America Doesn’t Face a Crisis of Faith, but a Crisis of Religion

Jan. 20 2021

According to recent surveys, some 87 percent of American say they believe in God, but trust in religious institutions is at an all-time low, and regular attendance at religious services has been steadily decreasing. Yuval Levin sees these data as suggestive of a broader collapse of faith in institutions, to which he in turn attributes many of our political and social ills. And while many churches and synagogues have tried to fix the problem by “making their religious orders less demanding,” and “emphasizing broad commitments to justice and deemphasizing specific strictures on personal behavior”—thus rendering themselves more attractive—Levin believes that by doing so they only aggravate the problems they hope to solve.

What Americans . . . have trouble believing . . . is that our institutions—our churches, seminaries, religious schools, and charities—remain capable of forming trustworthy people who actually exhibit the integrity they preach. To overcome such doubts, and to appeal to persuadable younger Americans, our religious institutions need to show not that they are continuous with the larger culture but that they are capable of addressing its deficiencies—that they can speak with legitimate authority and be counted on to do the work of molding souls and shaping character. The problem, in other words, may be that our pews have grown too soft, not too hard.

What stands out about our era is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction—a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.

In many prominent establishments of American religion today, we find institutions intended to change hearts and save souls used instead as stages for political theater—not so much forming those within as giving them an outlet. This has made religious institutions harder to trust, and it has also made it more difficult for them to effectively perform their crucial educational, civic, social, and charitable functions. But most important, it has made it difficult for them to speak with authority about the truth.

This is the ironic truth at the heart of America’s social crisis: we have become disillusioned and alienated from our institutions not because they are too demanding but because they are not demanding enough. We want to be called to acts of devotion, not just affirmed in acts of expression. Our religious institutions are best positioned to make such demands, since they speak for a truth that stands outside the expressive individualism that has come to dominate our culture.

Read more at Deseret News

More about: American politics, American Religion, American society

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy