Spiritual crisis in the white working class

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…]

“The Smug Style in American Liberalism”

There is an astonishing article in the (liberal) Vox by the (liberal) Emmett Rensin entitled “The Smug Style in American Liberalism:  How liberals came to look down on the people they once tried to help.”

It castigates liberals for their Daily-Show habit of mocking those they disagree with, particularly those of lower social class than themselves, saying how stupid and uneducated they are, compared to their cool and knowing selves.

Rensin points out that liberals used to be largely from the working class.  Today, though, the base of liberalism is in academia and the upper middle class.  Today, he says, many Democrats don’t even know a poor or blue collar person.  Their disrespect has translated into not really doing anything about the economic issues that have so ravaged the working class.

Whatever your politics, you need to read this, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

Democrats too are voting with their middle fingers

Just as grassroots Republicans are voting for Donald Trump as a defiant protest against their own establishment, grassroots Democrats are voting for Bernie Sanders for much the same reasons.

Read the fiery anti-Clinton, anti-liberal establishment rhetoric of Camille Paglia, quoted and linked after the jump.  Note especially her devastating critique of how the Democratic party has become “the playground of white, upper-middle-class professionals with elite-school degrees and me-first values,” “liberal poseurs,” whose “projection of victimhood on those outside their privileged circle” is condescending and patronizing. [Read more…]

Whatever happened to working class families?

Robert Putnam’s book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis continues to get attention.  Michael Gerson has a good discussion of its impact, excerpted and linked after the jump.  The problem being documented is that whereas a new traditionalism in middle class families is paying off in stronger marriages, better parenting, and successful young people,  in the working class–white no less than black– families are in a state of collapse, with more and more people refusing to get married at all, single parenting becoming the norm, children being left to fend for themselves, and when they grow up experiencing all kinds of problems.

As Putnam documents, things didn’t used to be that way.  Lower income Americans used to have strong families.  Economic struggle is and always has been a problem, but that doesn’t account completely for the current family collapse and other dysfunctions.  Something cultural is going on.  For one thing, as we’ll be blogging about, church attendance in this demographic which wouldn’t seem to be connected to economic problems, has plummeted.

College educated kids, though exposed to postmodernist ideology and pop culture at its most destructive, seem for the most part to be turning out all right.  But the less well educated, who presumably are not being so exposed to cultural nihilism, are becoming cultural nihilists.  What do you think is going on? [Read more…]

Class, children, & the social costs of nonjudgmentalism

There is a growing chasm in our society.  It isn’t so much between the wealthy and the middle class, though it does have to do with social classes, a major demarcation seeming to be between the college educated and those who just finished high school.  But it isn’t an economic gap so much as a cultural gap, or, more specifically, a child-raising gap.  It’s between children who have been raised by both parents, who have been cared for, given lots of attention, and taken care of.  And children raised pretty much on their own, often with a single mother and serial boyfriends, with very little supervision, and with very little protection from abuse, sex, and their own impulses.  This is the thesis of Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.  Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, is a very important social scientist, a Harvard professor whose insights have been very influential across the spectrum.  That he is pointing to this crisis in childraising–which, in turn, leads to young adults poorly equipped for a successful life–will get attention.

Thanks to Larry Hughes for pointing me to a New York Times column by David Brooks, who reflects on Putnam’s findings, which he summarizes this way:

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. There are a bunch of charts that look like open scissors. In the 1960s or 1970s, college-educated and noncollege-educated families behaved roughly the same. But since then, behavior patterns have ever more sharply diverged. High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity.

Brooks goes on to describe some of the heart-breaking profiles of children growing up that Putnam gives, from descriptions of abuse and neglect to this statement of a young man who said he would like to grow up to be a preacher:  “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed and just hurting them and just beating them on the ground.”  Then Brooks considers what the problem is and what is needed to address it. [Read more…]

Whatever happened to the working class?

When I was in college, I worked on a construction crew, and it did me a lot of good.  I developed a lot of respect for the guys I worked with, who worked with their backs and their hands with skills that were far beyond me.  Politicians used to talk quite a bit about “the working class,” also known as “blue collar workers.”  But no more.  Even liberal democrats are pushing policies that are supposed to help “the middle class.”

Part of the problem may be that the working class considers itself middle class.  And with good reason:  A factory or construction worker may well own his own home, have a car or two, and have other accoutrements once associated with the middle, college-educated class.  Such are the wonders of the modern economy.  And yet, unemployment, the decline of American industry, stagnant wages, and other economic woes are hitting blue collar workers hard.  But hardly anybody is speaking for them or about them anymore. [Read more…]