and congregational activities.

When one large church falls into question, public opinion about all churches is impacted. Sixty35’s Feb. 23 story about Church For All Nations is well researched and worthy of public interest. It’s excellent reporting. I wish the Board or the leadership of Church For All Nations had chosen to respond to Senior Reporter Pam Zubeck’s many efforts to interview them, and had answered the questions that naturally arise when a story like this breaks. They didn’t. I also wish this story didn’t color public opinion about every other church. It does.

Our city is full of dedicated spiritual leaders of character who improve life for hundreds of people every week. It’s full of congregations whose social action and social justice activities change the face of the Pikes Peak region. I dare say the number of religious organizations making Colorado Springs a better place to live far exceeds those whose activities are questionable.

So — before we throw away any of the good apples, I’d like to suggest we consider the contributions made by a majority of our local religious organizations and give them a little grace.

A good apple is one of life’s great pleasures.

Dr. Ahriana Platten currently serves as interim co-publisher for Sixty35 Media.

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