In the span of my lifetime, Americans have seemed to abandon the values that once defined us as a nation.
Poll results released last month by the Wall Street Journal show that religious faith, hard work, having children, community involvement, and patriotism have all steeply declined in importance to Americans since 1998. The only priority that has actually increased since then? Money.
It’s an incredibly insightful poll you can read about in full here. For those in my generation, it’s no wonder we’re confused about the country we live in—many of us hardly have memories of “the good ol’ days,” yet intuitively feel that the America we grew up in is not the America we are experiencing today. In just 25 short years, we have gone from a country that largely lived by these values to these same people somehow feeling they’re now in a minority.
You can blame the Millennials (who did, in fact, place a significantly low importance on these values), but the article highlights the fact that these values have dropped across all age groups. This is not just a generational issue, it is a multi-generational issue, and it happens when, as Contributor Os Guinness puts it, people fail to pass the cultural baton:
I would say, it’s not legislative, but it’s not individual alone, it has to be national too. Put it this way. Renewal is the very hardest thing for a free society. So yes, one of my books I call it, “The Golden Triangle of Freedom,” how you sustain freedom and not just win it and order it. You need to sustain it, the Golden Triangle. But if we look back to the Old Testament where you have it strongly, the main types of renewal are both national. The Jews’ Moses says every seven years, the king must read the covenant and call the people back to it, every seven years. Now, the nearest you have in America to that, are the inaugural addresses. They’re not doing it explicitly, but some of the best of the presidents, you take Ronald Reagan talking about renewing the American covenant with freedom.
He wasn’t doing that explicitly, but he probably should have been. You need to have a national renewal. But equally, as I said earlier, you need the schools and the families and the places of worship to keep it alive. And for leaders in the Old Testament, you have the national renewal. Then the king is ordered to write a personal copy of the Torah himself.
Be very good, I mean, people in America swear on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. But many of them, I think, don’t know what the Constitution is. And so it’d be very important for every American president to read a bit of it every day and realize what it is they’re upholding and why they’re doing so. So, the challenge of renewal is the challenge of a free society. And America’s doing badly on almost every front that it takes to renew it.
You know, I often say you take the Beijing Olympics. They were unique in a lot of ways in China, but there was one thing that was unique. There was no American relay runner on the podium. Now one reason was you had Usain Bolt, lightning bolt, he’s rather fast. The real reason was though, the American relay runners dropped the baton. And again and again, you heard the hollow, tinny sound of the baton hitting the track. What’s happening in America is that from generation to generation, they’re dropping the baton. If it’s not passed down, say currently to Generation Z, freedom will die. Both faith and freedom require transmission. And if you stop handing it down, it dies.
By the way, here’s Os’ clip describing the Golden Triangle of Freedom (that he mentions above). It’s a PC classic:
At Praxis Circle, this is why we do what we do: to help pass the baton. Through countless blogs, interviews, and courses our goal has been to emphasize the importance of Classical Judeo-Christian values to the fabric of our free society. This poll should open our eyes to the reality that a new fabric or worldview is being spun and is perhaps taking over. The funny thing is, no one can tell us what we would be replacing it with and why it’s better.
Obviously, unless we continue to follow and inculcate faith, family, and freedom, those and other fundamental national, patriotic values will not survive.
It’s time for a national renewal, and we hope you will join us.