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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Studying student spirituality

The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that college fine arts students (62 percent) were most likely to express a high level of religious commitment. That number was followed by those studying education (59 percent) and the humanities (57 percent). These students said they found religion helpful, trusted a Higher Power, felt loved by God, or followed religious teachings in their everyday lives.

The study (www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/spirituality.html) shows students with higher levels of religious commitment often received better-than-expected grades, had clear educational objectives and said they felt good about their lives.

Andrew Weisner, chaplain at Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, N.C., says it makes sense that religious commitment and academic success go hand-in-hand. "If [students] care enough about prioritizing issues of faith and personal belief, they'll prioritize God and faith and their personal goals as well," he said.

Fine arts and humanities students also reported the highest levels of spiritual distress — defined as questioning one's beliefs; feeling unsettled about religious and spiritual matters; struggling to understand evil, suffering and death; feeling angry with God; or feeling disillusioned with their religious upbringing.

But "spiritual distress may have positive consequences in the long run, as the distress may be indicative of deep spiritual reflection and challenging oneself to grow," said ULCA research analyst Alyssa Bryant.


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April issue

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