St. Benedict’s Preparatory School rises like a red-brick mountain from the urban cityscape of Newark, New Jersey. The school — which has been the subject of books and documentaries — readies 530 mostly poor, mostly minority boys for college and beyond. In an area where public schools are working hard just to keep young men from ending up in gangs, in jail or dead, St. Benedict’s sends 95% of its graduates to college, including a sizable number to Ivy League schools.
Graduates, such as Uriel Burwell, often then return home to make an impact. Upon graduating from Drew University, Burwell was drawn to his childhood neighborhood where he has now built 50 new affordable houses and has rehabilitated more than 30 homes, attracting $3 million in funding for additional projects in the area.
Religion sometimes gets a bad rap in the 24/7 news cycle. And if we’re not careful, some media narratives might blind us to religion’s enduring social strength.
We rarely quantify the dollar and cents of faith’s impact, but the numbers should draw attention from even the most secular pockets of today’s society. According to a 2016 study by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, religion contributes about $1.2 trillion of socioeconomic value annually to the U.S. economy. That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th-largest national economy, outpacing nearly 180 other countries and territories. It’s more than the global annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google. It’s also more than 50% larger than the global annual revenues of America’s six largest oil and gas companies.