Spiritual Health of Society
When faith is weakened, the foundations of life also risk being weakened, as the poet T. S. Eliot warned: “Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments / As you can boast in the way of polite society / Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?”[Choruses from The Rock] If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened. [Pope Francis, The Light of Faith].
Can the health of a society be measured by analyzing its spirituality? Do certain spiritual trends indicate or predict the direction in which the society is heading?
Numerous surveys have documented that, in the opinion of a majority of Americans, the United States is in a state of decline. Though enjoying great affluence, the character of its leaders and the social health of its citizens are in question.
… God would never change the blessings with which He has graced a people unless they change their inner selves: and [know] that God is all-hearing, all-seeing. [Quran 8:53].
Economic Health Indicators
In the world of finance and economics, the Leading Economic Index (LEI) predicts future commercial health. Ten segments of the economy (e.g., average initial jobless claims, building permits, stock prices, etc.) are tracked monthly for positive or negative movement.
These indicators give us a preview of what is going to happen before economic changes actually occur. Typically, three consecutive monthly LEI changes in the same direction suggest a turning point in the economy. For example, consecutive negative readings would indicate a possible recession.
The composite economic indexes are the key elements in an analytic system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of several individual leading, coincident, or lagging indicators. They are constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component – primarily because they smooth out some of the volatility of individual components. [The Conference Board].
Spiritual Health Indicators
An index of spiritual health could monitor negative social trends in our society that point to future instability and unrest. These might include the following spiritual health indicators:
1. Birth Rate — In 2013, the birth rate in America fell to the lowest level in recorded history. According to the Census, between July 2012 and July 2013, just 3,953,000 people were born, — the fewest since 1998. The fertility rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is now 83.1 births per 1,000 women, a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
2. Marriage Rate — The number of couples married in 2010 dropped a startling 5 percent from the previous year, and the overall number of married couples has declined by more than 20 percentage points since 1960. The new low of 31.1, means there are about 31 marriages in the U.S. for every 1,000 unmarried women, researchers found. In 1950, that number was 90.2. In 1920, it was 92.3.
3. Prison Population — The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. At year-end 2009, it was 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population. The incarceration rate under state and federal jurisdiction per 100,000 population doubled between 1988-2008.
4. Teenage Delinquency — From 1994 to 2004, there was a 21% increase in the number of youth who were held in adult jails. Between 1995 and 2004, the juvenile delinquency caseload for girls increased by 14%.
5. Mental Health Disorders — 20 percent of American adults—more than 45 million—experienced a mental illness in the past year, according to new data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The numbers, which are from a 2011 survey, show no changes in the persistence of mental illness in the country.
6. Suicide Rate — The suicide rate for ages 5-24 (youth suicide) increased dramatically from 1950 to the early to mid 1990s but then began to decrease thereafter. The suicide rate for ages 45-85+ decreased significantly from 1950 to present.
7. Obesity — In 1999–2000, 27.5% of men were obese, and by 2009–2010 the prevalence had increased to 35.5%. In 2009–2010, more than 78 million U.S. adults (35.7%) and about 12.5 million U.S. children and adolescents (16.9%) were obese.
8. Drug & Alcohol Abuse — Among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 2.7 to 5.8 percent between 2002 and 2010. For those aged 50 to 54, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2010. Among those aged 55 to 59, the rate increased from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 4.1 percent in 2010.
9. While Collar Crime Rate — The securities and commodities frauds investigated include market manipulation, investment frauds, and broker embezzlement. In response to this growing threat, the FBI has increased the number of agents addressing it by 61 percent since 2008. Corporate fraud pending cases increased from 529 in FY 2007 to 726 in FY 2011.
10. Church Attendance — Between the 1970s and the 2000s, religious services attendance per month decreased from 51 to 46 percent for college-educated whites, 50 to 37 percent for moderately educated whites, and 38 to 23 percent for the least educated whites.
Confucius said, “When the Great Tao prevailed, the world was a commonwealth; men of talent and virtue were selected, mutual confidence was emphasized, and brotherhood was cultivated.
Therefore, men did not regard as parents only their own parents, nor did they treat as sons only their own sons. Old people were able to enjoy their old age; young men were able to employ their talents; juniors respected their elders; helpless widows, orphans, and cripples were well cared for.
Men had their respective occupations, and women their homes. They hated to see wealth lying about in waste, and they did not hoard it for their own use. They hated not to use their energies, and they used their energies not for their own benefit. Thus evil scheming was repressed, and robbers, thieves, and traitors no longer appeared, so that the front door remained open …” [Book of Ritual, Lî Yun, (p. 95-95) 7:1.2].