Our current President’s “tag line” is “Make America Great Again.” I would contend that America is great and has never ceased to be great. At the same time I would also contend that America is probably not as great as she has been or could be. It would be difficult (in my opinion, impossible) to successfully argue that the moral condition of American society has not declined over the past several years. When there is such a shift in the social and moral conscience of a society one of the questions that intrigues me is, “Why?”
I freely admit that I don’t know all the answers. I’m not sure I even know all the questions. But my personal observations over the past 30 or so years has led me to believe that a certain change in focus has occurred in American society. That change has been reflected in the decline in church attendance among all the different religious bodies that would identify themselves as “Christian.” Kelly Shattuck, in an article published online at www.churchleaders.com referenced research that began in the 1980s by the Evangelical Covenant Church. That research revealed that polls pertaining to church attendance conducted by the Gallup organization, as well as others, had overestimated church attendance by 20% or more. Telephone interviews and other standard polling practices held that approximately 40% of the United States population attended worship services on any given Sunday. The research cited by Shattuck, revealed that the number was about 17%. The article went on to cite other research predicting that the percentage of Americans in a church service on a given Sunday will continue to decline. So what does all this mean to America?
It is true that the actual number of church attendees is increasing. However, the population is increasing at a much faster rate. Result: an ever smaller portion of the population is receiving consistent, viable moral and spiritual training. Is the church the only place such training can be received? Certainly not! In fact, the home should be the primary place where such training is received, but the basics of those moral and spiritual tenants are provided by the church. Couple a declining church attendance with the fact that all references to a higher power or authority have been removed from our public schools and governmental agencies and any theories of human origins that are opposed to the standard doctrine of organic evolution have been expunged from the public classroom and you have no basis for morality or spirituality.
In an informal debate via telephone with an avowed atheist I asked, “Without a higher power (God) decreeing it to be so, upon what basis do you determine that actions such as murder and rape are criminal and should be punished?” His response was that the standards of the community should be the determining factor. My next question was, “Upon what basis does a community make such decisions?” That’s as far as the discussion went. He hung up on me. In point of fact, without the decree of a higher power there is no reference for determining what is right and what is wrong. For example, most people will agree that the murder of a human being is wrong/criminal and should be punished. In opposition to that we note that a large part of the population today considers the abortion of a live, viable fetus to not only to be a non-criminal act, but the absolute right of the woman carrying the fetus. At the same time many of those who endorse abortion decry and oppose the use of the death penalty for those who have been convicted of murder. Upon what basis are such conclusion reached?
Is this abandonment of church and spiritual things related to the rise of violence and criminality in society. I can’t help but think it is. Additionally, evermore children are growing up in fatherless homes, foster homes, group homes, and other “less than ideal” circumstances. Admittedly, many of these circumstances, while being “less than ideal,” involve decent people who are doing the best they can for the children under their care. Good single parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, and group home parents are to be applauded for their efforts to bring stability, morality, and love into the lives of those children. But even in homes that are seemingly “normal,” whatever that is, too little attention is often given to the spiritual aspects of life. The result is that even children in more normal circumstances grow up with little knowledge or appreciation of a higher power and the spiritual aspects of life.
Also, even in “normal” homes, parenting skills are often somewhat lacking. It has been my observation that parents often want to be their children’s friend and become overindulgent in an effort to be liked by their children. As a result children are given opportunities to be led astray by their peers, the media, or other sources that devalue the spiritual aspects of life. Video games and violent movies desensitize them to violent actions and devalue human life and all too often children are given over to “electronic baby sitters” so that the children won’t be bored or won’t distract mom or dad from whatever they are doing. And if that is not enough to keep the children occupied psychotropic drugs are often employed to “calm” the children when all they really needed was a little room to run and play for a bit to burn off some pent up energy.
So what is the answer to the dilemmas we face as we try to find answers to such situations as Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.? A single answer probably doesn’t exist. Certainly drugs, electronic gadgets, and “gun control” have done little to alleviate the situation.
My conclusion then is this. Instead of passing more laws let’s concentrate on enforcing the ones already on the books. Instead of expecting the latest and greatest gadget to entertain the children let’s encourage them to be more interactive with other human beings, including their parents. Instead of trying to give our children an easier life than we had let’s try giving them some responsibilities (taking out the trash, cleaning up after meals, cleaning their own rooms, doing homework instead of television, video games, etc.) and make sure there are consequences for not fulfilling those responsibilities. Instead of saying, “No,” and then giving in to their whining let “No” really be “No,” sticking to what we have said rather than being manipulated by our children. And how about exemplifying a life of submission to God and teaching them that the world does not revolve around them rather than making them the “center of the universe.” In the real world there are successes and failures. In order to become productive adults children need to be taught how to deal with both: humble in success and gracious in failure.
Children are the future of America, but if American society does not change its direction there may not be an America in their future.