Senator Mike Lee of Utah (R) spoke on July 13 at the American Enterprise Institute on why federalism is key to restoring civic connectedness and faith in American communities. During his speech, Senator Lee spoke on the recent comment made by Mark Zuckerberg on the “Facebook Community” reaching two billion users worldwide.
Senator Lee challenged the assumption of Facebook being a community:
It doesn’t make sense to describe two billion people as a community because a community is all about a collection of human interpersonal relationships. And you can only have so many of those… As they say, if everyone is family, no one is… Community institutions like churches and little leagues can’t be replaced by the glowing rectangles that we keep in our pockets.
As a member of the Joint Economic Committee, Senator Lee worked to assist in a multi-year research effort called the Social Capitol Project. The May 2017 report, the first of its kind, is titled, “What We Do Together: The State of Associational Life in America.” The report identifies several regressions in civil society in terms of a traditional family structure and religion in American communities. According to the report, Americans have been spending less time in religious communities.
Senator Lee’s thoughts on what is needed to restore participation and attendance for religious institutions? Federalism.
Senator Lee argued that much of the blame of the destruction of communities around the country have come at the hand of increased presence of the federal government. Specifically, government growth in strongholds or areas of civil society that churches traditionally maintained a major influence and stronghold. This government intrusion into local American communities led to Senator Lee’s call for a pivot towards localism.
Senator Lee alleged that the proportion of Americans who who were members of a church or synagogue has fallen from 70 percent in 1970 to 55 percent today. To help revitalize the Church’s fight against a growing percent of Americans leaning away from the Church and organized religion, there must be an intentional targeting of Americans who are choosing to adhere to a religious individualism. This troubling trend involves Americans making self-determinations on aspects of faith that they might not identify with, specifically in the morally and numerically declining Christian Mainline denominations.
American Mainline churches have taken stances on contested, and now largely politicized, issues such as sexuality and gender identity, exacerbating many Americans’ flight from religious institutions they feel no longer represent their values. Rather than allowing continued individualism and dissipation of a community to continue, churches that represent and adhere to traditional civil values must faithfully represent these to a watching world. Doing so offers the benefits of a believing, faith-based community representing the religious customs to disenfranchised religious Americans.
This rebuilding of faith-centralized communities within cities and towns will wrest influence from the federal government. Hopefully, if churches supportive of traditional civil society prevail, they will also win over those who feel like their left-leaning Mainline churches have failed them. True and traditional religious congregations will welcome those who feel disenfranchised with open arms and rebuild localism and the desire for the Church’s congregationally-based community to outmaneuver the grasp of a “community” of two billion people.Google+