I saw a recent post on the declining participation of young Mormon men in church. (This is not just affecting Mormons.) Young men are fleeing the religion, and the writer suggests they do it simply because they can – their trucks and internet connections allow them to flee, unlike 50 years ago when social reinforcement made for tighter communities where peer pressure and community opinions mattered.
“Utah’s Mormon majority has always fostered a unique religious subculture. The sheer density of Mormons in Utah means that ward boundaries and neighborhood boundaries are often coterminous. Associates at work, school, and in the community are also likely to be co-religionists in this setting.
This fuses church and community norms, and makes violating church standards subject to disapproval and sanction in non-church settings. Traditionally, this has provided added incentive for Utah Mormons with marginal personal religiosity to remain in the church, and to follow church behavioral mandates.”
God: For all of us, this new freedom changes the way we relate to God. Now we need strong personal convictions, because the coercive community around us is gone.”
What was posted above about Mormons applies just as well to Christians in general (the article even notes it affects Muslims too) and beyond religion to all aspects of American and Western life. Generations ago, the social environment helped restrict extreme behavior. Once pressure from friends and family ceased to matter (suburban sprawl and the internet help expand personal freedom but destroy social behavioral reinforcement; and welfare pretty much destroys the need for responsible behavior) then anyone with marginal interest in behaving well for their own personal ethics, morals, or uncertain religious convictions is going to follow their ego, not what used to be expected.
Unfortunately, freedom includes the freedom to make choices that offer short-term satisfaction, often at the cost of long term results for the individual and the greater community. Losing respect for the opinions and expectations of friends, family, and neighbors means losing the benefits of thousands of years of collective wisdom.
How can we fight this trend? Teach your children well from an early age. Don’t let them believe that the modern world is so different and new the all wisdom from the past is null and void. Instill a mature adult perspective instead of letting them discover right and wrong entirely on their own.