Researchers at Manchester University in England discovered church goers commit less crime, particularly when it comes to illegal drug use, music piracy and shoplifting.
The research group led by PhD student Mark Littler surveyed 1,200 people ranging in age from 18 to 24.
The researchers asked the study group about their history of criminal activity in eight specific areas and what the possibility was they would commit future crimes.
The survey questions did not deal with “high-level” crimes such as murder or kidnapping, but focussed on the following areas:
- Violence against other people
- Pirating music
- Illegal drug use
- Delinquency from school or work
They discovered that people who attended church were less likely to commit these offences. There was also a direct correlation meaning the more a person attended church the less likely they were to commit those crimes.
There were three offences in particular that church goers were less likely to commit — illegal drug use, music piracy and shoplifting.
Littler said, “the act of visiting a place of worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour.”
He added that “mixing with other believers” is an important part of this process. He said hanging out with other people “who share your faith” and who are not interested in committing crimes, impacts the type of activities a person will be involved in.
The Apostle Paul makes a similar statement, but from a reverse perspective. He writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NASV)
Paul’s statement “Bad company corrupts good morals” was actually a quote from a pagan writer Menander, a famous poet of Athens. Known for his witty statements, Meander committed suicide by drowning in 293 b.c. because a competing poet, Philemon, received more applause for his compositions.
Since Paul was writing to Greeks, he may have purposely quoted one of their own to drive home his point. It suggests, things were happening in the Corinthian church that concerned the apostle.
Paul describes the corruption process as a deception. People don’t start believing their behaviour will be corrupted. They think they can associate with bad company without it affecting them. They may even go a further step and convince themselves that they can actually influence these bad characters towards good.
The word company does not refer to casual contact, but describes close and continued contact — friendship or companionship. The Greek word for corrupt, ptheiro, means simply to defile or corrupt by mixing bad with good. It is a process that does not end well for a believer.
The company we keep makes a difference.