Today I found myself doing something that many might see as mundane, though to me the deed was rather somber. After years of use, it was finally time to discard my 50-foot tape measure. Nothing I could do would make it “reel in” anymore, and managing dozens of feet of ungainly metal tape proved unworkable (though I tried). After carefully placing the tape in my tool bin hundreds of times, today the piles of unwound tape were “decommissioned” and laid in a garbage bin.
It made me stop and think.
The sentimental side of me thought about the many projects through which that measuring device had guided me over a quarter century. Whenever I needed to do something right … well, I wouldn’t trust myself to guess at a measurement. To be accurate, common sense would always whisper, “Get the tape measure.”
Gathering up the pieces of the tape measure for the last time, I stared down at its numbers—inches and “foot” markings. None of them had somehow become inaccurate or no longer valid. And it isn’t that I no longer needed this in my workshop. Here is the situation—the mechanism responsible for supplying me with this measuring stick had failed. The case had cracked open and the coil spring would no longer “roll out” or “retract” the tape so that I could use it. The standard itself was as perfect as ever; the moving parts responsible to provide me with the “ruler” had failed.
You might wonder what all this has to do with anything.
I believe that this little vignette is symbolic of our crumbling nation today. Many troubling indicators could be cited regarding social, moral, financial, spiritual and familial prospects for masses of those aged 30 and under. Discussing such facts is certainly not an indictment of millennials as people. But our nation faces dire days ahead if we don’t honestly acknowledge the realities that are shaping the lives of millennials¾and earnestly change course.
The High Cultural Costs of Life Without God
Interacting with millennials is always intriguing, mostly inspiring and occasionally heartbreaking. This is because as relativism, political correctness and globalism were warping the minds of recent generations, liberalism was deconstructing and destroying the America they would inherit. It is little wonder that patriotism among youth is at an all-time low. Generations have been taught to reject morals and hate America.
Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd asserts that moral development hinges on one’s ability to focus on their actions and not words alone. But surveys conducted with more than 10,000 middle and high school students from across America indicate that the adults in their lives emphasize “achievement and happiness” more than character or caring for others. Students were three times more likely to agree than disagree with this statement: “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
American parents of previous generations most emphasized development of moral character as reflected by the Ten Commandments, a work ethic and responsibility in the lives of their children. But since the 1970s, our national parenting philosophy defaults to an amorphous (and really unattainable) quest for “happiness.” Weissbourd calls this type of parenting “… unprecedented in American history and may be unprecedented in the history of humankind.” He notes that, “Many vital moral qualities … do not spring from happiness or self-esteem.”
To call for a return to God, morals and family as solutions for America’s social and existential woes is, regrettably, controversial. The intelligentsia of American universities have basically a “zero-tolerance” attitude toward belief that the traditional family is best for children. But what sociologists began chronicling years ago has proven prophetic. According to Diana West, “Grown-ups have become extinct. The disease that killed them emerged in the fifties, leading to a nation of eternal adolescents who can’t say no¾a politically correct population that doesn’t know right from wrong.”
A more reasonable population might be jolted into renewed commitment to our bedrock values like marriage, home life and patriotism. But family building and love of country are somewhat foreign to so many millennials because these were essentially unknown by the one (and occasionally two) parents who raised them.
Ask yourself: Why is the largest quantifiable generation in American history—millennials—the least likely to express belief in God? Why are two of the top three causes of death among teens and young adults homicide and suicide? Why do more than 20 percent of millennials have no clear plan for their lives and feel resigned that prospects for the future are fairly bleak?
Retrieving the Standards for Measurement
Similar to me “retiring” the old measuring tape to the trash bin, I believe that our nation has all but consigned God, morality and family to the realms of irrelevancy. Recovery of these once-venerated standards constitutes America’s only hope for a future. In the early 19th century, Walter Scott poetically asked:
“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
‘This is my own, my native land!’
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand …”
Today, we would have to answer, “Yes, Mr. Scott—absolutely.” There most certainly does breathe millions of young Americans who would choke before they verbalize an oath of loyalty to America. There are countless millennials whose heart cannot “within them burn” for home or family because they have never enjoyed the sanctity or security of these things.
The soon-to-be-largest demographic in the American workforce—and by many measurements, one of the most unique generations in our history—is taught in our public schools to be ashamed of this nation and are conditioned to be enamored with socialism and tribalism. The very types of cultures and governments from which our founders wisely fought to spare us are idealized and promoted in so many classrooms.
It is treasonous, really. Via God’s sovereign gifting, we inherited a hard-won, Judeo-Christian, representative republic. Yet it is unraveling before our eyes, as unionized teachers in grade school and tenured progressives in colleges have programmed generations of kids to misunderstand—if not despise—our blessed nation.
Every war has its casualties; in our divided nation, the body count consists of our children and their tomorrows.
Dr. Alex McFarland is a religion and culture expert, Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, national talk show host, speaker and author of 18 books, including his newest, “Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home.” For more information, visit www.alexmcfarland.com.