Over the past few years, whether it be a conversation over coffee or a tussle at the polls, one thing is sure — Americans are struggling to talk through their differences.
That’s what Barna Group says in one of its recent studies, “How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America.”
“The cultural gridlock and angst that have characterized the past few years, and particularly the unconventional nature of the 2016 presidential election, may well be the result of the nation’s tribes becoming even more divided and incapable of conversing across those differences,” Barna reported.
So in the research, released in May, Barna studied America’s five “faith tribes” and the things that make them tick.
1. Evangelical Christians
Despite the fact that they are splashed across the media, evangelicals only make up 6 percent of the adult population, Barna reports.
To be considered an evangelical, a person had to indicate a personal commitment to Christ that is “still important in their life today,” plus seven beliefs:
• that confessing their sins and accepting Christ will get them to heaven,
• that they have a personal responsibility to share Christ with non-Christians,
• that Satan exists,
• that salvation is only available through grace, not works,
• that Jesus lived a sinless life,
• that the Bible is accurate
• and that God is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect and rules the universe.
Evangelicals tend to be older than the other faith tribes, and they have been for the past 20 years, Barna reports. Most say they are socially and fiscally conservative. Eight out of 10 are pro-life. And 7 out of 10 say they “are angry about the current state of America.” Only 4 percent say they are an advocate of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights. Only 2 out of 10 call themselves an environmentalist.
“All of these stances are perhaps to be expected, but evangelicals do refute one stereotype: that of being part of a heavily armed ‘radical right,’” Barna reports — 69 percent of evangelicals do not own a gun.
But the next group, Barna reports, fits that stereotype more than evangelicals.
2. Non-Evangelical Born Again Christians
People whom Barna classify in this group make up a quarter of the adult population of the U.S., outnumbering evangelicals nearly 4 to 1. This group says they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and believe that when they die they will go to heaven because of that commitment. But they don’t adhere to the other seven criteria that evangelicals do.
It’s less conservative and less traditional, according to Barna. Twice as many call themselves environmentalists (37 percent), and seven times as many say they advocate LGBT rights (27 percent).
Only 55 percent say they firmly believe the Bible is completely accurate, and 7 out of 10 say they believe in absolute moral truth.
But 87 percent say they support traditional moral values, and nearly two-thirds say they are pro-life. They have the highest percentage of gun owners — 37 percent.
3. Notional Christians
People in this group say they are Christians but have not made a “personal commitment” to Jesus that they believe will get them to heaven. Four out of 10 U.S. adults fall into this camp, according to Barna.
This is the largest segment of people who claim to be “Christian.”
And there are some notable characteristics of this group, Barna reports. They are the only Christian-oriented faith segment with a plurality that aligns with the Democratic Party. Just under 40 percent claim to be environmentalists and advocate for LGBT rights.
The “notional Christians” do not have a majority that claims to be conservative on fiscal and social issues. Only 3 out of 10 claim to be theologically conservative. And a large minority — 46 percent — claim to be pro-life.
4. Adherents of Non-Christian Faiths
This group is diverse and catches all the non-Christian religious Americans — those who follow Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other faiths.
Six percent of U.S. adults land here — the same percentage as evangelicals. They are the segment most prone to civil disobedience (31 percent) but also the least likely to own a gun (10 percent).
Of this group 57 percent say they are in favor of traditional moral values and believe in absolute truth. But only 43 percent of them say their religion is very important to them — a view that lines up with the “spiritually complacent” Christian notionals, Barna reports.
5. Religious skeptics
People in this group describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, or they say they don’t believe in God and have no interest in faith.
It claims nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, and it is the fastest-growing group, Barna reports.
Half claim to be environmentalists, and 66 percent support LGBT rights movements.
Only 27 percent of religious skeptics believe in absolute moral truth, Barna reports. (TAB)