Heroin used to be a problem mainly for the big cities. Today it is also ravaging rural communities in the American heartland, a cheap alternative to pain pills and crystal meth. In the white working class, divorce is soaring, marriage rates have been plummeting, and single parents have become the norm. And this demographic, which used to be the heart and soul of evangelical Christianity, has the lowest rates of church attendance. From boarded up small towns to rustbelt cities where the factory has closed down, the white working class is in a state of economic, moral, cultural, and spiritual crisis.
This is chronicled in the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, who grew up in a family plagued by all of these dysfunctions, but whose church-going grandparents pulled him out of the mire.
While churches build mega-congregations in the suburbs and concentrate on trying to reach affluent millennials, the truly unchurched who are arguably in most need of evangelism and spiritual care are often ignored, déclassé as they are.
Terry Mattingly interviews Vance on the religious dimensions of the crisis he documents. [Read more…]