Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Issues Below The Surface

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the programs I watched on television was "The King Is Coming". It was sometimes hosted by Dave Breese. He'd often cite part of a poem, and I don't think I've ever tracked down who it comes from:

Hold 'ere this truth before your eyes
That all the world is lies and lies.

It's hyperbolic, but it gets an important point across. If you want to know what's most important in a culture, in the world, and in life in general, look beyond the news headlines and the consensus of your peers. The issues that get the most attention - economics, racial issues, LGBTQ issues, the family, abortion, presidential politics, the environment, etc. - have some significance and provide a partial explanation for why our culture is in the state it's in. But only a partial explanation. Sometimes, what's wrong with a culture isn't something people widely disagree about, but something about which there's widespread agreement. Don't just look at what religious and unreligious people or politically conservative and politically liberal people disagree about. Also look at their agreements. On some issues, they're unified in error.

The most important issue has been the same in every generation and will be the same in every future generation: how people view God. After beginning with the primacy of God, think of the general parameters of life: people's priorities, how they spend their time, their objectives, the urgency they have about accomplishing those objectives, their intellectual maturity (especially on religious issues, where it matters most), and so on. I've often addressed the time management issue, for example, which is a major problem with both unreligious and religious people, both political liberals and political conservatives. Even conservative Evangelicals have a major problem with using their time poorly. See the Department of Labor's annual research on how Americans spend their time. The average American spends roughly five hours a day on what the Department of Labor calls leisure and sports and roughly five minutes a day on what's classified as religious and spiritual activities.

The Pew Research Center does a lot of work studying where people find meaning in life. Here are some of their results from last year:

The topic of faith, religion and spirituality is also one where some societies notably differ. Outside of the U.S., religion is never one of the top 10 sources of meaning cited – and no more than 5% of any non-American public mention it. In the U.S., however, 15% mention religion or God as a source of meaning, making it the fifth most mentioned topic….

Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. are much more likely than mainline Protestants to mention faith as a source of meaning – 34% vs. 13%, respectively.

So, only about a third of Evangelicals even mention it. Notice that even the minorities who mention religion are only mentioning it as a source of meaning in life. One among others. And it seems that few people place it at the top of the list.

Keep statistics like these in mind when you're told that Americans are very religious, that they're more religious than people in Europe and some other parts of the world, etc. That's like saying that a person in a coma, on the verge of death, has more life than a corpse. Not very impressive.

Here's an article by Pew showing the differences on meaning of life issues between Republicans and Democrats. Notice that both mention family most prominently. In fact, family is even more prominent among Democrats than among Republicans.

What Christians need to be most focused on isn't gender issues, masculinity, presidential politics, the family, Critical Race Theory, and so on. We need to start with God, then move on to other issues in their appropriate order, including issues that Christians and the rest of the culture tend to neglect.

No comments:

Post a Comment