A recent survey commissioned by the Wall Street Journal and NBC news highlighted a disturbing trend. Among USA residents aged 55 and older, nearly 80% said that patriotism was very important compared with only 42% of those aged 18-38. Two-thirds of the older group cited religion as very important compared to less than one-third of the younger group. Among the older group 54% said that having children is very important compared to only 32% of the younger generation. Hence the American fertility rate is at an all-time low: 1.76 births per woman; the replacement rate is 2.1.
The young adults represented in this survey are the product of an educational system that is destroying the historic national consensus on these three values (religion, patriotism and family). Students are often presented with a nation born in racism, sexism and homophobia with a focus on discrediting the Christian West and America in particular. This is a far cry from historic education when teachers believed they were the transmitters of the important cultural values that were the national consensus. These values produced a coherent national identity and made a united progress possible.
Will Herberg noted that these three agreed-upon Judeo-Christian values made up a national consensus. First, there is a God who holds all accountable. This is reflected in such values as treating every person as created in the image of God, and revering marriage and family as the building blocks of the society. The Church and Synagogue were respected as foundational in reinforcing values that were necessary to a good society. Patriotism arose from the belief that the country was worthy of the sacrifice of its citizens.
As we have noted, many in charge of culture formation including universities, public schools and media, have for years been conveying a deconstruction of all three: Why have a family if the earth may not be able to sustain humanity? Why have children if one’s own career and personal well-being are more important?
Raising children is potentially one of the most fulfilling aspects of life. However, there is now a self-centeredness that does not easily square with the personal sacrifice of parenting. The loss of relationship, faith and hope for the future lead to increased suicide. The columnist Cal Thomas warned that the constant presence of media with young adults is disconnecting the “good life” that they aim for, from these historic values.
As if this was not sufficient, former American Defense Secretary General James Mattis decried the phenomenon of breaking up into a kind of tribalism with opposing identities that despise one another. The survival of a nation is dependent on a common identity based on the historic values noted above.
And how does this apply in Israel? We also struggle with the secular orientations of self. The ultra-religious despise the secular and vice versa. There is also a deconstructing narrative that undercuts patriotism in Israel. On the matter of patriotism, I have always argued for a guarded and more humble patriotism, not a chauvinistic one. Yet respect for a nation’s values and ideals where they are right and seeking to form a better nation are valid motivations.
We are not without hope. In such a vacuum of meaning, there is potential for great revival. People can begin to feel the emptiness of it all. Let us believe for a great turning to God and an accompanying return to a biblical world view.