Culture of Apathy
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Over the last several years of my life I have began to notice a trend as I drive to work or town or to visit family: unkept property. It has gotten quite out of hand in many places. When I drive around on the side of the county that I grew up on it seems as though it went from about 20% of homes looking like the last maintenance it received was some time before the last presidential election to 45% of homes. We have come from well kept yards, flag pole maintenance, trimmed hedges and washed windows to knee high grass, broken down vehicles in the front yard, that nasty couch that someone thought the county was supposed to pick up last spring and... is that a rooster on the roof?
Now, I don't know for certain if this is something that has always been and I have simply began to notice the last few years due to being a grown up with property or if there truly is an underlying cause to all of this that has just sprung up within the last generation. I would like to argue in this post that the neglect of private property is a microcosm of a macrocosm. One reason I would like to argue for this is because scripture called it 3,000 years ago. Consider the proverb above. Let's suppose Solomon wrote it. Solomon is painting a picture of the property of a lazy sluggard. It is overgrown with thorns and weeds and his wall is collapsed, having yet to be rebuilt. The owner/sluggard of this property is so retracted from the responsibilities of life that his vineyard, most likely his main source of income, is overgrown and left completely exposed. "The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor." (Proverbs 21:25) The sluggard's refusal to work has left him in this position. The second reason for the argument is that there is clearly something causing this breakdown of lawn care. The lawn care is a microcosm. If we can hash out what is causing that, maybe we can see the reason for a lot of other issues we currently face.
The title of this article contains the word apathy. We must know what apathy means to understand our problem. Apathy, as seen above in the Oxford definition, is really just not caring about anything. Synonyms of apathy include detachment, lethargy, disregard, stoicism, and emotionlessness among many others. Imagine coming home from a twelve hour day at the office. You worked hard, you tell yourself, so you are going to drink a beer and watch a corny sit-com. The dishes can wait, the grass can be cut later, the work shirt for tomorrow can be thrown on wrinkle release. You deserve this, bucko. Now, in a sense, an apathetic person is perpetually in this mindset. Whether they worked all day or do not have a job. I understand there are several reasons for someone to exhibit this behavior, including the actual diagnosis of lethargy, but I believe the number one reason is selfishness rooted in pride. The man who refuses to do things that need to be done is quite simply selfish because as he is refusing to do that thing, he is doing what he would rather be doing.
There is a general aura of apathy in our culture today. Teens are persistent in being on their phones in all situations displaying a lack of immediate awareness of all that is going on around them. Our young adults have a general disinterest in politics. "What difference does it make?" Which in turn leads to more cronies taking office. Not only is there a disinterest but there's also an utter lack of knowledge surrounding this nation's history. As the old adage goes, those who don't know it are doomed to repeat it. Our parents have a general disinterest in child rearing. It's much easier to put the $7.99 subscription babysitter on so that they can do what they want to do. The worst part of it all is that our children are going to get the worst effect of all of these groups. So why do these different age groups exhibit such apathy?
Today's teenagers seem to only be concerned with one of if not all of these things: Social Media, cell phones, pursuit of sexual pleasure, dripping with mad swag. For you adults out there, dripping with mad swag just means looking cool. This has been brought on by the technology boom, namely the smart phone/ internet/ streaming services combined with an abdication of child rearing on the part of the parents. The parents are allowed to pursue the desires of the flesh, namely selfish pursuits, while their kids stay locked up in their rooms entertaining themselves on a machine the size of a Hershey Chocolate bar.
Our teenagers are apathetic to the world around them unless their favorite celebrity is talking about a political issue on one of the six echo chamber apps they have downloaded on their phones. I have witnessed, and still witness, someone who checks a social media app, then another, and another and by the time they cycle through the last one its time to get back to the first one and refresh so they don't miss out on anything. They no longer form their own opinions nor even care to. They will simply spout off whatever is trending so that they can get more likes and verbal support. This is what we call virtue signaling. It is truly sad. These kids do this because they have no identity of self. This is also why gender is now on a spectrum and people are even using animal pronouns now such as bun and bunself for those identifying as a bunny.
This lack of identity is solved in the thrice Holy triune God.
"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. "
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Our identity is in Christ alone. Anywhere else that we seek to find our identity is wasted time leading to idolatry.
Social media has also consequently led to an unappeasable sex drive from our youth. These platforms are full of half nude teenage girls. You would be appalled at some of the things you see on these apps. Now it can be argued that this is nothing new, it's just a new delivery system and that the desire of the flesh has always been present, and it is a natural part of puberty. I would agree with this but with some qualifications. There has always been a God-ordained way of handling these desires. God instituted marriage, the first governing body of human civilization, in the first chapter of the Bible. Marriage has always been highly valued by our society up until the second half of the 20th century. While it is true that teen pregnancy has decreased linearly over the last several decades, the ugly truth behind this is that those pregnancies are less and less within marriage. Take this graph from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as evidence:
In the 1950's, only 15% of teenage pregnancies came out of wedlock. This number is now over 90%! This tells me that though teen pregnancy has decreased per 1,000 females, so has modesty.
Not only is there the issue of things you intentionally subject yourself to, but now that our omniscient big tech overlords have all of our data, they will throw advertisements based on gender, whatever that is. So if you are a male and your profile is noted that you are a male, you will get an add for a new fishing lure that's being held up by a bikini clad woman. If you are a self identifying bunny, be expecting random advertisements of carrots and lettuce... I digress. It is a vicious cycle. A girl whose father did not fulfill his fatherly duties decides she needs attention from somewhere. The more skin you show, the more attention you get. The other girls want to be competitive with patient zero so it gets carried even further. This same train of thought applies to the need to drip mad swag. Children at this age have no self control to be able to handle everything they are subjected to on these platforms. If you have children I highly recommend you watch Childhood 2.0 on Amazon. This is a phenomenal documentary that touches on these issues plus many more.
With respect to the overrun yard issue, let me first say that I don't believe young adults very much contribute to it. Mainly because young adults these days are refusing to own property. It's much easier to just shack up with the parentals while you sit on your paycheck. There are exceptions in this as with everything but I wanted to make note.
Young adults are most to be pitied in their apathy. There's a real sense in which they could have the most power over our current culture. They are young and intelligent (not necessarily wise) which is a one up on adults and teens. If they put their mind to it they would have the drive needed to accomplish most tasks. This is why campaigns always go for the young adults to help push their campaign and collect donations. When I mention apathy in the young adult it is not necessarily laziness so much as distraction. In chasing the American Dream and keeping up with the Joneses, the young adult throws away a majority of their young adult life working 60-70 hour weeks in pursuit of material. Materialism amongst young adults is so rampant. This is why people will pay $50 for a yeti bottle opener or dog bowl, or pay $800 for a pair of Louis VUITTON sneakers. You think those shoes are more comfortable than crocs? Get out of here.
This never ending pursuit of the next big thing takes away the attention of our young adults from real issues going on. So long as they are being occupied with their hard earned "things" they will not care about all that's going on around them. This is especially true concerning their attention to the church. At least its popular in a season to be involved in politics but you aren't outpacing the Joneses with your love for the body of Christ. Church attendance among millennials dropped from 51% to 36% from 2008 to 2018. That is staggering! The winds and waves of doctrine that this world has impregnated our generation with has drawn us away from the bride of Christ. We are too consumed with our own selfish pursuits to correct our course. You cannot serve God and mammon.
The adults that exhibit extreme apathy do so because of streaming services, materialistic pursuit (midlife crisis), and perhaps drugs & alcohol. I will not claim to be an expert on drug and alcohol consumption in our country but I would wager most will not disagree with me that alcohol usage today is up compared to the last several decades. I will leave that assumption at that and not embarrass myself with any further discussion.
As for streaming services and materialism, the same principles as above generally apply, but they come about for different reasons. For example, most young adults, depending on their age, have been exposed to streaming, high speed internet, and the technology boom for more of their life than not. Older adults, say 38-55, came into this just like they did the first computers. Without really getting into what I would think is the psychology behind it, I believe we can all generally agree that their is an addictive factor in streaming services and on-demand television. Binge watching has become a new Olympic sport in this country. How often do you hear people talk about the last show they "binged?" As if it is something great to flaunt that you sat in front of a television screen for eight consecutive hours because New Girl just dropped a new season. [Aside: I'm not without sin. In college I was as guilty as they came with this. However, God graciously made me miserable to even sit and try to watch a two hour movie] Herein lies my unkept yard point. With everything on demand at the tip of your fingers now, it is so easy to be lulled into the distractions of the enemy. There was a time when you had to plan to sit down as a family for the program coming on at 7:30, and you could potentially do all that needed to be done by then. Now, you can sit down all the time and get whatever you want as you forget about all of the responsibilities that God has given you in the dominion ordinance of this planet.
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to appetite.
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
for they are deceptive food.
4 Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
The first three verses of this proverb are not talking about the juicy turkey and giant bowl of mashed potatoes. It would be impolite to sit down at someone's table and refuse to dine with them. Verse four gives clarification that the delicacies in question is all the wealth on display from the ruler/king. When you toil to acquire wealth for the sake of being wealthy, this is vanity and this is not God's design for man. Wealth is not bad in itself, only the love of it (1 Tim 6:10). That's why you will never find joy in keeping up with the Joneses. Sadly, many people's marriages and even lives are ruined in pursuit of mammon. The man who is never home because his high paying job demands he be somewhere else cannot properly shepherd his family. When the mother and father of a family decide that it is more important to pursue the things they never had when they were younger, but are now in a financial position to do so, than to allocate their income towards all that is required to raise kids, they have put mammon above God. When the child goes without something they need, not necessarily something they want, because the adult is consumed with the lust of the world, they have put mammon above God. There are many families that have been destroyed or pushed to the brink of destruction due to the apathy of the parents concerning these matters. Our depraved nature feeds on pleasing ourselves and with each new gadget, that new boat, that new vacation home, we take one more step into the abyss of apathy.
**There are people who are wonderful at what they do and thanks to our free-market capitalism (God bless America) they are rewarded for that. They work hard, they support their families, they properly raise their children, and have money left over for the finer things in life. I am not here at this time to tell anyone what to do with the material blessings that have been given them by our gracious father.
Stop for a minute and consider that what we are currently observing in society is really just the first fully affected generation. Apple released the iPhone in 2007 and it revolutionized the world. There are kids right now that shouldn't be allowed to pick what they wear to school who have machines in their pockets that are millions of times more powerful than the computers that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. They grow up with these devices and its all they know. We must be very careful as parents and as aspiring parents to not let the world, the flesh, or the devil make us apathetic to our future generations' well being. When we choose to pursue worldly pleasures over the proper shepherding of our children that's exactly what we are doing.
So how do we try to turn this ship around? First, we seek guidance through diligent prayer. Second, we seek action through diligent prayer. Third, we get ourselves into the Word which gives life. We preach the gospel of repentance to ourselves, our families, and those around us. When we seek to delight in the law of God and all that His Word, His Son, has for us, we will run as far away from vain idleness as we can carry ourselves. While apathy is certainly not the only sin at the root of our generation's struggles, it is still one in need of repentance. And "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
May the Lord bless you and your family.