Barna: You Don’t Have to Be Christian

by Bob Schwartz

Spiritually Homeless
If you have any interest in the state of American religion—or of American society—you must pay attention to the Barna Group. Founded by George Barna in 1984, for decades jit has been analyzing American attitudes towards and participation in religion, from the perspective of informing Christian churches. By its nature, though, this is not necessarily a denominational narrow view. Consider, by analogy, market research by General Motors. That research is not entirely, or even primarily, about consumers and GM cars. It is about consumers and all car companies and cars and transportation in general. Just so, state-of-the-art quality research on religion is valuable to anyone in the field.

Beyond this, it is valuable for anyone interested in America. For example, our public discussion includes the terms Christian, evangelical, born again, etc., being thrown around casually as if everyone knows and agrees on what they mean—except that everyone doesn’t. That lack of rigor isn’t a luxury that Barna has. It has defined these and other terms with surgical precision, so that the research itself can be precise and informative.

The just-released report on Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials is only the latest example of how fascinating and useful the Barna research can be. When numbers of people flee from organized religion, only the most shortsighted think that this is a just a problem for Christianity or for any other religious institution. A social sea change is a sea change, and not trying to seriously assess its meaning and implications is simply foolish. Those who applaud the phenomenon as a sign of long overdue enlightenment—of people finally coming to their senses—are not thinking it through. Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, areligionist, anti-religionist, this report—and all that Barna does—can help you with that thinking.