cover image The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty

The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty

David G. Myers, Martin E. Marty. Yale University Press, $29.95 (430pp) ISBN 978-0-300-08111-4

Echoing cultural critics of the 1950s, Hope College psychology professor Myers observes that America's economy is booming but our society is crumbling. Despite a high Standard & Poor's 500 rating and a low unemployment rate, America is, he argues, beset by problems, from increasing materialism to a climbing divorce rate. Myers calls for a renewal of society and an abandonment of consumerism and individualism; citing his own Christian faith, he points to religion as one possible antidote to many of society's ills. Myers is particularly passionate about marriage: rehearsing familiar statistics, he reminds us that people marry later and are more likely to divorce than in previous generations. He writes approvingly of innovative legislative attempts to make divorce less appealing, such as Louisiana's institution of covenant marriages, and cites studies that demonstrate that people who live together before getting married are more likely to divorce. Another bee in Myers's bonnet is individualism. He bemoans weakened ""social connections"": because of ATMs and drive-through lines at McDonald's, we have less eye-to-eye contact with other people than ever before. And we have no sense of community responsibility, he says, pointing out that, in 1994, Americans were 42% less likely to work for a political party or serve as an officer in a club than they were in 1973. Few readers will disagree with Myers's call for strong families and his denouncement of materialism, but many may wish for a more stimulating discussion as to how we can get from here to there. (Apr.)