I recently reviewed Hara Estroff Marano's book, A Nation of Wimps, for The Wall Street Journal. In it, Marano argues that much of the self-destruction we see among teens and twenty-somethings can be attributed to "overparenting," an obsessive desire to insulate children from negative consequences. The perverse result, Marano says, is that children end up brittle and burdened with anxiety and fear.
There's something to be said for that argument, but as I read the book, I found myself wondering whether a decline in substantive faith might also have something to do with statistics on teen and twenty-something drinking and drug use, suicide, depression, and hyper-sexualization. I read somewhere that the average American man spends more time watching television than talking, in a meaningful way, to his own children. And more and more, a father isn't even in the home. When we kick these two supports out from under a child -- meaningful relationships with God and father -- perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that guidance counselors and after-school programs can't close the frightfully dark gap.
It's a gap that looms in the hearts of too many children, and it rends our social fabric as well. We are increasingly two nations, and the significant divide isn't one of race, or income, but something more essential and less remediable: the heart. We have dwelling among us, on every street, in every school and workplace, a nation of the broken-hearted, of young people who don't really know, in the deepest part of themselves, that they are loved by a father in heaven or on the earth.
And who is going to set it to rights? Presidential candidates? Public schools? Writers like Marano, who dare not mention the word faith?
How are we going to reach these young people, and stop the next generation of them from being similarly wounded? I wonder what would happen if every church in America took a day to pray, and plan, and then act to close this gap. Some probably wouldn't change much at all, because they are already devoting significant resources and time to this fight. Others would likely need to transform themselves. But this is the fight, I think -- not gas prices or federal tax rates or any of the other things politicians find it easier to talk about than the reality that we are increasingly betraying our own children.