Cultural Observation: Pessimism on the Rise

The events of 9/11 left a deep scar on the American psyche, as have the disappointing and inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The political climate has been poisoned by excessive partisanship, especially among media cheerleaders on both sides. Political campaigns have divided people into special interest groups that set one American against another. The recession and painfully slow recovery have pushed the American dream over the horizon for many, with only 26 percent of Americans believing that the nation is heading in the right direction.25 Student debt is soaring, as is student unemployment, with many young people unable to get off the starting blocks of life. In a special 2014 survey commissioned for The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, “nearly two-thirds of Americans—65 percent—question whether America will be on the right track in 10 years. They are also split on whether the country will be a ‘land of opportunity’ (33 percent say yes, 42 percent say no, and 24 percent say they don’t know). In their view, the American Dream itself seems to be fading.”26 The American church has been buffeted, too, with decreasing attendance and influence. A siege mentality is growing, with less confidence about bringing the Christian faith into the public sphere and to the nations of the world. Even Rick Warren, the usually upbeat evangelical leader, is “disheartened by what he sees as a malaise afoot in the land. . . . I feel America is in the emotional doldrums.” He observed, “I think America is more divided today—and it’s sad—than at any time since the Civil War.” -David Murray, The Happy Christian

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