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The Seven Faith Tribes by George Barna

seventribes

The Seven Faith Tribes, by George Barna

This “book review” (and that of dozens of others who have recently read this book) can also be view by visiting http://viralbloggers.com/2009/05/the-seven-faith-tribes-by-george-barna/ My user name on the “viral bloggers site” is “oldguydreaming.” 

George Barna is the founder of The Barna Group, a marketing research firm that studies the religious beliefs of Americans.   The primary methodology employed is to conduct opinion polls to ascertain information about the beliefs and practices of American citizenry.  This information is then interpreted by Barna from his personal bias as a Christian evangelical. 

  Barna’s particular bias is clearly evident in his most recent book, “The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are and Why They Matter.” 

  Drawing upon 25 years of research, Barna aims to identify and understand the seven dominant “faith tribes” in America. These are, according to Barna:

 Captive Christians

Casual Christians

Jews

Mormons

Pantheists

Muslims

(and) Skeptics.

  The bulk of Barna’s book is focused on understanding these groups.  What do they believe?  What is their worldview?  What is the social glue that binds them together?  As Barna sticks to this aim, the book is a worthwhile read.  For this content alone, I offer a high recommendation.

The problem, for me, is how Barna desires to use this information for a particular political agenda.  This agenda is summed up in the following question asked in the book:

 “Do you want the United States to be great again, badly enough to do what it takes?”

 Well, who could argue with that?  Certainly not I!  I offer my pledge of allegiance to the good old U.S. of A.  I sing the national anthem.  I proudly wave the flag on all appropriate occasions.  Sometimes I wave the flag simply because a spirit of patriotism inspires me.

 For me, however, there are several problems with the answering of this question as the central aim of the book.

 Firstly, the question presupposes that American was once great and now is not?  Once great nation?  Sure, if you were not native to this continent or a forcibly transplanted  African used for slave labor. 

 Become a great nation again?  That presupposes that we are no longer a great nation.   Why?  Because younger generations are asking questions, thinking for themselves, and coming up with a different definition of greatness than their ancestor?  Barna focuses a great deal of attention to the description of why HE feels that the U.S.A. is no longer a great nation.  At some points, I agree.  For the most part, however, these are interpretations of what’s happening in society from his own particular theological and political bias.  Others might look at what’s happening (for example, the election of an African-American president) and belief that America is now more fully fulfilling its highest aspirations. 

 So, on these points, Barna’s personal bias is shown and assumptions are made that not all readers will appreciate.   

 That said, I have a far different problem than Barna’s cultural and political bias.  For me it seems that the question itself is out of place, especially for an author writing for what will be a primarily Christian audience.  When we participate in worship, engage in discipleship activities, and lead a church toward missional objectives, it seems like a different agenda should be at work.  The question is not, “Do I want America to be great again?” The question is, “How can the Christian church advance our Redeemer’s Kingdom?” 

 Alas, Barna agenda seemed more about Barna’s nationalistic interests than that of the Kingdom.  Harsh, I know, but that how I see it.  As such, that adds a damper on my recommendation.  The middle section, when Barna identifies and describes the seven faith tribes is well worth the price on the cover, though, so I do offer a qualified endorsement of the book.

 

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