Monday, May 25, 2009

2/3rds in U.S. are "cultural Christians"

Along the lines of Kyle's sermon series (are you a fan or follower of Jesus Christ?), researcher George Barna finds that:

66% of the U.S. population are "cultural Christians" (otherwise known as cultural or cafeteria Christians);

16% are "captivate Christians";

11% are skeptics; and the other 7% are a smattering of other faiths.

Barna has released a new book on his work, The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter.

In a mock interview about the book, Barna says that cultural Christians are, in large part, either "minimally active born again Christians and moderately active but theologically nominal Christians".

Then he concludes that:

If a catalyst were added to this mix to deepen this tribe’s integration of faith and lifestyle, or even to simply create a more extensive sense of community and purpose within the tribe, unprecedented changes could occur.

Two thoughts:

1.) There are two large subsets within the largest tribe. So, one might find movement in one subset and not the other.

2.) This is chicken and egg, to some extent. If people are self-selecting into those two subsets, it may be difficult to "convert" them to another tribe. Barna implicitly describes a top-down emphasis, where changing the institution would change the people. While true to some extent, there are limits-- perhaps overwhelmingly so.

Barna also wrestles with why people join that tribe:

Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves....

It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.

Interestingly, Barna's description-- and accurate to the Casual's perspective-- is that it's "all (or mostly) about them".


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