American faith trends opportunity for Christian community
2002. More than two out of three American adults and more than four out of five teenagers believe that truth is always relative to the individual and circumstances, according to Californian-based Barna Research. Surveys conducted in 2002 revealed that most of these people describe themselves as followers of Jesus Christ and say that the Bible is accurate in all its teachings.
“By claiming the authority to determine right from wrong, we crown ourselves the kings and queens of reality, yet we have no such authority, and we constantly pay the price for the arrogance of believing and acting like we are in control of our destiny and experience,” says Barna Research President George Barna.
“Americans are seeking the usual life outcomes – security, comfort, significance, belonging and meaning. To accomplish those ends, they are reaching out for connections and insights that will enhance their life.”
Despite the flux in many dimensions of Americans’ lives, a study in October by the Barna group shows that most people have retained traditional views about life after death.
Although the lifestyles, values, and self-perceptions of most adults have undergone change – and millions of Americans have embraced many elements of a post-modern worldview – the majority continues to believe that there is life after death, that everyone has a soul, and that heaven and hell exist. Still, more than fifty million adults are uncertain regarding their personal eternal fate.
Mr Barna noted, “Americans’ willingness to embrace beliefs that are logically contradictory and their preference for blending different faith views together create unorthodox religious viewpoints.”
He said that among born again Christians 10% believe that people are reincarnated after death, 29% claim it is possible to communicate with the dead, and 50% contend that a person can earn salvation based upon good works, and these people also believe they will experience eternal existence in Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins to God and are depending upon Jesus Christ to spare them from eternal punishment or rejection.
“Many committed born again Christians believe that people have multiple options for gaining entry to Heaven. They are saying ‘Personally, I am trusting Jesus Christ as my means of gaining God’s permanent favour and a place in Heaven – but someone else could get to Heaven based upon living an exemplary life.
Millions of Americans have redefined grace to mean that God is so eager to save people from Hell that He will change His nature and universal principles for their individual benefit. It is astounding how many people develop their faith according to their feelings or cultural assumptions rather than biblical teachings.
Mr Barna concluded after conducting the 2002 surveys that many Americans have fallen in love with faith rather than the object of their faith.
“It’s much less demanding to be devoted to the idea of faith than to invest yourself in a true relationship with the living God.”
“More than four out of five adults claim that their religious faith is important in their life today and most Americans already try to integrate elements of faith-based decision-making into their daily experience.
Faith groups who can read the culture, translate core faith principles into relevant practices, and provide valued guidance without compromising their fundamentals will be taken seriously by Americans.
“The more effective Christian communities become at tying their faith principles to lifestyle choices, the more appealing they will be to the millions of Americans who are drowning in the whirlpool of cultural change.”
The Barna Research Group, Ltd. is an independent marketing research company located in southern California. Since 1984 it has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.
By Peter Veugelaers
Published 2002, Challenge Weekly