What is the state of the American Dream? Is it alive and well or dying? The answer depends on who you ask, but new research shows at the heart of whether a community blossoms or bombs is the strength of its churches.
“I wanted to know why so many people thought the American dream was dead. Because I think that attitude of hopelessness itself causes all sorts of bad outcomes,” Tim Carney, author of Alienated America told CBN News.
As a journalist, Carney travels the country covering the news and he kept coming back to the same question, why do some communities thrive while others languish?
“I saw numbers of depths of despair going up – that’s suicides, drug abuse, alcohol abuse. You even see the life spans shortening. So I knew something was wrong out there and I wanted to figure out what it was and too many of the explanations were just about economics or they were blaming people – ‘oh these are “Deplorables” clinging to their guns and Bibles and not willing to take care of themselves’ and I knew that those explanations were wrong,” he said.
What Makes a Community Thrive?
So he hit the road, dug into the data and compared bustling communities to busted ones.
“And the biggest difference was the strength in community institutions, particularly in middle America it was the strength of churches. Where they were strong and bringing people together regularly you had better outcomes and where they were disappearing and the population was disappearing the people left behind were really struggling,” he said.
“Popular culture likes to paint the dark picture of religion in America,” Carney writes in his book, “but the actual data point the other way.”
In other words, if you want to be happy and thrive – go to church.
Numbers show President Trump enjoyed enthusiastic support among evangelical voters in 2016, but Carney’s research also paints a clearer picture of those so-called forgotten Americans Trump resonated with early in his campaign.
Why Thriving Churches are So Important
He writes that to explain Trump’s core supporters, many commentators pointed to the factories that were closing, but they should have been pointing to the churches that were closing.
“Early on I think his core supporters were the ones who heard him say ‘The American Dream is dead,’ and where that sounded the truest were the places where they didn’t have anymore the Friday fish fries, where they didn’t have the high school football games that everyone was going to or the local library had shut down where parents weren’t involved in the schools. Those are the places where the American dream seemed most dead – even more important than the economic factors,” Carney said.
Carney suggests the real definition of the “American dream” has gotten lost. He asks his readers if the things that accompany the American dream, like potlucks, Christmas concerts, and t-ball games may actually be the dream.
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