Nashville, TN — Pollster George Barna urged communicators at the NRB15 International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, TN, to use their sizable influence to guide conservatives politically at a time when the nation needs to return to biblical values.
“If we are going to change America, we’re changing it through you,” Barna, Founder of The Barna Group, said during a February 26 luncheon. “You cannot grow weary with what you’re doing.”
What made America a unique nation in world history and what enabled it to remain strong for a prolonged period of time, Barna said, was a dynamic partnership between family, church, and government. There was a shared vision of what a better life was all about, and each of those partners had a specific role within that, he continued.
According to Barna, parents understood that perhaps their most significant challenge was to raise their children to be spiritual champions, helping them to understand Scripture and how God’s principles apply to every dimension of life.
“Part of their responsibility was to raise those young spiritual champions to be great citizens, understanding the duties of a citizen and being held responsible for partaking in those,” said Barna, now Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute.
The Church’s role was to teach people life principles from God’s Word and to help them understand how to integrate those principles into every dimension of life, Barna said.
“If you look back historically, what you find is that many of the first elected leaders of our country served as fulltime pastors or they were bivocational pastors but they added on a political dimension to what they were doing," Barna noted. “These were individuals who - when they preached in a church - never hesitated to tell people what the issues of the day were and what the Scriptures taught about those issues.”
Historically, the government’s role was to support the church and family, Barna said, “not to take over and suggest what family and church needed to do but to fill in the gaps.”
“That worked extraordinarily well for more than a couple hundred years. But then we came to the 1960s and 1970s and things started to change pretty significantly,” Barna said. “One of the most important things I think we need to take a look at are the shift in values that have taken place in the last 30 to 40 years.”
Among the values in early America, Barna said, were hard work, civic duty, humility, moderation, family, faith, living according to the rule of law, frugality, and simplicity.
“Move forward 200 years past that, and what are the prevailing life values of America now?” Barna said. “Based on all the research I’ve been doing over the last 10 years I would suggest that they are things like comfort; having experiences; being able to express yourself to whomever, wherever, however you wish to do so; having happiness; having independence; multiple forms of entertainment constantly available; having control of your circumstances; being accepted for who you are; and enjoying freedom.
“In essence, what has happened is we have a society that has moved from advancing God’s Kingdom and seeing the United States as a part of that to a society that is simply interested in advancing self. What we then see that relates to is this concept of a better life, which came to be known as the American dream,” he said.
Barna said the local church should be stepping up to guide Americans back to the values that made America great, but during the midterm election last fall he surveyed theologically conservative Protestant senior pastors and got disappointing results.
In the study, Barna gave the pastors a list of current issues that were important in the election: immigration reform, health care, gun rights, environmental policy, abortion, same-sex marriage, Israel, defense budget, and government spending.
On all of the issues, more than 90 percent of the pastors agreed that the Bible addresses each issue. But when Barna asked the pastors how likely it was that in the next 12 months they would tell their congregants what the Bible says about those issues, less than 10 percent of them said they would.
“I’m leaning on you heavily and saying, ‘Don’t give up the battle.’ Where else are they going to hear it? They’re not going to hear it in the church. They’re not going to hear it in the mainstream media. You’re the place,” Barna told NRB15 attendees.
The challenge for Christian communicators, Barna said, is essentially to raise people up spiritually in the way they should go — particularly the spiritually and politically active Christian conservatives.
“You’ve got to educate them, you’ve got to motivate them, you’ve got to activate them, you’ve got to reinforce when they get it right,” Barna said.
“If we want America to be strong, it cannot be a government-led nation," he added. "It needs to be a nation that’s led by family and church working in partnership and supported by the government as part of that partnership.”
In the 2012 election, about 12 million spiritually and politically active Christian conservatives did not vote, noted Barna. If they had, it would have completely changed the election.
“Somebody has to educate them about the fact that God cares about politics,” Barna said.
A strange fact about modern America, he continued, is that most Americans grasp what reality is not just by living it but by tuning in to the media and getting a report on what reality is.
“It’s going to get tougher and tougher to do what you do, but it’s going to be more and more necessary that you stick with doing what you’re doing,” Barna said.
By Erin Roach
Published: March 3, 2015