It’s like George Barna is trying to win us over. First, the head of Christian polling organization The Barna Group seems to hint at wanting a cease-fire in the culture wars, and now he’s humanizing gays and lesbians!
George Barna, whose company conducted the research, pointed out that some popular stereotypes about the spiritual life of gays and lesbians are simply wrong. “People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today … Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”
I can tell you that the above paragraph won’t win him any fans from any number of prominent conservative Christians. Then again, Barna has been increasingly re-positioning himself as something of a maverick within evangelical Christianity. So what else does this recent batch of polling data reveal? Well, while “straight” America and “gay” America have an awful lot in common, spiritually speaking, according to Barna there is one somewhat noticeable difference.
One of the most basic beliefs has to do with one’s understanding of God. This proved to be one of the biggest differences noted in the study. While seven out of every ten heterosexuals (71%) have an orthodox, biblical perception of God, just 43% of homosexuals do. In fact, an equal percentage possesses a pantheistic view about deity – i.e., that “God” refers to any of a variety of perspectives, such as personally achieving a state of higher consciousness or maximized personal potential, or that there are multiple gods that exist, or even that everyone is god.
In other words, homosexuals tend to be more “pagan” that heterosexuals. But this “pantheism” isn’t a barrier to finding common ground, as according to Barna all the “faith tribes” (including the pantheists) need to work together to restore America.
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.”
This is an awfully big tent that Barna is building. Is he being prophetic, or simply marketing to the changing times? I’d be curious to know how his largely evangelical audience is responding to this shift towards inclusion, bridge-building, and interfaith outreach. Perhaps he’s making a break from the old evangelical order and embracing the (generally) more tolerant “Mosaic Generation” (aka “Generation Y”)? I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment of George Barna’s quest to “unite the tribes”.