Can Barna Unite the Tribes in time to save America?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 4, 2009 — 12 Comments

As regular readers of my blog know, I like to keep track of what George Barna and his conservative Christian marketing and polling firm The Barna Group get up to. While I often suspect some ideological bias in their data collection, Barna has provided some interesting food for thought concerning interactions between Pagan faiths and Christianity over the years. Now George Barna has authored a new book entitled “The Seven Faith Tribes” that claims to hold the key to restoring America’s strength and stability in these trying times.

Citing his research, Barna indicated that the United States has seven dominant faith tribes that hold the key to the restoration of the nation. “We must recover the values that made this nation great and that must be firmly in place for order, reason, freedom and unity to prevail,” the researcher explained. “Our faith tribes are central to the development and application of people’s worldviews, which in turn produce the values on which we base our daily decisions. It is on the basis of such values that a nation rises to greatness or plummets to oblivion. The choice is ours. And it is up to our faith tribes to demonstrate the courageous leadership necessary to facilitate a national restoration of the mind, heart and soul. Without a nationwide commitment to this process, we are destined to become a country of historical significance and present-day insignificance.”

So what are the seven “faith tribes” that Barna describes?

“Casual Christians – 66% of the adult population, Captive Christians – 16% of the adult population, Jews – 2% of the adult population, Mormons – 2% of the adult population, Pantheists – 2% of the adult population, Muslims – one-half of 1% of the adult population, Skeptics – 11% of the adult population”

If you guessed that Pagans are probably filed under “Pantheists” (along with, I’m assuming, Buddhists, New Agers, and “Spiritual But Not Religious” types) you’re probably correct. But how can tribes with such extreme differences of opinion and theology as these renew America together? Barna has identified twenty values that all the “tribes” share, which they can use to form a new moral leadership that will help America thrive.

“In The Seven Faith Tribes, I examined interviews we have conducted with more than 30,000 Americans to better understand our worldviews, moral perspectives, spiritual foundations, lifestyle expectations, family behaviors and core values. The result is an understanding that the United States is home to seven dominant faith tribes, each of which has a divergent worldview – but all of which embrace twenty shared values that help to define their heart, mind and soul and have historically permitted the U.S. to thrive. It is my belief that if we were to refocus on the central values that made America great – and on which a formidable culture can truly be based – then our country can get back on the path of unity and progress. If we continue to focus on the attitudes, expectations and customs that divide us, then we are doomed to self-destruct, leaving behind a legacy as perhaps the most intriguing, longest-running experiments in democracy in world history.”

If I didn’t know better, I would almost think that Barna is proposing an end to the culture wars, a “cease-fire” agreement between faith groups so that an interfaith coalition can re-ground the country for the common good. It sounds, almost, well, progressive in tone. I’m almost tempted to get a copy and read this tribal manifesto, could a prominent conservative Christian be calling for a new attitude in Christian-Pagan relations?

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • chuck_cosimano

    I wonder if Barna has just sort had a mental breakdown of some kind from having his head spin for so long.

  • Helen/Hawk

    Sounds like time for a visit to Border……..and part of an afternoon there spent skimming this to see if he's "seen the light"

  • embreis

    What do you want to bet that his "answer" is for non-Christian tribes to become more like Christians?

  • Hecate

    Terms like "faith tribes" or "faith communities" squick me out. My religion isn't based on faith.

  • embreis

    Agreed. But the our language is so thoroughly colonized by Christian concepts that it's difficult to even refer to religion without sounding Christian.

  • James French

    Cylons on New Caprica.

  • Sravana

    What the heck is a Captive Christian?

    Truly weird.

  • becky

    "Cylons on New Caprica" Oh my gosh James, that is so freaky. And possibly very accurate.

  • embreis

    I expect Barna had the Twelve Tribes of Israel in mind.

    • Lori

      "Casual Christians"? "Captive Christians"? What the heck do they mean by that?

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