aloneinamerica

I recently read an article in First Things entitled, “Alone in the New America.” It talks about how our society has betrayed certain numbers of our population. Reference is made to Jennifer Silva’s, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. This study reports that most working-class young adults have difficulty trusting people and institutions. One interviewee, Brandon, found himself $80,000 in debt earning a degree in criminal justice. Eleven years later, he only has a retail job and says, “I was sold fake goods,” when told that a college degree was the way to get to the land of milk and honey. Another, Tori, enrolled in a local college for massage therapy, but when she took the state test to get her license, she discovered that her classes had not covered most of the required material. Her class had a 2 percent pass rate. With no license or degree to show for her work, the best she has found is an $8/hour job as a home health care aide, but hasn’t worked for two months now. At twenty-three, she has $20,000 debt and no job to show for it.

This group also feels betrayed by their experiences growing up in unstable and fragmented families, as well as the betrayal in their own dating relationships. Tori says, “I’ve seen kids grow up without their dads, and the chances of Aidan not being a troublemaker when he’s older without having his dad in his life are slim to none.” They are so afraid of divorce that they are afraid of marriage, too. 58% of high-school educated women bear their first child outside of marriage.

The result, the article says, is that the young working-class culture suffers from alienation. They learn to approach people with distrust and suspicion. One of the interviewees says, “I don’t think there’s a thing we can do about it. And that’s kind of the American way – this is a free country, and free this and free that. But it’s your life, and not too many people care about other people’s lives. As long as it’s not theirs, they don’t care.”

The authors of the article, David and Amber Lapp, suggest an incarnational solution. “When thinking about where to buy a house, a couple might ask, “Where is the part of town in which children and young adults are least likely to encounter a loving married couple? Could we move there?” “Long-married couples, the envy of many young adults we interviewed – can befriend a young couple (dating, cohabiting, or married) who have little experience with stable marriage.” “The only way to overcome the alienating sense of the purposelessness of a great deal of menial work, is to acknowledge and enter into each other’s sufferings. Being close to a loving marriage and people with a joyful commitment to work will help young adults…regain confidence in marriage and a sense of the dignity of labor.”

And what about the church? Does the church betray these folks too, by-passing them in favor of the bright up-and-coming young couples whose incomes will help ensure the congregation’s future? If Jesus was found most often among those whom society had swept under the rug, where do new congregations locate their ministry these days? What spiritual “release” from captivity do preachers have for them? What “good news” for these poor?

President Cripe