Gallup just reported that more and more Americans are seeing a society that’s going to the pot, rotting away in a low-moral morass and that oh me, oh my, the times are only changing for the worse.
In a way, that’s good news.
Because you can’t solve a problem if you don’t see a problem. And certainly, when it comes to America’s morals in modern day — that pot’s been black for some time.
First, the survey numbers: In Gallup’s latest Values’ poll, taken this May, 47% of Americans say the country’s moral values are “poor,” and another 36% as “only fair.” A far, far fewer 17% say they’re “excellent” or “good.”
This is a disturbing trend that Gallup has been tracking for a while.
“Since 2002,” Gallup wrote, “no more than 23% of Americans have held a positive view of moral values; the highest negative rating was 49% last year.”
And for the third year in a row, 77% of Americans say morals and values in this country are growing worse.
It’s no wonder.
Now, for some facts: Pew reported in 2018 that “the share of U.S. children living with an unmarried parent has more than doubled since 1968, jumping from 13% to 32% in 2017.” Why? Declining marriages, increasing out-of-wedlock births, increasing divorce — and the accompanying acceptance of these dire conditions as the new normal.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that in 2017, just shy of 195,000 babies were born that year to females between the ages of 15 and 19 — and for 16% of these teens, this was their second or even third births. Why?
“About 77 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned,” HHS.gov wrote, and are due to “numerous individual, family and community characteristics” — not the least of which is cycles of family dysfunction. Dysfunction rooted in values that have flip-flopped over the years.
These are matters of morals.
More headlines scream.
“A new study shows America’s drug overdose crisis is by far the worst among wealthy countries,” Vox wrote in February.
“One in eight American adults is an alcoholic, study says,” The Washington Post reported in 2017.
“Special report: 1 on 4 Americans don’t think one-night stands count as cheating,” Deseret News wrote in 2017.
What was once taboo, has become acceptable. What was once denounced, has become flaunted.
America’s celebrities regularly applaud a hook-up culture, drug-driven and alcohol-induced nights of fun, marriage by convenience — divorce whenever, for whatever. And what’s lacking — what’s been sadly lacking — from the public stage for some time is a serious look-see at all these behaviors and accompanying “if it feels good, it is good” attitudes through the lens of morality, of a higher calling.
It’s been out with the absolutes, in with the anything goes. The stats speak to the sad consequences of free-and-easy living.
But there is hope.
The solution to what ails and what drags our collective dissatisfaction with the country’s moral direction is, in a word: God.
We were warned our democratic-republic would only stand strong if its people were moral and virtuous. It was John Adams, the second president of the United States, who said to the Massachusetts militia in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
It was Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States, who told a Dallas prayer breakfasting crowd in 1984, “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
In other words: Politics count. But culture counts more.
It’s good that Americans are aware of society’s lapsing morals — and seem a tad sad about it. But it’s not enough to cry. It’s a time to turn tears to action. The single greatest move Americans can make to put morals at the top of society’s list of considerations is to bring God back to the public stage.
Quit booting God from politics, from schools, from venues of entertainment and places of gathering and reflecting and buying and selling, and God will reward by standing ground. His presence will be felt in the dwindling numbers of out-of-wedlock children, broken homes and drug addict deaths pitifully collected and collated each year in America. This is the way; this is the path to life.
It’s not the politically correct message. But it’s the one that’s the truth.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.