I shudder when I hear from those who believe that America or Americans have not changed much over the past number of years. Somehow there is the impression that we are the same caring, hard-working, moral, and trustworthy people we have always been.
The Wall Street Journal, in conjunction with the University of Chicago, conducted a recent survey, offering the following major points of reality on our changing culture over the last 25 years.
- Patriotism as being important or very important dropped from 70% to 38%.
- Those who valued Religion dropped from 62% to 39%.
- Adult Americans wishing to have children fell from 59% to 30%
- The importance of active engagement in local communities went from 47% to 27%.
- The need to express tolerance for others tumbled from 80% to 58%.
- In the entire study, there was only one value that increased. The importance of money went from 31% to 43%.
Reflections on the Data
Patriotism – In an article on BCW written earlier this year, I noted that a Pew Research study showed that 65% of Americans believe political candidates run for office “to serve their own personal interests rather than that of the country”. As President Biden officially began his run for a second term, the first ad focused on freedom and the American flag. However, the truth demonstrated from a recent CBS poll shows most Americans (72%) believe “Things in the US are out of control”. They believe the situation is being caused by US Politics (88%), the economy (85%), culture and values (75%), and Joe Biden, specifically (71%). How hard is it to be “patriotic” in that kind of environment?
Religion – Numerous studies have shown that Americans no longer consider faith an important part of their lives. Belief in God has dropped from 92% to 81% between 2011 and 2021. The pandemic had a devastating impact, particularly on small and mid-sized churches throughout the country. According to Gallup, church membership remained steady at 70% for six decades with a steady decline beginning around the turn of the 21st century. In 2019, before the impact from COVID, membership had dropped to 47%.
From a Biblical Christian perspective, the recent release of the 2023 American Worldview Inventory by George Barna offers a stark picture. Polling 2000 people the study showed that between 2020 and 2023 those who call themselves born-again Christians and believe Jesus did not commit sins during His time on earth fell from 58% to just 44%. Those who believe they have a unique calling or purpose from God fell from 88% to 46% and who felt human life is sacred from 60% to 48% and who believe God is the basis of all truth fell from 69% to 63%. Further, those who consider themselves deeply committed born-again Christians fell from 85% to 50%.
Finally, Barna “said that the share of the [U.S.] population that claims to hold a biblical worldview fell from 6% to 4% in the last three years.”
Children – Harris conducted a recent study trying to determine the basis behind declining birth rates. The results indicate that climate change, cost of living, and other social issues were the underlying cause. Further, for those couples who had made a decision never to have children, personal independence (54%), personal financial situation (46%), and work/life balance (40%) were the three top reasons.
Community Engagement – More and more Americans are retreating from local involvement in their community. Thirty years ago the front porch was a place for meeting neighbors, and local softball leagues, PTA attendance, Boy/Girl Scout parent-involvement, and church programs were the norm. Today, it is the fenced-in back patio, not the front porch, that holds our attention while our kids remain glued to their social media devices.
Tolerance – According to Webster, the definition of “tolerance” is, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”. Many today confuse tolerance with the term, “acceptance”. In our divisive society, if one appears to be gracious to the differing beliefs of another, many see that as an acceptance, almost to the point of agreement. As a nation, we have become so polarized that having an open dialogue of ideas and a willingness to agree to disagree is no longer an option.
Money – The irony that the only polling item that increased was the importance of financial security cannot be overstated. Patriotism, religion, children, community, and tolerance have all been subjugated by our addictive need for money. Scripture has much to say on this obsession, including,
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 – He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
As we look forward toward an uncertain future, what is more important than the treasures we desire to accumulate on this earth? If God exists, then eternity does as well. Since our lives will eventually end, what sort of people ought [we] to be (2 Pet. 3:11a)? We should not lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy… but treasures in Heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
Luke 10:27 – And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
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