This past Sunday, during the sermon, Pastor Josh read an extensive quote from Mark Driscoll’s book Radical Reformission. This book is a great read and is available, at cost, in our bookstore at Redemption Church. Below is the part of the book that Pastor Josh read on Sunday… plus a little more.
In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard professor Robert Putnam explains this phenomenon by showing that our world is arranged by various sorts of capital. Physical capital includes the objects that we possess and use. Human capital includes the skills, talents, and abilities that God has given people. Social capital includes the friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, and other relationships that form a web of trust and reciprocity.
Traditionally, people have lived their lives in these social capital networks by formally and informally bartering goods, services, information, favors and the like. Basically, this means that I do something nice to help you because we have some type of relationship, with the understanding, that, later on, you will help me when I need it, because I’ve made a deposit into our invisible social-capital account.
Traditionally, the largest repository of social capital has been the church. Roughly half of all membership in organizations, charitable giving, and community service is connected to religious organizations, making them the number-one repository of social friendships and connecting opportunities in our nation. But as spirituality has become more of a private affair, the percentage of the population that attends Protestant churches has declined from 15 percent to 12 percent in just the last quarter-century. Correspondingly, in the past twenty-five years, there has been a decline in both the number of friendships and the number of organizations that people typically join to build friendships – everything from labor unions to professional associations and civic groups. In addition, between 1970 and 1999, the divorce rate has tripled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, and depression has become more prevalent, which has contributed to a disconnected culture of loneliness.
The decline in our nation’s social capital inevitably reduces all of life to a transaction-based culture in which the only way you can get anyone to help you is to pay them. So if you are lonely and want someone to speak to, you may have to pay a counselor. If you can’t pick up your dry cleaning, you may have to hire a personal assistant. If you want to work out with someone, you may have to hire a personal trainer. And if you car breaks down, you may have to call a cab–rather than a neighbor–to pick you up.
Many people are lonely and lack the community gathering points in which they can make meaningful human contacts. the following statistics demonstrate this altering of our relational landscape in the past twenty-five years.
- Playing cards as a social activity is down 25 percent
- Frequenting bars, nightclubs, and taverns is down 40 percent
- The number of full-service restaurants has decreased 25 percent, and the number of bars (including coffee bars) and luncheonettes has decreased 50 percent, but the number of fast-food outlets has increased 100 percent, as more people eat alone and eat more meals in their cars.
- Having a social evening with someone from one’s neighborhood is down 33 percent.
- Attending social clubs and meetings is down 58 percent
- Family dinners are down 33 percent
- Having friends over to one’s home is down 45 percent
- From 1980 to 1993, participation in America’s number-one participant sport, bowling, was up 10 percent, but the number of bowling leagues decreased 40 percent, as more people bowled alone.
- From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of the average American to make new friends declined by nearly 33 percent.
People are increasingly busy, isolated, lonely, disconnected, and without any helpful solutions in the culture. The isolation is now so entrenched that many people don’t know how to practice hospitality. This trend is even reflected in new architecture, which replaces large dining and living rooms designed for human contact with walk-in closets, home offices, and personal entertainment rooms. Here lonely people can watch sitcoms about friendship and reality-based shows in which characters pretend to interact with human beings, a thing apparently fascinating and foreign to many lonely, isolated individuals.
Living alone, driving alone, eating alone, sleeping alone, having sex alone, and working alone make many people so depressed that they cope with the assistance of medication rather than human contact. Some however seek out human connection through groups, as 40 percent of all Americans are now in some form of group (Sunday schools, support groups, writing groups, self improvement groups, cause-oriented groups, therapy groups, writing groups, civic-betterment group, recovery groups, weight loss groups, literary groups), because they are dying of loneliness particularly if they are single and even more so if they are divorced.
The time, money, and energy spent by previous generations on building friendships and community are increasingly being spent in impersonal pursuits such as pet care and beauty regimens.
- From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent caring for a pet increased 15 percent.
- From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent for personal grooming increased 5-7 percent.
Isn’t it odd that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching television shows about relationships and taking medication for the depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way.