Several years ago, Dan Edmunds, a diplomat with the American Psychotherapy Association, said, “One of the most destructive problems is the breakdown of community, and it is this breakdown that has often led to collapse of people. Although we are many around us, we are alone.
For decades, a major source of community for many Americans has been their local place of worship. Although the participants may have had varying degrees of commitment to living their faith, they came together to enjoy fellowship with each other as they passed through the stages of life – from childhood to the eventual end. of life.
Unfortunately, fewer Americans are taking advantage of this community these days, and we are worse off as a nation. While there may be many people who come in and out of our lives, fewer have the deep and lasting connections that develop within a religious body. As a result, Americans are more alone than ever.
A few weeks ago, a new Marist poll found that while 54% of Americans still believe in the “God of the Bible,” they are increasingly avoiding church services — and the numbers are even worse for younger generations.
This is the result of downward trickling as religious attendance declined with each passing generation. As Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life, writes, “Millennials and Gen Z parents have done less to encourage regular attendance at formal worship services and mold religious behaviors in their children than previous generations.”
As said, values are caught, not taught, and Millennials and Gen Z are seeing the lack of engagement from those older than them and following their example. As a result, the rising generation feels increasingly isolated.
While a slim majority still claim to believe in the God of the Bible, their lack of connection to a local religious body has profound consequences not only for themselves but also for our society as a whole.
Compared to those who rarely attend religious services or do not attend at all, worshipers are more actively involved in their community and have stronger social connections with others. Is it any wonder that the erosion of civility and our social fabric began to occur when attendance at weekly services became more of a cafeteria option rather than a priority?
Lockdowns have killed people’s relationships
This has been exacerbated by Covid-19, as many places of worship have chosen to stream their services online. This means that many might try to worship and watch the sermon in solitude without ever having to connect with others as part of a church body. While video streaming may have provided a new avenue for people to receive religious instruction, it has also created concurrent, unstated religious isolation.
Without a rock such as a local religious body to stand on, we have seen more and more people become morally, emotionally and physically adrift – something we see playing out daily across the country. Moreover, with the loss of commitment to a religious body comes the loss of a vital institution that has always been a source of connection with others.
America was built on civic groups and other associations, such as attending church services. It is these associations that Alexis de Tocqueville observed “form a society”, and in their absence, society disintegrates into individualism, moral confusion and silos of separatism.
Adoring alone becomes not adoring
But on the bright side, Michael Conte, a Marist investigator, said:[Americans] continue to regard their religious affiliation as a key element of their personal identity”. Many Americans still consider their families, religious teachings, and religious leaders to be primary sources of moral guidance — in fact, 7 in 10 survey respondents said America would be better off if we prayed more.
Noted sociologist Robert Putnam observed that we “played alone” more often in America as civic association began to decline. To worship alone would be a sad corollary.
If we want to restore community in America, one of the first places to start is to get people back into places of worship, instead of watching or not attending sermons on television. Such community changes the shape and form of our social priorities and focus – from self to selflessness – as we become connected to others in the common bond of faith.
Such a vibrant and renewed community will bring restoration from our current fragmented state and bring us together again for the common good – for us and society. It would be soulcraft in its most important form, and the kind of regeneration that our country desperately needs.
Tim Goeglein is vice president of government and external relations at Focus on the Family in Washington DC.