Commentary

Cultural divide between rural and urban Americans grows wider

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The New York Times has reported on new research that was released by the Pew Research Center indicating a deepening cultural divide, that is, a political and moral divide between rural and urban Americans.

The reporter, Emily Badger, points to the research and says that it suggests "a particularly troubling dimension in an age old distinction between city and rural life differences in where and how Americans choose to live which increasingly overlap with politics are imbued with judgments about each other." The most important aspect of this research is that it demonstrates rather convincingly two things. Number one, that there is a deepening divide, a great moral divide between rural and urban Americans. And what's significant here is that divide is growing deeper and not more shallow over time. The differences are becoming even more acute."

But the second insight from this research is that this isn't happening because of what sociologists call sorting, people moving to live amongst those with whom they agree. The reason is this, the deepening of the divide is happening faster than population movement. This is actually a deepening of the moral convictions on both sides of the American cultural conflict. But it's interesting from a worldview perspective to recognize that the distinction is not just east and west or north and south, it's rural and urban. And this gets to the fact that the rural and urban context provide two very different contexts for moral formation.

The rural context of moral formation is by definition a smaller community. It's usually much closer to a agrarian and agricultural contacts. It is usually more populated by extended family and also by what's often described as the natural family or the nuclear family, two parent families raising their children in that kind of moral context. Urban areas tend to be far more transients and the percentage of populations in those urban areas that live in nontraditional families is significantly higher than what is found in more rural America. A far higher percentage of unmarried persons, a far higher percentage of cohabitation persons and a far higher percentage of households not directly involved in the raising of children.

These contexts of moral formation are very different and some of the researchers in this study indicated that this is leading to an increasing tribalism in the United States. One of the researchers cited in the article Greg Martin of Emory University pointed to lifestyle choices coming right down to food and entertainment as indicating this kind of tribalism. In his words, "All these lifestyle things, the type of place you like to eat, the type of food you eat, the things you do for fun, the more these things correlate with political preferences, the easier it is to form these tribal attachments."

The New York Times explaining how this works went on to offer commentary. "In these tribal attachments, lattes are synonymous with city living, which is synonymous with liberal views on abortion and preferences for Democratic candidates in elections."

Stepping back as we conclude the most important questions for Christians as we're thinking about the faithfulness required of us is asking what kind of context of moral formation we are creating in our homes, in our churches, in our schools. That's the ultimate question. Understanding that we are creating a culture of moral formation is at least a start in understanding in facing that responsibility.
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Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, offers a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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