Study of ‘Seven Faith Tribes’ in America enhances understanding of people groups

As a Christian evangelical, well-known researcher George Barna believes “obedience to Jesus Christ is the ultimate solution to all of humankind’s problems.” And yet, he argues in his new book “The Seven Faith Tribes,” that aggressive evangelization of the nation’s majority “tribe” is not the solution to returning America to greatness.

“Should the masses embrace Jesus as their Savior, the nature of our culture could be radically transformed?but as our past experience has shown, having tens of millions simply accept Christ and then live in ways that do not reflect the values Jesus taught gains us little ground,” he explains.

Instead, he helps readers understand the seven dominant faith tribes of the United States in order to show that many of the answers to America’s problems relate to rebuilding a sense of “shared moral values and community.” Barna believes Christians collaborate with non-Christians in order to solve a variety of societal problems, including an unstable economy, strained global relationships, compromised national security, ineffective public education and the redefinition of marriage.

After making a case that America is on a path to self-destruction, Barna explains how the faith of Americans can be categorized into a series of segments he refers to as the seven tribes. He provides an overview of each faith group, noting the values that unite them, subtitling the report to offer research on “who they are, what they believe and why they matter.”

‘CASUAL CHRISTIANS’

Not only is the book helpful in understanding how to work with fellow Americans from a variety of faith tribes to achieve common goals, it provides an honest recognition that the largest faith tribe?Casual Christians?may contribute the majority of members within a typical Southern Baptist congregation. Recognizing just how casually they regard their faith is eye-opening.

“As their name implies, casual Christians are rather laid-back about their faith practices,” Barna writes. “Most of them have one or two religious behaviors that they strive to practice consistently,” he says, referring to prayer, church service attendance and Bible reading, but fewer than 18 percent regularly engage in all three.

“Rather than allowing the Christian faith to shape their minds and hearts, they have chosen to fit Christianity within the box they have created for it. The outcome is a warm, fuzzy feeling about their faith of choice because it has been redefined according to their needs.”

Therefore, Casual Christians are not necessarily the group from which to draw support for pursuing a different moral course in America.

“Despite their stated discomfort with the current moral condition and direction of the nation, their proposed solution is for people to adopt greater tolerance,” he explains, noting that they are more likely to emphasize liberty and happiness.

‘CAPTIVE CHRISTIANS’

While Casual Christians account for 80 percent of Americans who self-identify as Christians, the second tribe, which Barna calls Captive Christians, accounts for just 16 percent of the total adult population. “Captive Christians do not just talk the game, they walk it,” he explains. He credits them with being the tribe that most closely tries to understand and follow biblical teachings, regarding the Bible as their handbook for life.

THE OTHER FIVE

The additional chapters addressing the other five tribes are particularly helpful in understanding the beliefs and practices of other faith groups. Barna guides readers to understand the extensive redefinition of Judaism in an American context and its enormous influence despite its small number of adherents. Mormons are the focus of another chapter, representing the only major faith group that was birthed in the

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