Poll: We’re Slouching Toward Theocracy

Bible babble: George Barna, the Pollster of the Lord, has just come out with another survey purporting to assess the spiritual state of the nation. Somehow, Barna always seems to find what he’s looking for in his nationwide telephone surveys.

His latest poll supposedly confirms Americans’ “reputation as a highly religious people” because “half of all American adults said that their life has been ‘greatly transformed’ by their religious faith.”

People who are usually conservative on political matters were almost twice as likely as those who are generally liberal to cite great personal transformation as a result of their faith.

Overall, 51 percent of the survey respondents said they have been greatly transformed by their faith, about one-fourth (28 percent) said their faith has been helpful but has not produced significant transformation, and nearly one out of five (17 percent) claimed their faith has not made much of a difference in their life.

Women were more likely than men to claim their faith has had a great impact (56 percent vs. 45 percent). Residents of the South were the most likely to cite such an effect (63 percent), while folks in the Midwest were about average (50 percent), and adults in the West (44 percent) and Northeast (39 percent) were much less inclined to attribute such influence to faith. Nearly two-thirds of African-Americans (62 percent) assigned great impact to their faith, compared to half of whites (50 percent) and Hispanics (49 percent), and barely one-quarter of Asians (27 percent). People who are usually conservative on political matters were almost twice as likely as those who are generally liberal to cite great personal transformation as a result of their faith (64 percent versus 35 percent).

Now there’s the chicken-and-egg question: Are we liberals godless because we’re liberal or liberal because we’re godless?

Barna honed in on the pesky 17 percent who said their faith has made no difference in their life. Want to know who they are?

  • Men (21 percent of the 17 percent) were 62 percent more likely than women to say faith meant little in their lives
  • People under 25 (35 percent) — more than twice the proportion among older adults
  • Asians (48 percent) were three times as likely as all other ethnic groups to be faith-free
  • Liberals (28 percent) were three times more likely than conservatives to say faith has made no difference for them
  • Lutherans (16 percent) and Methodists (14 percent) — twice the proportion among other Protestants
  • Atheists and agnostics (64 percent)

Whoa, athiests and agnostics I expected to shun the Lord, but Lutherans and Methodists? What is this world coming to? Barna knows:

“The current political clash between conservatives and liberals over the role of religion and faith in the public square is partially attributable to the fact that so few liberals have had a life-changing experience driven by their faith,” Barna commented. “Conservatives are nearly twice as likely to say that their faith has transformed who they are and how they live. It is only natural that they would therefore want others to have similar breakthroughs, while those who have never had such experiences are more likely to feel threatened by policies designed to foster a faith-oriented renaissance. The absence of a life-changing spiritually-driven experience may also explain why liberals are less likely to believe in God, to attend church, to read the Bible, to donate to religious institutions, and to portray themselves as being spiritually inclined.”

After the “faith-oriented renaissance” comes the God-blessed theocracy wherein the liberals will have a “life-changing experience” or else they won’t have a life. Hey, we’re already fighting a religious war in Iraq and Afghanistan; it won’t be long before the Christian jihadists start up a Taliban-like theocratic purge of the unbelievers.

But what really worries Barna is the godless state of our satanic children:

“While we cannot tell if the distinction in people’s journey is due to life stage or to cultural shifts over time, it is obvious that people under 25 are substantially less likely to have undergone serious change as a result of time spent reading the Bible,” said Barna. “With America already struggling from serious biblical illiteracy, the noticeable absence of the Bible in the lives of our youngest adults is likely to generate dramatic consequences in the decades to come.”

Kind of hard to build your Christian theocratic state without biblically literate young believers who are willing to join the crusade and, say, turn in their aging hippy parents for not donating to religious institutions or failing to portray themselves as “spiritual” (tantric yoga and feng shui won’t count). The way Barna sees it, somebody needs to come up with some danceable Christian hip-hop — and fast — or the next generation will not support the American theocracy. Ask yourself: What move would Jesus bust?

The danger with pseudo-statistics like the drivel that Barna spouts is not so much that it sounds like real research, but that it muddles religion and politics in a way that inevitably defines liberalism as evil and conservatism as pious. That, in turn, defines the inevitable positions in the debates over gay rights, abortion, evolution and whether the government has the right to spy on you: liberals hate the true holy trinity: God, George Bush and the United States of America.

The “transformation” Barna has in mind is as much a societal as a religious one, and hearkens back to the bleak days of Protestant Reformation when all of Europe was at war over 95 theses. And we all know how well that turned out.

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