[264] Despair
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[264] Despair

Recently, Andrew Yang stated, “Our country is falling apart …. We are seeing record high levels of depression, suicide and overdoses. Our corporations are recording record profits while our people are literally dying younger.”

Yang’s comments pertain to the phenomenon of people dying younger—for the first time in a century the lifespan of Americans is getting shorter.  A series of studies, among them a study by the National Center for Health Statistics, indicate that the lifespan decline is due to “deaths of despair.”

We are talking about self-inflicted—direct or indirect—deaths.  They include drug overdoses, liver disease related to alcohol, obesity, and suicides. In a similar vein, there are significant increases in homelessness, mental health issues, and gun violence.

Many attribute these increases to the deterioration of the US nuclear family.  A good case can be made for this to be a major cause.  According to Pew Research, 35% of US children are living with no parents or an unmarried parent in 2017—about 20 million.  It was 15% a half century ago. reached has jumped from 15 percent 1968 to 35 percent in 2017.

Pew also reported that 46 percent of two-parent homes have both parents working full-time. Princeton University’s Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, found that children raised in a home in which parents were cohabiting, or where there was a lone parent, had dropout rates twice that of those from traditional families.

In short, the Princeton report stated that “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”

None of this should be very surprising.  Christians are pro-family for more than theological reasons.  But for me, this tidy summary of solid studies does not really address despair.

Despair is everywhere.  Its manifestations—drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, and suicide—are very present among rich and seemingly stable families.

Despair is a psychological condition related to purposelessness, and lack of purpose is an outcome of spiritual emptiness.  Spiritual emptiness is a consequence of secularism–godlessness. The more a society abandons the belief in a Creator, one who has a purpose for his creation, the more meaningless and empty become the lives of its people.

There is much to be said—sociologically and theologically–for making certain mom and dad are married, living together, and spending time with their children.  But until our society stops trying to drive God out of its life, until it starts looking up toward heaven, rather than down on their smartphones for purpose, family structure will not count for much. DC

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