Charles Murray, in his new book, “Coming Apart,” addresses the growing cultural and class divide our country has experienced in the last 50 years, a division affecting the lives of those we serve in our communities and churches.

According to Murray, technology and manufacturing have transformed the work place and its business practices. This has meant one gets rewarded quite well in our economy if one has the technological smarts to compete. But for those who do not, their ability to earn a living wage has declined. As Murray writes: “just about all of the benefits of economic growth from 1970 to 2010 went to people in the upper half of the income distribution.” Even though we rightly criticize former Senator John Edwards’ immoral behavior, he was right about there now being “two Americas.”

As this has occurred, there has also been a change in marriage practice. The number of American adults who are married has fallen from 72% in 1960 to barely 51%, and the number of new marriages fell 5% between 2009 and 2010. In working-class America (30% of the country) this is even more acute. Marriage rates have gone down steadily during this time while out-of-wedlock births and divorce rates have dramatically increased. This is not so for the upper-class (20% of the country) where only 7% of children are born out-of-wedlock. Among the working-class it is 45%.

In the upper-class (20% of the country) nearly every man age 30 to age 49 is working, but in the working-class (30% of the country) this age group of men has been leaving the labor force in a continual flow even when the economy has been better. Murray states from his research that people in this class, representing nearly one third of our country, are much less likely to get married, are less likely to be active in their church, less likely to be involved in their neighborhoods and schools, are more likely to watch a lot of TV, and are much more likely to be obese. To avoid distractions to his analysis, Murray limited his study to white America. His alarm bell is about class not race.

From Murray’s argument, it is easy to see why both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements have struck such deep chords in people. People sense this “coming apart” of our culture, but are not sure how to mend the rift. Demagogues pick up on people’s anxieties (as they always do) and offer up scapegoats to blame. The scapegoats du jour are immigrants and gay people. But the truth is, neither one of them can be honestly blamed for the lack of virtuous behavior in the nearly third of white America that Murray describes.

We in the church need to hear what Murray is saying. There’s a pastoral challenge here. The church is not only a hospital for sinners; it is also an academy for saints. We need to teach people about “virtuous and godly living” such as life-long monogamy, the spiritual discipline of weekly Eucharist with the body of Christ, and the duty we have to be involved in our neighborhoods and schools. We also need to instruct folks in the virtues of family life where sloth, gluttony and the like are discouraged.

That will take a deft pastoral hand from our leaders, but we need to do it to mend what is coming apart.

Scott Benhase is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.