NATIONAL SURVEYS DESCRIBE THE STATE OF CHRISTIAN EVANGELISM

Many of the religious trends in America over the past decade or so are disheartening to Christians. Church attendance is down. Professions of faith are at low levels compared to the past, resulting in a declining percentage of born again Christians. The number of people who label themselves as Christian is falling. Participation in small groups has dropped by half in less than a decade. The same pattern has characterized adult Sunday school involvement. Bible reading is less common. Even the number of adults who pray to God has decreased significantly in recent years.

The question is: why?

While there is neither an easy explanation nor a single answer to that question, new research from the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) supplies one likely reason: Christians are not excited enough about their faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ to share the basics of that faith with non-believers. And that includes many Bible-believing pastors as well.

No Sense of Responsibility

In a nationwide survey of adults, the ACFI study discovered that only two out of every ten adults (20%) believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith in Christ with others who believe differently. While the numbers were higher for Christian-related subgroups of the population, those figures were not strikingly different. For instance, just 25% of those who call themselves Christian believe they are called to promote the gospel, a perspective shared by 31% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics. Even a minority of born again Christians feel a sense of responsibility to share with others what they have personally experienced.

There were surprisingly few differences across demographic segments of the population related to a sense of responsibility to evangelize. Unexpectedly, age made little difference in people’s perspectives on their personal obligation to evangelize. In fact, there was no generation for which even one out of four people claimed to have such a responsibility. Hispanics and blacks were slightly more likely than whites to claim a responsibility to share their faith (25% versus 18%, respectively). There was no difference in the views of men and women on this matter.

ACFI also completed a parallel survey among a national sample of theologically conservative Protestant pastors. That study revealed that more than one out of every four of them (27%) do not believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith in Christ with others who believe differently. Although there were no significant differences by age or race, the survey found that female pastors who are theologically conservative were substantially less likely than their male counterparts to claim a personal responsibility to evangelize (54% compared to 74%). Also, conservative pastors who had graduated from seminary were less likely to express an obligation to personally proclaim the gospel than were those who did not graduate from seminary.

Denominationally, the survey found that conservative pastors associated with Baptist churches were the most likely to say they have a personal responsibility to evangelize (90%). That was considerably higher than among the theologically conservative pastors associated with Pentecostal (69%) or Holiness (76%) churches.

Not Sharing the Gospel

Unfortunately, the research found a high degree of consistency between people’s lack of a sense of responsibility and their engagement in evangelism.

Among adults, only 23% shared their personal faith on a monthly basis during the past year – and many of those who did share their faith either were not Christians or were sharing a version of Christianity that is not biblically grounded. In total, ACFI estimates that less than one out of every ten adults who shared a message about their faith with other people at least once a month during the previous year communicated a biblically-accurate version of the gospel.

As might be expected, theologically conservative Protestant pastors were more prone to actually sharing the gospel: 71% of them did so at least once a month during the past year.

What Message Gets Shared?

The survey results among adults suggested that all kinds of divergent ideas about the Christian narrative are conveyed by people to non-believers.

Among the concepts most likely to be shared by conservative believers are that people are basically good; that having some faith is more important than the substance of that faith; that God exists and is omnipotent and omniscient but that humankind has evolved from other life forms; He remains aware of what happens in the universe and is involved in our lives; there is absolute moral truth but it is located in various places; eternal security can be assured either through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ or by doing enough good deeds to earn God’s favor; a person’s life can be considered “successful” based upon the personal goals accomplished; the Bible is the reliable Word of God; Jesus understands our struggle because He sinned while on earth; and that sin is real but Satan and the Holy Spirit are not.

The survey revealed that the more theologically liberal people are, the more likely they are to combine multiple unbiblical concepts into their presentation of the Christian faith.

Serious Problems for the Future

These findings raise an immediate and urgent challenge for the Christian Church in the US.

“A large majority of non-Christians in the US do not hear the gospel during a typical year. Worse, when they do have the Christian faith verbally presented to them shockingly few hear a biblical form of the gospel,” commented George Barna, who directed the research for ACFI. “Because of this, it is inevitable that the most common metrics of church life and personal spiritual maturity reflect rapid declines. When the fundamental message of Christianity is rarely communicated, and then it is distorted in those infrequent situations when it is communicated, the outcome is not likely to be positive. This is one of the many unfortunate results of a nation in which only 10% of the public has a biblical worldview. You cannot give away what you do not possess, and clearly most Americans do not possess even a basic understanding of the Christian narrative as well as the purpose and implications of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.”

“Perhaps there are some hopeful signs found in the data from the clergy. Although it is troubling that more than one-quarter of them reject any personal responsibility to evangelize, and three out of ten of them don’t bother to share the gospel in a typical month, that leaves a majority of theologically conservative pastors ready and able to proclaim the gospel,” Barna continued. “We know that close to nine out of ten of those pastors has a biblical worldview, so they are prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within them because of Jesus Christ. Although they are outnumbered by theologically moderate and liberal pastors, their numbers are substantial. We estimate there are perhaps 70,000 churches in the US with biblically solid, evangelistic pastors. A concentrated effort by those pastors at boldly, clearly, and consistently proclaiming the gospel could certainly be the basis of a spiritual rebound in America.”

The surveys described are part of the Worldview Measurement Project conducted by ACFI to assess the state of America’s worldview. The current studies are the first to be completed in that project and will serve as a benchmark for comparison in future years.

About the Research

The research described in this report is from two surveys conducted in February 2017.

One of those surveys is FullView™, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The second survey is the Conservative Clergy Canvass™, known as ACFI’s C-3 survey, a national public opinion study conducted by ACFI among a sample of 500 clergy who are part of ACFI’s longitudinal panel of theologically conservative pastors. The C-3 survey was conducted online during February 2017.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

SURVEY DETAILS HOW THE CORE BELIEFS AND BEHAVIORS OF MILLENNIALS COMPARE TO THOSE OF OTHER ADULTS

Millennials are becoming an increasingly important generation in American life. As the segment reaches its young adult years, it represents the nation’s primary birthing generation; a large wave of newcomers to the workforce; the dominant niche of newlyweds; and the fastest growing constituency of newly eligible or registered voters. As they form new households or establish themselves as consumers they are also becoming a highly desired target for marketers and active participants in the real estate market.

But Millennials also represent one of the most spiritually challenging generations to reach adulthood in the past century. While the Baby Boom generation broke the mold of faith traditions and preferences some 50 years ago, Millennials are raising a new set of challenges to Christianity and to a nation whose morals and values have long reflected biblical principles.

Worldview Differentiation

The Worldview Measurement Project, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute, reveals that Millennials are, by far, the generation least likely to possess a biblical worldview. While 16% of those in the Boomer and Builder generations possess such an outlook, and just 7% of Baby Busters have a biblical worldview, only one-quarter as many Millennials have a biblical worldview – just 4%!

This startling distinction in their choice of worldview is reflected in various indicators of their lifestyle. For instance:

  • Only 59% of Millennials consider themselves to be Christian. That compares to 72% of adults from older generations
  • Less than two out of every ten adults 30 or older (18%) claims to be in the atheist-agnostic-none faith preference category. Nearly three out of every ten Millennials embrace that category (28%)
  • One out of every three older adults (33%) is a born again Christian, stating that they will experience eternity in Heaven with God after their death on earth only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Far fewer Millennials (20%) share that expectation
  • A minority of adults 30 or older (43%) supports same-sex marriage. However, nearly two-thirds of those under 30 (65%) support it
  • Conservatives outnumber liberals by a 2:1 margin among adults 30 or older (28% versus 12%). Yet, the opposite is true among Millennials: only 12% are conservative while 26% are liberal
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to prefer socialism over capitalism (44% compared to 35% among older adults)
  • While only 6% of adults 30 or older claim to be in the LGBT community, two-and-a-half times as many (15%) adopt that label among Millennials

Major Differences in Beliefs

Of the 20 questions in the belief section of the Worldview Measurement Project, Millennials were statistically different from other adults on 12 of those indicators. There was only one measure on which Millennials were more likely than other US adults to have a biblical perspective: they are less likely to believe that all people are basically good. However, even on that measure, a majority of the adults under 30 years of age (59%) held a belief that conflicts with the biblical view.

Overall, the survey discovered that Millennials are less likely than older adults to have a biblical view on 19 of the 20 beliefs evaluated. The largest gaps between the beliefs of older adults and those of Millennials related to the nature of God; the existence of absolute moral truth; concepts concerning evil; and the personal importance of faith.

Substantial Distinctions in Behavior

The Worldview Measurement Project included 20 questions related to biblical behavior. The survey results noted that Millennials were statistically different from other adults on 14 of those indicators. There were three measures on which Millennials were more likely than other US adults to have a biblical perspective: personal interest in the well-being of others, choosing service over personal progress, and sharing their religious beliefs with people who believe differently.

In total, Millennials emerged as less likely than older adults to have a biblical view on 11 of the 20 behaviors evaluated.

The largest gaps between the beliefs of older adults and those held by Millennials – differences of 15 percentage points or more – concerned the moral acceptability of cheating on taxes, using non-prescription drugs for recreational purposes, and getting married to someone of the same sex; and being less likely to worship God other than within a church service.

Patterns and Probabilities

George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, noted that younger adults have historically held less conservative values than their elders. “The question that remains is how much the views of Millennials will eventually move to the right on the ideological continuum. The challenge to conservatives is that the current views of Millennials are so far to the left-of-center that even a typical amount of repositioning over time will leave the youngest generation considerably more liberal than desired, and more distant from traditional norms than has been the case during our lifetime.”

Asked how likely it is that Millennials will eventually embrace a biblical worldview, Barna demurred. “Remember, a person’s worldview is typically developed between the ages of about 18 months and 13 years,” the social scientist explained. “There is usually very little movement in a worldview after that point. You could say with confidence that the worldview a person possesses at age 13 is probably the worldview they will die with. Unless pre-existing patterns radically change, we are not likely to ever see the Millennial generation reach even ten percent who have a biblical worldview.”

Barna also identified one of the most important implications of this situation. “Parents are one of the most important influences on the worldview of their children, and Millennials are entering their prime childbearing years. But because 24 of every 25 Millennials lack a biblical worldview today, the probability of them transmitting such to their children is extremely low. You cannot give what you don’t have. In other words, if today’s children are going to eventually embrace a biblical worldview, people with such a perspective must exert substantial influence on the nation’s children to supply what their parents are unable to give them. The United States goes to great lengths to assist in the economic welfare of millions of people. It appears that we now need those who possess a biblical worldview to step in and impact the spiritual well-being of our future adults as well.”

The survey is part of the Worldview Measurement Project, which will be conducted every February to assess the state of America’s worldview. The current study is the first in that project and will be used as a benchmark for comparison in future years.

 

About the Research

The research described in this report is from FullView™, a national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. The FullView™ survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

WORLDVIEW SURVEY REVEALS “IRRECONCILABLE” DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS

Those who have wondered why conservatives and liberals seem to have irreconcilable differences need wonder no more. The Worldview Measurement Project conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute shows how vastly different the core beliefs of those two segments have become.

Ideology and Theology

Drawing from a nationwide survey of adults that measured how many people have a biblical worldview, the research discovered that people who are politically conservative are more than twice as likely as those who are politically liberal to have biblical positions on the twenty belief indicators tested by ACFI. In addition, the survey found that political conservatives are about 60% more likely to hold biblical positions on those indicators than are those who qualify as politically moderate.

There were 15 belief statements among the 20 included in the survey for which conservatives were substantially more likely than liberals to hold a biblical point of view – that is, a difference between the two groups of at least 25 percentage points. Those included the following differences:

  • Saying that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who still rules it today (a 43 percentage point difference between the two segments)
  • Strongly agreeing that the main purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God (40-point gap)
  • Asserting that everyone is a sinner in need of a savior, repentance and forgiveness (39-point difference)
  • Believing that the Bible is the word of God, with no errors (38-point gap)
  • Strongly disagreeing that Satan does not exist but is just a symbol of evil (36-point gap)
  • Saying that God created human beings in what is pretty much their present form, just as the Bible says (34-point difference)
  • Strongly agreeing that the Bible is totally accurate in the life principles it conveys (33-point gap)
  • Believing that God is aware of everything happening and remains actively involved in peoples’ lives (33-point difference)
  • Believing that the Bible is the most reliable source of absolute moral truth (32-point gap)
  • Believing that the most important indicator of personal success in life is one’s commitment and obedience to God (31-point difference)
  • Believing that success is best indicated by commitment and obedience to God (31-point difference)
  • Firmly asserting that their religious faith is very important to them (31-point gap)
  • Contending that there are moral absolutes that are unchanging (30-point difference)
  • Saying it is very important to be engaged in developing a deeper relationship with God (27-point difference)
  • Saying it is very important to increase their personal understanding of God’s ways, as described in the Bible (27-point gap)

Those statistics reveal that conservatives and liberals have substantially different perspectives on such central beliefs as the nature and influence of God; the reliability of the Bible; the definition of success in life; the existence of moral absolutes; the purpose of life; the centrality of faith; and the existence of evil.

People who classify themselves as neither conservative nor liberal on political matters tend to fall somewhere between the positions of conservatives and liberals on spiritual and worldview questions. The ACFI data shows, however, that these political “moderates” are typically positioned more closely to the liberal point of view than to the conservative outlook.

The survey also pointed out that among the twenty different belief statements only one of those was embraced by a majority of the adult population. A slight majority (55%) believes it is very important to develop a deeper relationship with God.

Inevitable Division

Noting that our core spiritual beliefs are central to determining our self-image, our character, and how we live, researcher George Barna expanded on the importance of the survey results.

“The bottom line is that we do what we deeply believe,” Barna commented. “Imploring people to just get along by compromising their convictions is not a realistic call to action. These beliefs form the core of peoples’ worldview, which is the filter through which they experience, understand, and respond to the world. Their worldview helps them makes sense of reality and gives them a way of reacting to situations that is consistent with what they believe is right and appropriate. You cannot compromise your convictions and feel good about yourself. The only way we can get people to come together in a more meaningful, honest and peaceful fashion is by addressing the worldview that is responsible for peoples’ choices.”

The ACFI survey revealed that the link between ideology and beliefs helps explain the recent election results. “Election surveys have pointed out how significant people’s candidate preference in the presidential race was to their hopes for the future,” said Barna. “In that light, the Worldview Measurement Project surveys demonstrate the power of worldview, even in elections. Among all adults, those with a biblical worldview were more likely to vote than were those who did not. That is because a biblical worldview informs people that participating in the direction and leadership of society is a personal duty. Further, among voters who have a biblical worldview, 68% voted for Donald Trump and 27% voted for Hillary Clinton. Their primary motivation had to do with restoring traditional moral values. Among voters who do not have a biblical worldview, Mrs. Clinton held a 47% to 44% edge. She was the preference of those without a biblical worldview primarily in the hope of adopting more postmodern values.

“These people are not merely accepting the party line. They are expressing their view of the world. The only viable route to creating political accord on the divisive issues of the day is to facilitate adjustments to their worldview.”

Barna further indicated that a quick resolution to the “culture war” plaguing America is impossible. “This confrontation has been in the making for the last 50 years. The fact that it is coming into focus now reflects our past unwillingness to admit that our choices have consequences. The implications of the choices that we, as a society, have made since the mid-Sixties, in terms of parenting, education, media exposure, religious training, and political influence, are now inescapable. Because a person’s worldview is developed before their teen years, it takes a while for that process to bear its fruit. But the divisiveness we have in the United States today did not emerge overnight. It is the outgrowth of the principles and values that were taught to our children over the last 50 years. Now that they are adults, we are seeing the impact of those choices.

“And in the same way that it took a long time for those choices to produce results,” Barna concluded, “it will take several decades of intentional development of children to alter the direction in which America is moving these days.”

The survey is part of the Worldview Measurement Project, which will be conducted every February to assess the state of America’s worldview. The current study is the first in that project and will be used as a benchmark for comparison in future years.

About the Research

The research described in this report is from FullView™, a national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. The FullView™ survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

GROUNDBREAKING ACFI SURVEY REVEALS HOW MANY ADULTS HAVE A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW

More than 100 million adults in America claim to have a biblical worldview! Are they right? Does it matter?

A series of nationwide surveys conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) addressed the question of how many Americans have a biblical worldview. Interviewing 6,000 people from three distinct populations – the general public, theologically conservative Protestant pastors, and SAGE Cons – the surveys produced some startling results. But does it matter?

“It’s very important to know how many people have a biblical worldview because peoples’ behavior is driven by their beliefs – we do what we believe. In other words, our worldview determines the choices we make and the resulting actions we take,” explained research veteran George Barna, who directed the studies for ACFI. “Everyone has a worldview. The critical question is which one people have embraced. If we want to transform our culture then we will need to change the choices people make that produce that culture. And in order to change those choices we must identify the beliefs that led to those choices.”

While it may sound complex or even impractical, understanding the concept of a worldview is not complicated. A worldview is the mental framework that helps people to make sense of their world. It serves as a filter to help us understand and respond to reality. Because a worldview determines what is considered to be good or bad, valuable or worthless, righteous or evil, right or wrong, and so forth, a person’s worldview is an indispensible mechanism for each of us to cope with life. Similarly, it is critical to understand if we are seeking to comprehend who we are and where we are going as a nation.

Surprisingly few studies have been conducted to measure the proportion of people who have a biblical worldview – or other widely recognized worldviews, such as secular humanism, postmodernism, existentialism, pantheism, or nihilism. The ACFI study is designed to serve as a benchmark for annual updates on the proportion of Americans who have a biblical worldview.

Benchmark Data

The ACFI survey evaluated people’s worldview using 20 questions about core spiritual beliefs and 20 questions assessing behavior. The 40 data points were then evaluated in relation to biblical content and the number of biblically consistent answers was tallied for each respondent. Those who answered 80% or more of the questions in accordance with biblical principles were included in the category of “Integrated Disciples” – that is, people who are designated as having a biblical worldview based on integrating their beliefs and behavior into a lifestyle that reflects foundational biblical principles.

The survey of the general public revealed that 10% of American adults currently have a biblical worldview. That pales in comparison to the 46% of adults who claim to have such a worldview. How big, numerically, is that difference? With the adult population presently at an estimated 244 million, the 10% of the general public with a biblical worldview represents about 24 million who are Integrated Disciples, compared to roughly 112 million who would classify themselves as such – a gap of 88 million people!

Barna shared the 40 questions used in the assessment, noting that the survey was measuring basic biblical principles, not complex theological theories. “Our research collected information about attitudes and behaviors related to practical matters like lying, cheating, stealing, pornography, the nature of God, and the consequences of unresolved sin. It’s what some might describe as ‘Christianity 101’ substance. That’s what makes the discrepancy between the percentage of people who consider themselves to be Christian – more than seven out of every ten – and those who have a biblical worldview – just one out of every ten – so alarming.”

Pastors and SAGE Cons

A survey among theologically conservative Protestant pastors used the same measurement criteria as included in the general public survey. The outcome, however, was massively different: almost nine out of ten of those pastors (88%) qualified as Integrated Disciples.

A third survey was conducted by ACFI using the same measurement indicators among SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians that ACFI has been tracking since 2013. An astounding 90% of SAGE Cons qualified as Integrated Disciples – an even higher proportion than was found among theologically conservative pastors!

Patterns in Worldview Measurement

The three surveys produced several intriguing patterns worth noting. Those included the following:

  • The younger an adult is, the less likely they are to have a biblical worldview. Among adults 18 to 29 years old – commonly referred to as Millennials – just 4% were Integrated Disciples. The number rose to 7% among those in the 30-to-49 age bracket; doubled to 15% among the 50-to-64 year olds; and peaked at 17% among those 65 or older.
  • Three out of ten adults (30%) can be considered to be born again Christians based on their decision to confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their savior. However, among that segment of Americans less than one-third (31%) emerged as being Integrated Disciples.
  • Overall, one-third of adults (32%) described themselves as theologically conservative. Among that group, just 25% qualified as Integrated Disciples.
  • Although some social analysts have equated being pro-life with having a biblical worldview, the ACFI survey shows otherwise. While about half of the nation considers itself to be “pro-life advocates,” the survey discovered that just 19% of them are Integrated Disciples.
  • Theoretically one might assume that reading the Bible every day would result in developing a biblical worldview. However, the survey found that while about one out of every ten adults (11%) claims to read the Bible on a daily basis, less than half of them (45%) fit the framework of an Integrated Disciple.
  • The historic divide between Protestants and Catholics was evident in the worldview measures. In total, one out of every five Protestant adults (19%) was an Integrated Disciple, compared to one out of every 50 Catholics (2%).
  • Among the people who voted for Donald Trump in November’s election, 16% qualified as Integrated Disciples. Among voters who cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, less than half as many – 6% – were included among the nation’s Integrated Disciples.

Background and Looking Ahead

George Barna, who developed and analyzed the study, was asked about the design of the survey and to explain the genesis of the name “Integrated Disciple.”

“Past worldview research has focused on religious beliefs. But in developing this instrument we discovered that someone may claim to believe something, but if their behavior does reflect those beliefs, it is doubtful that they really believe what they claimed to believe,” Barna noted. “Jesus taught His disciples that the right beliefs are good, but the real measure of where you stand is what He labeled the fruit of a person’s life, referring to the product of applying one’s convictions. As a result, we created this measurement process with the intention of blending both core beliefs and core behaviors to estimate the biblical consistency of peoples’ worldview. Because that process involves both beliefs and behavior, with the intention of being an imitator of Christ, we chose to call such people Integrated Disciples. They are effectively blending their beliefs and behavior into a Christ-like lifestyle.”

ACFI will be releasing additional details from the three studies over the coming weeks. A more detailed report will be available at the ACFI website (www.culturefaith.com) in the Spring.

Anticipating criticism from some who might consider such research and its findings to be judgmental, Barna responded in advance. “Any time you attempt to measure people’s worldview or spiritual standing, you have to tread carefully. We recognize that this research provides an estimate, not an absolute. Only God really knows who is a Christian. Only He knows who has a biblical worldview. God alone knows what’s in the mind and heart of each person.

“Our job,” the California-based author and researcher continued, “is not to judge people based on their responses but to analyze the aggregated data and estimate the current state of the US population so that the leaders of organizations devoted to helping people will have a better sense of what is needed. This research is not designed to criticize anyone. Its ultimate value is in showing leaders where we are as a people and where we could be, and helping through further studies to figure out what can be done to enable people to embody fundamental biblical principles more fully and consistently.”

This is the first annual survey in the Worldview Measurement Project. ACFI will conduct an updated worldview survey every February. The project is funded by United in Purpose.

About the Research

The research described in this report is from three surveys conducted simultaneously by the American Culture & Faith Institute.

The first survey was FullView™, a national public opinion study conducted among a nationwide random sample of adults. The FullView™ survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The second survey was part of the RightView™ series, a national longitudinal study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged Christian conservatives – a segment known as SAGE Cons. In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 4,500 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from February 1-8, 2017.

The third survey was part of the Conservative Clergy Canvass tracking studies (known as C-3 surveys) conducted by ACFI among theologically conservative pastors. That research project included responses from a national sampling of 500 theologically conservative pastors. Those online interviews took place February 15-24, 2017.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

ACFI SURVEY REVEALS DETAILS ABOUT THE IDEOLOGY GAP SEPARATING AMERICANS

When considering national averages related to social indicators it is easy to lose sight of just how deeply divided the nation is on some beliefs and behaviors. A new nationwide survey among adults 18 and older by the American Culture and Faith Institute provides greater perspective on some of the differences and similarities that characterize Americans today.

Moderates Dominate America

The survey asked respondents to place themselves on an ideological continuum related to both fiscal issues and social issues. The outcome showed that almost six out of ten adults (58%) fall into the politically moderate category. Of the remaining four out of ten adults, a slightly larger proportion was conservative (25%) than liberal (17%). Interestingly, the data revealed that Americans are currently more conservative on fiscal matters (40%) than on social issues (34%). In fact, adults are nearly twice as likely to claim to be liberal on social matters (36%) as in relation to fiscal issues (22%).

SAGE Cons, the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Christian Conservatives regularly tracked by ACFI, emerged as 6% of the population. By definition they are social and fiscal conservatives.

The Big Picture

Survey respondents were asked how they see themselves, reacting to 11 descriptions.

A majority of adults adopted just three of those 11 descriptions for themselves. Those were:

  • Four out of five say they support traditional values (81%)
  • Three out of four believe that all people are basically good (74%)
  • Two-thirds believe that having faith matters more than what faith a person has (66%).

Nearly half of American adults embraced three of the statements. Those were:

  • Am a pro-life advocate (49%)
  • Support same-sex marriage (48%)
  • Have a biblical worldview (46%).

Less than four out of ten adults claimed each of the remaining five descriptions as an accurate self-depiction.

  • Prefer socialism to capitalism (37%)
  • Am a born again Christian (35%)
  • Am an evangelical Christian (32%)
  • Own a gun (28%)
  • Am gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender (8%)

Comparing Across Ideologies

There were substantial differences between people regarding these descriptions based upon how they classified their ideology on fiscal issues and on social issues. In fact, there were only two statements in which conservatives, moderates, and liberals had similar profiles: believing that people are basically good, and believing that having faith is more important than what faith a person has. SAGE Cons differed radically from the national norm on both of those indicators, with few of them accepting the beliefs as described.

Conservative Profile

Of the remaining nine statements, a majority of conservatives accepted four of them and one-half of them adopted a fifth description. Those were:

  • 94% said they support traditional moral values
  • 74% said they are pro-life advocates
  • 67% claimed to have a biblical worldview
  • 53% called themselves an evangelical Christian
  • 49% said they are a born again Christian

That means that a minority of the self-identified conservatives said they were a gun owner (36%), prefer socialism to capitalism (23%), support same-sex marriage (19%), or claimed to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender (2%).

Liberal Profile

Of those remaining nine statements, a majority of liberals embraced three of them:

  • 78% said they support same-sex marriage
  • 68% claimed to support traditional moral values
  • 54% noted that they prefer socialism to capitalism

Less than one-third of the self-identified liberals accepted each of the other half-dozen statements. Those included claiming to have a biblical worldview (32%); being a pro-life advocate (30%); claiming to be a born again Christian (26%) or evangelical Christian (21%); owning a gun (20%); and identifying as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender (17%).

Profiling the Moderates

The largest of the ideological segments is perhaps that which receives the least attention and is least understood by the public and media commentators. Even though peoples’ placement in one of the three ideological groupings was based on self-identification, moderates did place somewhere between conservatives and liberals on the ideological continuum for all nine of the statements for which the three groups held distinct views. However, the views of moderates were generally closer to those of the liberals.

Of the nine statements on which there were substantial distinctions across the three groups, a majority of moderates embraced only two of those: 80% said they supported traditional values and 51% supported same-sex marriage.

That left a minority who described themselves as pro-life advocates (44%); having a biblical worldview (41%); preferring socialism to capitalism (37%); claiming to be either a born again (31%) or evangelical (26%) Christian; owning a gun (26%); or being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender (8%).

SAGE Cons Profiled

The SAGE Con population was radically different from the other three groups – even substantially divergent from the nation’s conservative adults. Overall, SAGE Cons proved to be much more conservative on nine of the 11 characterizations tested in the survey, and similar to other conservatives on two items.

SAGE Cons were most noticeably divergent from other conservatives as follows:

  • Much less likely to believe that having faith matters more than which faith a person adopts (13% of SAGE Cons, 67% of all conservatives)
  • Much less likely to believe that all people are basically good (27% of SAGE Cons, 76% of all conservatives)
  • Much less likely to prefer socialism to capitalism (1% of SAGE Cons, 23% of all conservatives)
  • Much less likely to support same-sex marriage (1% of SAGE Cons, 19% of all conservatives)
  • Much more likely to describe themselves as either a born again Christian (93% versus 49%) or evangelical Christian (94% versus 53%)
  • Much more likely to claim to have a biblical worldview (96% compared to 67%)
  • Much more likely to own a gun (63% versus 36%)
  • Much more likely to be a pro-life advocate (98% compared to 74%).

The two descriptions for which both groups were similar were identifying as LGBT (less than one-half of one percent of SAGE Cons did so) and supporting traditional moral values (97%).

No Wonder America is Divided

There is no simple, easy or quick fix that will bridge the political gap currently characterizing America, according to researcher George Barna. “It is one thing to negotiate a minor compromise to overcome a small difference in perspective regarding a piece of legislation,” explained Barna. “Unfortunately, the survey shows that we have more than a minor gap dividing the various factions in our country. We have a canyon of epic proportions that seems to be widening each year.

“That gap has emerged due to an absence of strong, visionary leadership,” the long-time researcher continued, “and the gap is only going to be eliminated by the presence of strong, visionary leadership. That leadership does not have to come from the White House; in fact, it may be more compelling if it comes from local and state leaders. But the inescapable reality is that unless strong leaders consistently promote a common vision and introduce ways of incorporating that vision into every activity and measurement being undertaken, the hyper-partisanship that has fragmented our national unity and discourse will continue to expand.”

Barna also noted that SAGE Cons are ideologically much more cohesive than are the larger group of conservatives in the US. “Perhaps because of their spiritual foundation the surveys consistently indicate that SAGE Cons have a more unified point of view than do other ideological segments. Overall, more than 90% of SAGE Cons agreed on eight of the 11 measures examined. That compares to similar levels of agreement for just one out of the 11 statements among other conservatives, and none of the 11 statements among liberals and moderates.”

The most alarming result, according to Barna, was that four out of every ten adults say they prefer socialism to capitalism. “That is a large minority – and it includes a majority of the liberals – who will be pushing for a completely different economic model to dominate our nation. That is the stuff of civil wars. It ought to set off alarm bells among more traditionally-oriented leaders across the nation.”

The most perplexing result, in Barna’s eyes, was that two-thirds of liberals said they support traditional moral values. “This is a group among whom three-fourths support same-sex marriage, seven out of ten advocate legalized abortion, a majority want socialism to replace capitalism, three out of four claim that all people are basically good, and nearly one out of five claim to be LGBT. It’s hard to imagine which ‘traditional moral values’ they are referring to. This oddity does, however, reflect how the ideological Left consistently appropriates language and imputes new meaning to terms that are known and popular. The survey data raise the possibility that liberals may redefine ‘traditional moral values’ to include beliefs and behaviors that are not at all traditional – or moral, from a biblical perspective.

About the Research

The research described in this report is from two surveys conducted simultaneously by the American Culture & Faith Institute.

The first survey was FullView™, a national public opinion study conducted among a nationwide random sample of adults. The FullView™ survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The second survey was part of the RightView™ series, a national longitudinal study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged Christian conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 4,500 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from February 1-8, 2017.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

SURVEY DESCRIBES AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESHAPE AMERICAN SOCIETY

Christian conservatives are not just dismayed with the state of American culture; most of them want to get involved in doing something about it. That is one of the key findings from a new national survey conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Christian conservatives who make up roughly one-tenth of the nation’s voting population.

American Culture is Broken

An overwhelming majority of SAGE Cons – 95% – indicated that they are not satisfied with the current state of American culture. Less than 1% of the group said that they are either “extremely” or “very” satisfied with today’s culture. The other 5% admitted that they are somewhat satisfied.

That extreme level of dissatisfaction fits with their concern about the direction of the country; the ineffective performance of government; their disappointment and lack of trust related to major social institutions; and their worries about the state of the family.

The Majority View

Survey respondents were given 18 adjectives to choose from in order to describe how they view American culture today. Overall, less than half of those adjectives were selected by a majority of SAGE Cons to convey their view of the present culture. Consistent with their sense of dissatisfaction, six of those seven adjectives conveyed negative feelings about our society today.

The most common terms selected by respondents were “self-indulgent” (chosen by 96%) and “selfish” (94%).

More than four out of five SAGE Cons described American culture as “intolerant” (84%) and “mean-spirited” (82%).

Two out of every three respondents (65%) picked the adjective “fast-paced” to describe America these days.

The other two descriptions adopted by a majority were “corrupt” (61%) and “decadent” (59%).

Uncommon Opinions

Close to half of the respondents (44%) called the nation’s culture “interactive.”

There were a number of positive-tone adjectives tested, but those terms fared poorly among Christian conservatives. For example, slightly less than three out of ten respondents (28%) used the words “intellectual” or “celebrative” to characterize present-day America.

Although most Americans consider themselves to be friendly, not many SAGE Cons think of the United States as “friendly” – just one out of every eight (13%). In fact, the only other term that was chosen by at least one out of every ten respondents was “emotionally safe,” an adjective embraced by 10%.

Six terms – all of them positive in nature – were selected by fewer than 10% of the Christian conservative population. Those terms were “transparent” (9%); “affirming” (8%); “spiritual” (6%); “family-friendly” (4%); “uplifting” (3%); and “biblical” (2%).

Challenge to Change

The unflattering national portrait painted by these choices leads to the challenging question: what will you do about it? To their credit, two out of three SAGE Cons (67%) said they were either “extremely” or “very” interested in being personally involved “in activities designed to produce positive cultural transformation in the US in the near future.” Beyond that group, another three out of ten (29%) admitted to being “somewhat interested,” while only 4% said they were not interested in personally trying to improve the condition of the country’s culture.

Call to Leadership

According to George Barna, the researcher who directed the ACFI survey, the results raise a direct challenge to Christian leaders to take advantage of the pent-up frustration, unexpected hope, and latent energy of Christian conservatives.

“The danger is that many Christian leaders appear to be waiting for the Trump Administration to work some magic to turn around the culture,” Barna commented. “The reality is that the complexity of modern cultures precludes any one leader or even a single sector of society from effectively producing wholesale, positive change in a short period of time. With an energized and hopeful constituency such as SAGE Cons looking for positive transformation, the opportunity is ripe for visionary, faith-driven leaders to mobilize the group and take strategic action while the people are willing. If it takes too long to mobilize and activate these people, the momentum and hope will be lost, and nothing will change. Timing is critical.”

Noting the widespread cultural engagement of the cultural Left in the wake of the Trump electoral victory, Barna suggested that the cultural Right cannot afford to sit by and watch as the smaller, liberal segment of the population rallies around its leaders and causes in the hope of returning their agenda to prominence. “The sufficiency or appropriateness of the Trump agenda is not really the issue that is begging for a response from Christian conservatives,” Barna explained. “Bible-based followers of Christ are responsible for pursuing a more comprehensive vision of a better society for all, or they will lose the energy that is currently available for positive action. Churches, families, parachurch organizations, conservative media, faith-friendly schools – all of these entities and more have a moment of opportunity to redirect the nation and to shape the future in different ways than have been the norm throughout the last decade. But without effective and timely leadership, little progress will be made.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The new national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 800 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from January 6 through 19, 2017.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent some 10% to 12% of the national adult population, constituting approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES OUTLINE THEIR THOUGHTS ABOUT LIFE IN AMERICA

New survey results released by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) show that Christian conservatives are relatively united in their ideas about the current state of the nation. The survey asked them to describe their views on eight matters and found that two-thirds or more of the group concurred in their views regarding six of those eight conditions. The segment, often referred to as SAGE Cons – Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives – is more evenly divided on the other two matters.

Worldview Issues

The December survey discovered that SAGE Cons are almost uniformly pro-life and believe in absolute moral truth.

Overall, 99% of the SAGE Cons described themselves as “a pro-life advocate.” That is consistent with surveys throughout the election season indicating that national abortion laws were a major concern for SAGE Con voters and a primary deterrent to voting for Hillary Clinton. Their concern about abortion policies led a majority of them to rate the Supreme Court nomination, to fill the seat vacated by recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, as one of the two most important issues in the election.

The data also indicated that SAGE Cons are twice as likely as the typical American adult to embrace the “pro-life advocate” label. A national survey of all adults conducted by ACFI in February 2017 found that only 49% of adults claim that description for themselves.

Similarly, 99% of SAGE Cons said they believe that absolute moral truths exist. That represents more than double the percentage of the national adult population that believes in absolute moral truth; just 42% of all US adults say that there is such a thing as absolute moral truth.

In both cases the SAGE Con outcomes were consistent across all of the demographic and theolographic measures examined by ACFI.

These findings presage the release of a groundbreaking research study completed by ACFI during the first week of February to examine Americans’ worldviews. That research, which will be released at the National Religious Broadcasters convention on February 27, will serve as a benchmark for ACFI’s annual update on the worldview of Americans.

Big League Trump Support

The survey found that 95% of SAGE Cons agree that “the United States will be a better place if Donald Trump is allowed to implement his agenda.” That’s about the same percentage of SAGE Cons that voted for Trump in the November election (94%).

In following the trend of younger voters being more likely to challenge President Trump’s efforts, the survey found that only 88% of SAGE Cons under 50 believe that the US will be better off if the President’s agenda is implemented. That was significantly lower than the 96% recorded among the older Christian conservatives surveyed.

Standing Their Ground

Sometimes it is not easy to be a principled conservative, as many SAGE Cons will admit. The survey found that two-thirds of the politically-oriented Christian conservatives (64%) “have had strong disagreements with family or friends about your political views or preferences” during the past six months.

There were a number of significant differences as to what kinds of Christian conservatives were most likely to be embroiled in such disputes. Close to three-quarters of Baby Boom SAGE Cons (72%) had engaged in such arguments, making them far more likely than either younger (63%) or older (56%) SAGE Cons to participate in such exchanges. Christian conservatives who reside in the Northeastern states (74%) were also much more likely than those in any other section of the country to get into heated political conversations with family and friends. The survey data also showed that the more affluent a SAGE Con is, the more likely he or she was to have been involved in strong disagreements with family or friends over political matters.

Media Affecting Young People

SAGE Cons have little love or appreciation for the mainstream media. An Election Day survey by ACFI revealed that 99% of them believed the mainstream media had been unfair and subjective in their reporting of the presidential election. Subsequent surveys show that little has changed regarding conservatives’ perceptions of media performance.

The latest ACFI research notes that almost two-thirds of them (62%) also believe that “the mainstream media have more impact on the lives of young people than any other entity.”

There were no significant differences across the SAGE Con subgroups surveyed.

The Goodness Factor

One of the core philosophies of postmodern society is that people are essentially good. The forthcoming FullView survey data from ACFI show that nearly three out of four Americans (74%) have adopted that view.

However, that is not a creed that SAGE Cons typically endorse. Driven by their Bible beliefs, almost the exact opposite proportion – 76% – says that people are not basically good. A huge majority of SAGE Cons accept the biblical narrative that all people are sinners and no one is righteous, raising the need for everyone to have a savior to represent them before a holy and righteous God who will judge their lives. They believe that Jesus Christ is that savior.

However, there is a major division within the ranks of the Christian conservatives on this matter. Only two out of ten SAGE Cons who attend a Protestant church believe that people are basically good. Among SAGE Cons who are Catholics, though, eight out of ten (81%) believe people are basically good.

Unifying America

The relentless partisan divide that has characterized the US in recent years has disheartened millions of Americans. That was evident in the research showing that almost half of all SAGE Cons – 42% – believe “it will be virtually impossible to unify the American people at this point.”

Men were more likely than women to doubt the likelihood of unification. Protestants were more likely than Catholics to doubt a period of unity in the near future. White SAGE Cons were more likely than their non-white counterparts to dismiss the possibility of unity. Geographically, Christian conservatives in the South were the most hopeful of unity while those living in the Northeast held the least hope of Americans being brought together.

Civil Disobedience

With thousands of protesters demonstrating in various places around the nation it is obvious that many citizens have decided that this is a time for civil disobedience. But what about SAGE Cons? Are they, too, willing to engage in acts of resistance when they perceive the government to have behaved inappropriately?

The December survey showed that half of SAGE Cons (49%) say they are willing to carry out such acts of resistance. The ACFI survey noted that civil disobedience is more likely among non-white than white SAGE Cons; among those under 65 than Christian conservatives 65 or older; and among those from upper income households; and among those living in the Northeast.

When SAGE Cons were asked about their willingness to engage in civil disobedience on Election Day, 43% said they were willing. The slight increase in current degree of willingness (six percentage points) is attributable to increased openness within four particular segments. Those include Christian conservatives under 50 (up 11 points); those living in the Northeast (up 11 points); SAGE Cons from households making $100,000 or more annually (up 16 points); and non-white Christian conservatives (up 23 points). The survey also found that there was no change among Catholic SAGE Cons; all of the increased willingness to engage in civil disobedience was found among those associating with Protestant or non-denominational Christian traditions.

Battle Lines

“Just a few years ago it was increasingly popular for writers on the Left to declare that the culture wars were over, and that the Left had won,” noted George Barna, Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, which conducted the survey. “Much like the time when newspapers famously – and inaccurately – reported the death of Mark Twain, the Left’s recent claims about the death of America’s culture war were also premature. Perhaps it was a dry run of the fake news concept.”

“The more research we conduct, the more clear the battle lines in the culture war are becoming. SAGE Cons have declared their allegiance to Christ and to biblical principles. The research shows that they consider politicians representing the Left, liberal policies, and socialism to be opponents of biblical principles, traditional morality, and the American way of life,” Barna continued. “They almost uniformly believe that the mainstream media is simply a mouthpiece for the Left, and that the media cannot be trusted to provide the public with an objective reporting of facts. They increasingly recognize that the Left has strategically used a variety of social institutions, such as public schools, to misinform children, in particular, about the history, nature, and future of America.”

Having studied religious dynamics in the US for more than three decades, Barna also commented on the role of churches in the cultural landscape. “SAGE Cons are not looking for their church leaders to tell them how to vote but they desperately want their church to relate biblical principles to cultural conditions and possibilities. After years of dashed hopes, they have concluded that because that they are not likely to receive such teaching, they will have to personally pursue such insights. After their experiences during the last four or five years, they are also now more likely to believe that discussing political and social matters may alter friendships, family relationships, and even where they can live or work. It is a war and the battle lines are being drawn.”

“The times bring to mind Jesus’s statement about faith-based conflicts in Matthew 10. He warned His followers that brothers will betray brothers, fathers will betray their children, children will rebel against their parents, and that there may be enemies within one’s own household, as determined by people’s embrace or rejection of Jesus,” the research veteran concluded. “A significant challenge to followers of Christ in these days is to be sure that we are fighting the right battles for the right reasons, not just to prevail politically or to get our way. Our calling is to be strong and courageous in obeying God’s laws and principles, and treating others with love and mercy. This is certainly a time of testing for the true Church in America.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from two surveys conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute.

The first of those is RightView™, a national longitudinal study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 675 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 20 – 31, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The second survey was FullView™, a national public opinion survey conducted among a random sample of adults. The FullView™ survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, based on a sample of 1,000 adults whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

ELECTION CHOICES OF CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES WERE GREATLY INFLUENCED BY VOTER GUIDES

Relatively few Americans – estimated to be slightly less than 5% of those who voted – entered the final days of the 2016 election campaign uncertain as to who they would support for the presidency. But a new study from the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) shows that a majority of Christian conservatives relied on voter guides to give them insight into the many candidates, referenda, and initiatives that appeared on the ballot.

ACFI’s national survey of SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives tracked by ACFI – discovered that three out of four turned to resources such as voter guides, websites, and other resources to gain information about their choices on the ballot. However, of that 75%, most of them included one or more voter guides among the resources consulted. Overall, about three out of five SAGE Cons (61%) specifically identified voter guides as a resource they used to help them decide how to vote.

Women Were Most Likely

The survey found that SAGE Con women were especially likely to lean on voter guides for insight – particularly in relation to initiatives and referenda. Overall, two-thirds of conservative Christian women (66%) used voter guides to better understand the policy options on their ballot; barely half of all conservative Christian men did so (53%). Women were also slightly more likely than men to use voter guides in relation to the various candidates on the ballot (62% versus 57%, respectively).

Age was also a factor in who used voter guides – but perhaps not in the way expected. In general, the older SAGE Con voters were, the more likely they were to use a guide for assistance. The survey revealed that people 65 or older were far more likely than those under 50 years of age to seek information from voter guides on the policy options by a 61% to 48% margin. There was no significant difference by age when it came to using voter guides in relation to candidate selection.

The research indicated that voter guides were most likely to be used by Christian conservatives in the West and least likely in the Northeast. In the West, a huge percentage – 86% – used guides to help them understand referenda and initiatives. Two-thirds of the Christian conservatives in the West (68%) also used a voter guide to decipher their candidate choices. SAGE Cons in the Northeast were far less likely than elsewhere in the country to use voter guides for either policy choices (38%) or candidate background (38%). Use by conservative Christian voters in the South and Midwest fell in-between the coastal extremes.

Interestingly, voter guides had greater usage among people from households earning $60,000 or less per year than among voters from homes earning more money.

Voter Guides Mattered

Although just 3% said voter guides had been the single, most important influence on their voting choices, one out of six SAGE Cons said guides were “one of the most important influences” and another one-half (53%) called voter guides “a significant influence.” In total, then, almost three out of four users (72%) attributed significant influence to voter guides.

The influence of voter guides was greater in the Northeast and Midwest than in the South and West, according to those who used them. They also had a bigger impact on the thinking of people from middle and lower-income households than upon SAGE Cons from more affluent homes.

The Lesser the Office, the Greater the Influence

ACFI’s study indicated that the farther down the ballot an elective office was positioned, the more likely voter guides were to be deemed useful by users. For instance, just 16% said they used information from a guide in determining who to vote for as president. Larger but still limited proportions used guides to help select their preference for other federal officials in the US Senate (22%) and the US House of Representatives (25%).

Once the ballot got to state and local offices, though, voter guides took on greater influence. Almost four out of ten users said they relied on voter guides to help them select candidates for state government (37%) and for local offices (39%). In like manner, four out of ten (42%) said they also turned to guides for insights into candidates seeking other positions (e.g., regional and county offices).

Women were more likely to use a voter guide for each level of office than were men.

Preferred Format

In general, paper guides were preferred by Christian conservatives to digital or online guides. Forty-one percent said they preferred to use printed or paper guides while less than half as many (19%) favored digital or online guides. The remaining 40% said they were equally willing to use either paper or digital guides.

Comfort with technology may have been responsible for the fact that age was a major delineator of preference. Voters under age 50 preferred digital to paper (32% to 18%, respectively); voters in the 50 to 64 age group leaned toward paper rather than digital (39% to 23%); and voters 65 or older favored paper over digital guides by almost a 4-to-1 margin (49% – 13%).

Sharing the Guide

Pass-along readership greatly multiplied the value of voter guides among conservative Christians. A majority of SAGE Cons (57%) said they passed on their voter guide to other voters to use, as well. While a majority of users, across-the-board, admitted to sharing their guide with others, the survey found that people living in households making $100,000 or more were the least likely to share the resource.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 675 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 20 – 31, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES DESCRIBE EXISTING INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND THEIR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF THOSE RELATIONSHIPS

On the precipice of Donald Trump’s inauguration Americans have varied expectations about what his presidency will be like. A new nationwide survey among Christian conservatives examined the state of relations with nine leading countries and expectations regarding how the incoming president will handle those relationships.

Existing Foreign Relations

The Obama Administration received mixed marks from the general public for its handling of foreign affairs during the past eight years. As the United States prepares for the transition from the Obama years to the Trump chapter, most Christian conservatives believe that America’s ties with nine leading nations of the world are in reasonably good shape.

Asked to estimate whether the United States has a generally positive or negative relationship with each of those countries, SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged Christian conservatives – believe that we have overall favorable relations with six of those nations and generally negative ties with the other three.

By far the strongest relationships are believed to be those with England and Canada. Overall, 85% of SAGE Cons believe we have positive relationship with England and 80% say we have a positive bond with Canada.

A majority also believes we have a generally positive standing with Germany (60%) and France (55%). While half of the SAGE Cons contend that we have a relatively neutral relationship with two other nations, the other half of the Christian conservatives are more apt to say we have a positive than negative relationship with Brazil (32% positive, 17% negative) and India (33% positive, 19% negative).

Large majorities of SAGE Cons believe that the United States has an unfavorable relationship with China (81%) and Russia (78%). A plurality also indicated that our relations with Mexico are more likely negative than positive (47% versus 29%, respectively).

Predicting the Future

Asked to predict the condition of those relationships after four years of leadership from Donald Trump, SAGE Cons were generally upbeat about what lies ahead for America. A majority of the Christian conservatives interviewed expect relationships with seven of those nations to improve while they anticipate no change in one and a slight deterioration of another.

A comfortable majority of SAGE Cons expect the country’s relationships with Russia (61%) and England (59%) to get better. Despite recent controversies over the alleged involvement of Russia in the November election, only one out of ten SAGE Cons (11%) anticipate a turn for the worse in US-Soviet relations with Mr. Trump in office.

A plurality of Christian conservatives believes that while the coming four years will not bring substantial change in our relationship with five nations, the balance in the shift of those relationships will be more positive than negative. Those include our ties with Canada (44% expect things to get better, 4% expect the relationship to get worse); Germany (44% better, 5% worse); France (42% better, 4% worse); India (33% better, 6% worse); and Brazil (32% better, 5% worse).

One relationship that has been in the news is that with Mexico. The president-elect’s controversial plan to build a wall along the border between the US and its southern neighbor – and to have Mexico pay for it – has left many Americans wondering how Mexico will respond. Currently, SAGE Cons are equally likely to expect our country’s relations with Mexico to get better (32%), get worse (31%) or to stay the same (36%). In other words, despite the exchange of words between Mr. Trump and Mexican officials, many Christian conservatives believe it’s too early to predict what will transpire.

Only one of the relationships tested is expected by SAGE Cons to sour: our ties with China. Although three out of ten said that bond is likely to improve (29%), a slightly larger share of the SAGE Con segment contends that things are likely to deteriorate with the world’s most populous nation (34%). More than one-third (37%) thinks that our existing relationship with China is likely to remain unchanged.

Lots of Uncertainty

George Barna, Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, which conducted the survey, said the results reflect a mixture of optimism and uncertainty. “SAGE Cons seem to be balancing their hope in Mr. Trump’s negotiating skills with their uncertainty about his global agenda and strategy. Based on his remarks to date, they seem especially hopeful about a thawing in relations with Russia, but much less sanguine about our standing with the Chinese.”

The long-time researcher also pointed out that even though foreign relations is not an area in which the incoming president has had much experience, Christian conservatives believe he and his team will demonstrate generally positive abilities. “Given that Mr. Trump is neither a career politician nor someone with substantial experience managing the complexities of nation-to-nation relationships, Mr. Trump is entering office with a fairly strong vote of confidence in this area from SAGE Cons. His remarks about the strength of his negotiating skills have apparently defused the concerns that many people have had about his ability to handle the challenges of global diplomacy.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 675 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 20 – 31, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES DISSATISFIED WITH MUCH OF AMERICAN SOCIETY

Throughout the election season, research among Christian conservatives by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) consistently reported an underlying anger about the state of America. A new survey by ACFI reveals some of the foundations of that anger.

Based on a national survey that examined the levels of satisfaction of SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged Christian conservatives – related to 15 aspects of American society, a majority of the group had a positive opinion of only one of the 15 cultural aspects while at least four out of five of them held negative views of 10 of the 15 elements.

The Bright Light

The only societal condition tested that a majority of SAGE Cons are satisfied with is “accessibility of financial opportunities to all people.” A bare majority (51%) said they are either very or somewhat satisfied with peoples’ access to such opportunities. Men were more likely than women to express satisfaction with those opportunities (56% versus 44%, respectively). There was also a regional distinction in this regard: most of the SAGE Cons in the South (53%) and West (56%) approved of access to financial opportunities, while considerably fewer felt the same way in the Northeast (42%) and Midwest (44%).

The survey also discovered that the financial condition of the respondent was related to their perception about existing opportunities: the more affluent the respondent, the more likely they were to be satisfied with peoples’ access to financial opportunities.

Four Aspects Fared on the Low Side

Four of the 15 aspects studied generated satisfaction among one-quarter to two-fifths of the Christian conservatives.

The state of religious freedom in the US elicited positive ratings from 44% of the SAGE Cons interviewed. Those positive reviews were more likely to come from men (50%) than women (37%), and from young adults (50% of those under age 50) than from those 50 or older (39%).

One-third of SAGE Cons (34%) were satisfied with the fairness of the nation’s court system. Residents in the Northeast and West were more likely to be satisfied that were those living in the “fly over” states.

Slightly more than one out of four SAGE Cons said they were either very or somewhat satisfied with the Christian commitment of Americans (28%) and with the current state of race relations in the nation (26%). Perhaps surprisingly, young Christian conservatives were more likely than their seniors to express satisfaction with America’s prevailing race relations.

The Ten Biggest Losers

At least four out of five SAGE Cons did not register positive opinions about the other ten social conditions monitored. Those include the following:

Interestingly, the data indicate that Christian conservatives are more likely to be satisfied with peoples’ degree of Christian commitment (28%) than their level of overall spiritual commitment (17%).

The survey confirmed how little respect or support Christian conservatives have for the mainstream news media. ACFI’s surveys throughout 2016 reported that 98% or more of SAGE Cons believed the mainstream news media were “unfair and subjective” in their reporting about the election, and that those media were not “trustworthy.” The current survey showed that only 1% of SAGE Cons were satisfied with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream news media and only 1% was satisfied with how objective those media outlets were in their reporting.

Time for Action

As the official transition from the Obama to the Trump Administration nears, the research suggests that there is a danger of Christian conservatives being so overcome with their dissatisfaction that they miss an important window for cultural change. “When people are beset by very low levels of trust in institutions and key social conditions, there is often a tendency toward self-protection,” explained researcher George Barna. “It would be a huge loss if Christian conservatives were to isolate themselves due to their sense of cultural despair and therefore refuse to engage in potential opportunities to move American society in a more positive direction.”

“One of the great benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it gives us a reason to have hope,” Barna continued. “If Christians can place their trust in Christ, and allow Him to guide their choices and actions, the social elements that have been so discouraging to the Church can be turned around. More than any other people group, biblical Christians have a reason to have hope and to never give up.

“2017 promises to be a year in which the very foundations and boundaries of America will be uppermost in people’s minds and in cultural conversation.  Now, more than any time in more than a decade,” Barna noted, “Bible-driven followers of Christ must be present in that conversation, and active in the cultural struggle that will take place. It is a great time for Christians to be alive in America, and the nation desperately needs what they have to offer, even that is not readily apparent to many or accepted by the mainstream media.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The new national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 600 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 5 through 19, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS CREDIT CHURCH, BIBLE, AND PARENTS WITH DOMINANT INFLUENCE

Peoples’ lives are affected by many external influences. It’s not something that most people think about, yet our thoughts and behaviors are often inspired, guided, created, or limited by the impact of people, organizations, movements, and other cultural shapers. American society today is a reflection of the cumulative effect of thousands of influences on our 324 million citizens.

But which ones influence us the most? And which ones do we want to have the most – and least – influence on the nature and direction of the country? Those two questions were posed to a national sample of conservative Christians surveyed by the American Culture and Faith Institute. Some of their answers are exactly what you might expect them to say – but others may surprise you.

Personal Influence: Expected Responses

Given the strong Christian commitment of this group of respondents, it is not surprising to find that the top three personal influences cited by SAGE Cons are the Bible (estimated to have “a lot of influence” on their decisions and perspectives by 98%), religious teaching (92%), and the values taught to them by their parents (77%).

A second series of entities were said to have “a lot of influence” by about one-third of the segment. Those influences included family members (listed by 33%); courts and judges (33%); and government laws and regulations (30%).

Somewhere between one out of 10 and two out of ten respondents identified significant influences such as books (18%); the policies implemented by businesses (18%); conversations with friends (17%); schools (12%); and the behavior and choices of their friends (10%).

Several entities were designated as having “a lot of influence” by very few of the Christian conservatives. Those included the news media (7%); the Pope (4%); current music (3%); entertainment media (2%); art (1%); advertising (1%); and sports stars (listed by less than one-half of one percent).

The survey asked people to rate each of those 18 sources of influence on a four-point scale. The proportion of people who selected the bottom point on that scale – “no influence” – for some of those sources was surprisingly high. Specifically, the ACFI survey reported that three-quarters of the SAGE Cons (74%) claimed that the content of entertainment media had no influence on them. Nearly two-thirds (64%) believed that current music has no influence upon them.

Desirable Cultural Influencers

When the sample of Christian conservatives was asked to indicate how active they would like each of a dozen entities to be in determining the nature and future direction of the United States a rather clear portrait emerged. A majority of respondents identified just two of the twelve sources of influence that they wanted to be very active in defining the nature and future of America: Christian churches (82%) and Christian ministries other than churches (69%). One-third of the respondents (35%) named small businesses as an entity that should be very active in shaping the country.

There were very low levels of confidence assigned to several government-related sources of influence. Those included the public education system (only 15% want it to be very active in defining America); state government officials (13%); and federal government officials (8%).

The remaining half of the entities evaluated rated even lower. Only 6% want judges and lawyers to be very active in determining the nature and future direction of the US; 6% want political non-profit organizations to have such influence; 4% support the creative community (artists, musicians, actors, authors, etc.); 4% gave a vote of confidence to large corporations; 4% believe college and university professors should be very active in shaping the nation; and a mere 3% would give such authority to the mainstream media.

Undesirable Cultural Influencers

The combined percentages of those who gave either of the bottom two points on the scale as their answer – that is, saying an entity should be “not too active” or “not at all active” in shaping the country’s future – shows a clear ranking of the limited desirability of giving such power to various entities. Nine out of ten Christian conservatives (90%) do not want the mainstream media to be active in determining who America is and where it is heading. Eight out of ten Christian conservatives want to isolate college and university professors (85%) and the creative community (81%) from such opportunities. Seven out of ten said they do not want large corporations (71%) or judges and lawyers (69%) to be actively involved. Two out of three withheld their blessing from political non-profit organizations (64%) and federal government officials (64%). Six out of ten (60%) do not want the public education system to be actively influencing the nation.

People Patterns

The research identified certain patterns in the views and preferences of the various segments of the Christian conservatives who were interviewed.

Men and women generally reflected the same views regarding the influence that different entities have upon their thinking and behavior. However, younger SAGE Cons were more likely than those over 50 years of age to attribute a lot of influence to their family members. Similarly, those under 50 were less likely to see the influence of the government in their lives, whether through government laws and regulations or through the decisions of the courts.

When it came to who they want to be most actively involved in shaping the United States, there were again no significant differences based on the sex of respondents. However, younger SAGE Cons were less likely to want the public schools and churches to be very active in determining the nature and direction of America. Catholics were more likely than Protestants to want small businesses and state government to play a very active role in defining the nation.

The biggest gap in preferences for future influence related to household income. When compared to the wealthier SAGE Cons, those from households with annual incomes under $60,000 were more likely to want government authorities – federal officials, judges, state government officials, and public schools – to be very active in determining the nation’s future. They were also less interested in seeing churches play a very active role.

Lack of Trust

The research results display the lack of trust that most SAGE Cons have in government entities, in particular, and in institutions overall. “Christian conservatives do not believe that the government has their best interests in mind, that it operates efficiently, or that it can be trusted to take the country in the right direction,” commented author George Barna, who directed the research for ACFI. “Most of them would like to see Christian principles at the heart of any shift in American culture. Toward that end most of them would like churches and parachurch ministries to step up and help guide such transitions. It is a time of tremendous opportunity for Christian ministries.”

Barna also noted that the study confirmed a long-known reality in social science research: Americans, regardless of their ideological bent, resist the notion that they are influenced by institutions and marketing information. “There remains a substantial degree of either denial or ignorance – or, perhaps, both – regarding the fact that we are dramatically influenced by the ideas and activities of the people and organizations around us. Until people recognize the existence and impact of those sources of influence it will be difficult to help them resist the impact of those entities. In fact, the dismissal of that influence is what enables the so-called ‘culture war’ to continue with intensity. That clash of values will continue to trouble conservative Christians until they are able to admit that they are influenced by entities that are the enemy of the conservative agenda. After all, you cannot defeat an enemy that you do not believe exists.”

Pressed to give an example of how that blind spot works in practice, Barna focused on perceptions about the media. “SAGE Cons believe that the mainstream media is biased and does not report truth to the public,” he noted, citing statistics from several recent surveys ACFI has conducted. “However, they also maintain that because they are aware of the existence of such bias, the mainstream media has virtually no influence on their thinking.

“Our series of research studies indicate, however, that the consistent and incessant claims and narratives provided by the mainstream media have impacted the thinking of conservatives – not so much in terms of their ideology as their perceptions of reality,” Barna explained. “So even though SAGE Cons know the mainstream media consistently distort the facts, conservatives tend to absorb the perspective of conditions proffered by those media because they lack a credible alternative rendering of the situation. They also have a porous defense mechanism against those distortions because they believe they are aware of the mainstream agenda. All of that causes SAGE Cons to deny that the mainstream media affects their thinking when in fact many conservatives are often likely to accept the mainstream media’s descriptions of reality.”

Barna ended his comments by saying that his research team, the American Culture and Faith Institute, plans to devote most of their resources this year to studying matters related to cultural conditions and transformation more extensively.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The new national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 600 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 5 through 19, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these weekly research reports, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES REACT TO TRUMP CABINET PICKS

With less than one month to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated as President, the public is keenly aware of the preparatory activity in which he has engaged since being elected. Foremost on the radar of many observers has been the leaders he has selected for his cabinet. The public’s reactions to those selections have been lively and diverse.

A new national survey among Christian conservatives, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI), provides their perspectives on the president-elect’s early personnel choices. The survey also examined their views on Mr. Trump’s prospects for being a successful president and the changes in people’s hopes for the future.

High Hopes for Trump

After shunning Donald Trump in the early stages of the primary season, then supporting him in unprecedented numbers by the end of the campaign, SAGE Cons (the Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christian voters tracked by ACFI) are again showing their hope in the Republican winner.

In March of this year, after Trump appeared to be the inevitable GOP candidate, 10% of SAGE Cons felt he would do an excellent job if elected, with another 30% believing he would do a good job. Those figures rose to 19% and 42%, respectively, by July. The latest survey, conducted a month after Election Day, found that 34% expect him to do an excellent job and 57% expect him to do a good job.

Combining the two positive answers in the survey scale – excellent and good – reveals that the percentage of SAGE Cons to give those responses has skyrocketed from 40% in March to 91% in December.

A closer look at the demographics behind those expectations indicates that there have been some noteworthy changes. While men were more likely to expect Trump to do an excellent or good job than were women back in March (42% versus 35% respectively), there is no longer a gender gap.

The differences noted in expectations according to the age of SAGE Cons have also shifted. The general pattern of expectations being higher the older a person is are still in place: 72% of the 30-49-year olds have high expectations, compared to 88% among those 50 to 64 years old, and 95% among SAGE Cons who are 65 or older.

More interesting, perhaps, is how the shift has occurred. Between March and July, SAGE Cons under 50 thawed very little toward Trump: high expectations barely rose from 28% to 35%. But during that same period, high expectations jumped from 36% to 56% among those aged 50 to 64, and from 50% to 74% among the 65-plus group. In contrast, by far the biggest growth from July to December took place among the younger conservatives. Since July, those with high expectations more than doubled from 35% to 72% among the 30-to-49-year olds. The older conservative voters also rose significantly, but not as dramatically: a 32-point increase among those 50 to 64, and a 21-point rise among those 65-plus. Those substantial gains didn’t match the 37-point growth among the younger SAGE Cons.

Another interesting pattern was that back in March, Catholic conservatives were more likely than Protestant conservatives to expect Trump to do an excellent or good job (50% to 37%). In July the two groups were about even (both around the 60%) mark. Today, however, Protestants are more likely to have high expectations for the president-elect (90% versus 81%, respectively). That means the number of conservative Protestants who have adopted high expectations for Trump has expanded by 53 percentage points since March while the proportion of conservative Catholics with high expectations climbed by 31 points – a substantial gain but more modest when compared to the change among conservative Protestants.

Reactions to Cabinet Picks

Almost half of the SAGE Cons (45%) admitted that they knew little or nothing about many of the individuals Donald Trump has chosen for his cabinet. Within that group, most of them who said they are at least somewhat familiar with a few of his nominees – a segment representing three out of ten of all the unaware or minimally aware respondents (28%) – said that they like the selections with whom they are familiar. Only 1% of all the survey respondents said they don’t know most of the picks but they dislike the ones with whom they are familiar.

Among the slight majority of SAGE Cons who said they know all or most of the picks made by Trump, the sentiment about those selections is overwhelmingly positive. Forty-three percent said they like the picks; 12% said they like some but not others; and less than one-half of one percent claimed they do not like any of his selections.

Gaining Hope

One of the hallmarks of voters in the 2016 election was that they were so discouraged by the condition of the nation and by the quality of the candidates that they were pessimistic about the future of America. The survey data show, however, that the election of Donald Trump has lifted the spirits of millions of Americans.

The December survey among Christian conservatives found that nine out of ten (90%) said they are more hopeful now than they were a year ago, while only 1% said they are less hopeful. That left 3% who said their thoughts about the future have not changed in the past year, while the remaining 6% said they are not sure what to think yet.

The only demographic distinction worth noting related to age. SAGE Cons under 50 remained noticeably less sanguine about the future (79%) compared to those who are 50 or older (93%).

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The new national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 600 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from December 5 through 19, 2016. The previous surveys mentioned in the report were conducted among SAGE Cons in March (2,000 respondents) and July (1,200 respondents) of 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS AND CONSERVATIVE PASTORS DIVERGE ON SEVERAL CRITICAL VIEWS

As Christians look ahead to what changes a Donald Trump presidency might bring to America, a new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute shows that conservative pastors and conservative Christians hold similar points of view on a number of outlooks. However, the survey also identified several critical perspectives on which their two groups have significant differences.

Expected Similarities

Given their common sociopolitical and theological outlooks, one might expect some important similarities between SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged conservative voters – and theologically conservative Christian pastors (aka theolocons). And indeed the ACFI research found such parallels.

For instance, almost all of the people in each group were self-described as “pro-life advocates” (99% among SAGE Cons, 98% among theolocon pastors). The exact same numbers emerged to describe each group as “willing to take unpopular stands.” When asked if they would identify themselves as evangelicals, nearly identical statistics were generated for each segment (96% among SAGE Cons and 95% among the pastors).

There were huge similarities related to worldview, as well. The statistics reflecting a belief that absolute moral truth exists (99% of SAGE Cons, 97% of theologically conservative pastors) and that they personally possess a biblical worldview (99% and 98%, respectively) revealed the like-mindedness of the segments. Given that bent toward a biblical perspective, it was not surprising to find so few in either group admitting to being comfortable with postmodernism (4% and 7%, respectively).

Noteworthy Differences

The ACFI research found several important differences between the two segments.

Six out of ten of the pastors (58%) indicated that they would be willing to engage in civil disobedience. A much smaller minority of SAGE Cons, however, held the same view: only four out of ten (43%).

That relative rejection of civil disobedience among Christian conservatives is in spite of the fact that a larger proportion of them said that they are “angry about the current state of America.” Three-quarters of the SAGE Cons (77%) embraced that description, compared to two-thirds of theolocon pastors (66%).

Christian conservatives were also more likely to admit that not only are they angry about where the country is at but almost half of them (46%) also said they do not trust any politician. That was much higher than the one-third of conservative pastors (34%) who adopted the same view.

While a large majority of both groups rejected the idea that “people are basically good,” that concept was notably more in line with the thinking of SAGE Cons (30%) than that of conservative pastors (19%).

Struggle for Consistency

“The oddest element of these findings is how many of them are paradoxical,” commented researcher George Barna. “Take the pastors. They describe themselves as angry about our culture – so upset, in fact, that most of them are willing to engage in civil disobedience. But other portions of the research we have previously reported also revealed that few of them were willing to preach about the key election issues or to even encourage congregants to get out and vote! It’s difficult to see how this all fits together. It appears to be a silent, pent-up anger that they are not willing to publicly express.”

“We face the same challenge if we explore the self-perception of the SAGE Cons,” Barna continued. “They say they’re angry, they don’t trust our political leaders, and they’re willing to take unpopular stands, yet they won’t engage in civil disobedience. Their conventional efforts to alter the course of our deteriorating culture have borne little fruit over the past decade. One has to wonder what their strategy for lasting change includes. Civil disobedience may not be the right course of action, but what do they see as the proper approach? Certainly, the fact that more than nine out of ten of them voted for Donald Trump must be part of that plan.”

Looking at the results of an election week study he helped to conduct of the entire adult population, the long-time analyst pointed out that SAGE Cons will have to be creative to facilitate the kinds of transformation they desire. “Just three out of every ten adults in the US consider themselves to be theologically conservative. Just four out of ten would advocate for the rights of the unborn. Only four out of ten say they are conservative on social issues, and the same proportion claims to be conservative on matters of governance.

“So the million dollar question,” Barna continued, “is simple: Can a minority segment, like SAGE Cons, induce the majority to concede to its will? It has certainly happened before, as evidenced most recently by the LGBT community. And biblically we know that God often uses a small remnant of devoted followers to alter the course of history. Are Christian conservatives prepared to hear from God and follow His plan? That, rather than reliance on Donald Trump, is surely the most prudent course of action to follow.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 7,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from November 8 through 15, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The research about pastors described in this report is part of the Conservative Clergy Canvass™, a longitudinal survey among theologically conservative pastors of Christian churches. The survey undertaken for this report had a sample size of 500 qualified pastors and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 2016.

ACFI estimates that there are between 95,000 and 110,000 theologically conservative Christian churches in the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS AND PASTORS IDENTIFY GROUPS THEY SAY HAD GREATEST INFLUENCE ON ELECTION

While the SAGE Con Weekly previously reported on the media personalities who had the greatest impact on the minds of conservative voters (Click Here to November 16 release), there were many other entities besides the media pundits who had significant influence on the election. The national election surveys conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute among SAGE Cons – Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives – and among theologically conservative pastors (dubbed “theolocon pastors”) provided insight into what groups outside of the media left their mark on the election outcome. Eight different entities that sought influence on voters were evaluated.

Influence According to SAGE Cons

Christian conservatives suggested that of the eight non-media sources of influence evaluated, labor unions had the most impact of all. In total, three out of ten SAGE Cons said that labor unions had “a lot” of impact on peoples’ voting decisions.

After labor unions, three entities had the next highest impact, each with roughly the same level of influence in the eyes of SAGE Cons. Those were President Obama (25% said he had “a lot” of impact), voter guides (24%), and Christian non-profit organizations (23%).

The lower half of entities on the list, in terms of impact, were Protestant churches and pastors (20% attributed “a lot of impact” to them); public opinion polls (15%); celebrities who endorsed a candidate (14%); and Catholic churches and priests (12%).

When the top two descriptions of influence were added together – that is, having either “a lot” or “some” impact on voting decisions – the ranking changed slightly. Voter guides jumped from the third most influential entity to the top-rated source of influence, with eight out of ten SAGE Cons (79%) placing voter guides at the top of the list. Labor unions slipped to the second-highest ranking (76%), tied with Christian non-profit organizations (76%). Rounding out the top half of the rankings were Protestant churches and pastors, placing fourth with 74% naming them as having had at least some influence.

The ACFI election survey also revealed that voter guides were widely used by SAGE Cons. Overall, three out of four SAGE Cons (75%) said they relied on at least one voter guide to help them make voting decisions in the November election.

Influence Noted by Theolocon Pastors

Theologically conservative pastors saw things differently. Although Protestant churches and pastors ranked fifth in influence among the SAGE Cons, those religious leaders and organizations placed at the top of the list according to the pastors themselves. One out of every five theolocon pastors said such entities had “a lot of impact” on voters. Statistically tied, at 19%, were labor unions. The third-ranked entity was President Obama (16%), followed by a tie between voter guides and Christian non-profit organizations (each listed by 13%).

The entities deemed by pastors to be least likely to have had “a lot of impact” were public opinion polls (12%), Catholic churches and priests (9%), and celebrities who endorsed a candidate (7%).

When the top two descriptions of voting impact were combined – “a lot” plus “some” impact – the rankings changed slightly. Theolocon pastors continued to rate their profession and churches on top of the heap (75%). They were distantly trailed by labor unions (66%), Christian non-profit organizations (59%), Catholic priests and churches (58%), and voter guides (58%). Toward the bottom of the list were President Obama (50%); public opinion polls (47%); and celebrities who endorsed a candidate (37%).

Noteworthy Differences

Some of the differences in perspective between SAGE Cons and theolocon pastors are worth noting.

  • Conservative pastors clearly had a much higher opinion of their influence on the election than did the people they sought to influence. While the pastors tended to rate themselves at the top of the list, conservative voters placed them in the middle of the pack in terms of influence. Similarly, theolocon pastors were more likely to see significant influence from Catholic priests and churches than was experienced by SAGE Cons.
  • Conservative pastors also believed that Christian non-profit organizations had a much greater influence on the voting decisions of people than did Christian conservatives.
  • In the eyes of SAGE Cons, President Obama was highly influential in the election. In the eyes of conservative pastors, the President had much more limited influence.

Another observation from the data is that when compared to the views of SAGE Cons, theolocon pastors assigned less influence to each of the eight entities evaluated. The average percentage citing “a lot of impact” was 20% among SAGE cons but just 14% among pastors. When the “a lot of impact” and “some impact” responses were combined, SAGE Cons had an average of 68% for the eight entities, compared to only 56% among pastors.

Nobody Can Take Full Credit

In reviewing these results, George Barna, the researcher who directed the survey for the American Culture and Faith Institute, stated, “Obviously a lot of different players had influence on the outcome of the election. There were dozens of media personalities who impacted peoples’ perceptions, plus all of the kinds of organizations and individuals tested in this survey. It is ludicrous to hear some of the campaign personnel and other political professionals attributing either Mr. Trump’s win or Mrs. Clinton’s loss to a particular individual or entity. A lot of people and organizations besides the candidates affected the minds and hearts of voters.”

Barna also commented on the finding that a huge majority of both conservative pastors and    conservative voters felt that each of the entities tested made a difference. “Even the least impactful of the entities tested in this survey were said to have had some level of influence by at least five out of six respondents. That should encourage those who participated in the election to feel as if their efforts made a difference. In a democratic republic like ours, the system only works when people are involved. These findings indicate that even limited or low-budget activities are very likely to make some difference in the election, and that such attempts at influencing voters may not get a lot of attention but are generally worth the effort.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 7,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from November 8 through 15, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The research about pastors described in this report is part of the Conservative Clergy Canvass™, a longitudinal survey among theologically conservative pastors of Christian churches. The survey undertaken for this report had a sample size of 500 qualified pastors and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 2016.

ACFI estimates that there are between 95,000 and 110,000 theologically conservative Christian churches in the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES PROVIDING A COMFORTABLE HONEYMOON PERIOD FOR TRUMP TRANSITION

Transitioning from one job to another is usually a bit rocky. With intense media scrutiny and half the country rooting against him, not to mention championing a substantial change in political ideology away from the policies of Barack Obama, the move from businessman to President was certainly not going to be an easy shift for Donald Trump. But during the initial month after the shocking election results were announced things have gone more smoothly than many people expected.

Research from a national survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute among SAGE Cons – Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives – indicates one reason why things may be progressing more smoothly than was anticipated.

Shattered Expectations

Without a doubt, SAGE Cons were the voting segment most supportive of Donald Trump. An Election Day survey by ACFI showed that 93% of SAGE Cons voted for the New York billionaire. Although he was only the fifth most popular choice among SAGE Cons during the early primary season, and many of these devoutly Christian voters maintained concerns about his character, they deemed him the only viable choice in his race against long-time political progressive Hillary Clinton and several other candidates.

Trump’s victory, however, came as a big surprise to most SAGE Cons. Despite their near-unanimous preference, six out of ten of these Christian conservatives (59%) were expecting Hillary Clinton to win.

Multiple Reasons for Their Preference

The ACFI survey explored how SAGE Cons, regardless of which candidate they supported, felt about the potential of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. In a series of questions that assessed critical attributes brought to the presidency by each of the two candidates, the results showed that SAGE Cons overwhelmingly believed that the GOP nominee would bring more to the table than his Democratic challenger.

The following list shows how lopsided the opinions of SAGE Cons were in their comparison of Trump and Clinton.

  • All but a few (95%) said Trump would do a better job at creating new, non-government jobs.
  • Although Mrs. Clinton had years of experience in the U.S. Senate and as Secretary of State, 94% said Trump was more likely to “keep America safe and militarily strong.”
  • The election was partially a referendum on whether people wanted the political status quo to remain intact. SAGE Cons voted resoundingly for change, with 90% of them concurring that Donald Trump was more likely to “bring about the change the political system needs.”
  • After years of political gridlock, Christian conservatives were eager to see some results out of Washington, D.C. They determined that Trump was the man to facilitate it, as 86% said he was more likely than Clinton to “get things done.” Overall, 1% of the SAGE Cons associated Mrs. Clinton with this ability.
  • The hallmark of a great leader is to unite people around a vision for the future. While not everyone in America was enthusiastic about Trump’s vision, SAGE Cons were: 78% felt he had “a clear and compelling vision for the country” while only 2% said the same about Hillary Clinton.
  • The presidency is about providing leadership, and three-quarters of the SAGE Cons (75%) said that Trump was “a strong and decisive leader.” Only 2% said Hillary Clinton better fit that description.
  • Seven out of ten SAGE Cons (71%) said Mr. Trump was the candidate who “really cares about people like you.” Only 2% attributed that quality to Mrs. Clinton.
  • Nearly two out of three Christian conservatives (64%) said that the GOP candidate was better described as “honest and trustworthy” than was the Democratic candidate. Only 1% said Mrs. Clinton was the one with higher integrity.
  • In anticipation of the long road to America’s emotional recovery after a bruising campaign, 63% of SAGE Cons believed that Mr. Trump was the competitor more likely to “unite and heal the country.”
  • A small majority of Christian conservatives (53%) believed that Mr. Trump was the candidate with “the temperament to be an effective president.” Only 6% selected Mrs. Clinton. Many others said neither of them had the ideal temperament for the job.

The research also pointed out that despite their confidence that Donald Trump was better suited to be president than Mrs. Clinton, they maintained some doubts about him. For instance, nearly six out of ten SAGE Cons (57%) said that neither Trump nor Clinton were people they respected and admired. Clearly, they are hoping and praying that he earns their respect and admiration through his performance in the White House.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 2,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter. First published December 7, 2016.

How Brokenness Happens

As an important albeit difficult stop on the journey, brokenness enables us to get beyond ourselves and recognize our need for God’s complete, continuing and uninterrupted intervention in our life. For us to become the people God intends us to be, brokenness is not an optional possibility; it is a necessity. In this article we’ll explore how the act of being broken occurs.

As best I can tell, there are two ways in which brokenness can take place. The first is for us to recognize the problem that mandates the need, understand what brokenness means, and will ourselves into a place of brokenness before God. This requires that we understand the impact of our sin against God, of usurping God’s authority and taking His place on the throne of power, and of taking our cues from society rather than God’s Word. Cut to the heart by our callous insensitivity toward Christ and our consistent wrong doing against a holy and loving deity, we would therefore experience a life-shattering realization of our selfishness, independence, control, and evil. We would desperately throw ourselves on the mercy of God, pleading with Him to forgive our narcissistic and unrighteous behavior. We would find ourselves on the threshold of depression and despair, wholly distraught over our indefensible choices and the effect they have on our relationship with both a loving and benevolent God as well as the people whom we are called to bless. We would be virtually impotent to continue to live without God absolving us of our spiritual sickness, powerless to keep going without His willingness to walk alongside us from now on.

Such a response is theoretically possible and is the approach that many ministries equip us to pursue. However, after conducting thousands of interviews regarding people’s transformational journey, and numerous case studies, I have yet to encounter a single individual who has successfully broken himself.

So that leads to the second means to brokenness. That is allowing God to do it His way. In every case of successful brokenness I’ve studied, it has been initiated by God. He does this by allowing us to endure a life crisis. If the expression “successful brokenness” seems a bit odd, please know that it is an intentional choice of words. It refers to the fact that God often strives to work with us to facilitate our brokenness but we usually resist, resulting in a missed opportunity to minimize ourselves and maximize God’s presence and authority in our lives. Urged on by our secular society, we remain full of ourselves, leaving little room for God to be present in our lives. In fact, our worldview does not interpret life crises as examples of God at work in our life. Rather, we view such challenges as instances of “bad luck,” “chance,” “unfortunate circumstances,” “the circle of life,” “negative karma,” or “the randomness of life.”

To some people it may seem unlikely, unnecessary, or even unloving for God to expose us to harsh circumstances in order to break us. With our upbeat and optimistic theology, a view that glosses over the roles of persecution and suffering, we believe that God’s primary interest is in providing the best for us at all times. We explain away the hardships visited upon Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. We are aghast when we are told that God loves you so much He allowed you to face another crisis, which He followed up with pain and suffering in all four life dimensions (emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually) in order to more perfectly shape us into His image. How, we wonder, is that the work of a loving God?

Actually, the crisis approach is a response to our own refusal to work with Him any other way. It’s not like He hasn’t tried to get our attention through a variety of alternative means. We have left Him little choice besides situational confrontation.

  • He tried to reach us emotionally through our understanding of what His own son, Jesus Christ, went through on our behalf, including how Jesus was broken of (our) sin.
  • He used sermons and other forms of instruction in an effort to penetrate our intellect.
  • He used the Bible as another conduit of psychological challenge, describing His principles, commands, stories, and warnings in the form of narratives, poetry, and polemics.
  • He exposed us to the suffering and hardships of others, hoping we’d learn the lesson vicariously.
  • He even went to the other end of the continuum and tried to penetrate both our head and heart through excessive, undeserved, and frequent blessings, only to see us miss the point by taking those for granted.
  • You can’t say God didn’t go all out in His efforts to rip us out of our comfort zone in softer and gentle ways. But because we constantly resisted His efforts, He has unleashed what may well be the last resort, snapping us to attention in the same way that He broke His Son: through physical hardship and anguish.

By the way, my research found that a majority of people who are finally broken experience harsh circumstances time after time after time. Why? Because the first time or two – or three or more – we take our cues from a culture that says brokenness is for weak losers. We see nothing positive emerging from those difficulties. Instead we deem those challenges to be tests that will prove our worthiness through self-reliance, independence, personal strength, and perseverance.

Sadly, we fail to learn from experience, either ours or that of others whose challenges we observe. Everyone experiences similar hardships, and we go through them over and over. Among the most common forms of crisis that lead to brokenness are imprisonment, debilitating illness or injury, the painful or prolonged death of a loved one, personal bankruptcy, acrimonious divorce, and the loss of possessions in a natural disaster. There are countless other challenges as well, but the research found that a majority of people have undergone these difficulties one or more times en route to brokenness.

Society teaches us that crises are merely stumbling blocks on the path to victory, unfortunate barriers that we can convert into opportunities to show strength and determination. That mindset causes us to have to undergo two or more of these crises before we wake up to our need for God. Or, as John 3:30 reminds us, He must become greater and greater in our life, and we must become less and less.

It is also intriguing that most Christians interpret the reoccurrence of crises as signs of God’s disinterest, punishment, lack of engagement, or inability to protect us rather than as evidence of His involvement, love, care, and concern. This perspective reflects the heart of our worldview – one that is not so much Bible-centric as unrealistic and secular in nature. While the scriptures talk about the centrality of discipline and the refining fire, we cling to a God who shields us from any painful experiences that might help us to grow in our relationship with Him. Consequently, when we get beaten down by life, we question God’s love and power. We assume that He has abandoned us or remains indifferent to our plight.

That worldview misses the point. God’s goal is not to break our spirit but to break our rebelliousness and independence. His efforts to guide us that were less debilitating met with our own indifference or rejection.

Ironically, our continued perseverance in the face of brokenness-inducing crises just produces additional suffering and doubt.

It need not be so hard, of course. The Lord has provided a simpler and easier way out for us, if we are willing to do things His way. In the next article we’ll explore how we can most efficiently cooperate with God in facilitating our brokenness.

(Reader’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles on stops seven through ten of the journey to wholeness. For more information about the common journey through which God transforms people, read George Barna’s book, Maximum Faith).

Why Brokenness Matters to God

Being transformed from someone who is focused almost exclusively upon life-on-earth into someone who lives for and like Jesus Christ requires mastering multiple challenges along the journey to wholeness. Brokenness, which is typically the seventh stop on the 10-stop transformational journey, is imperative to experience, understand, and embrace before further growth is possible.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Christians acknowledge the importance of brokenness but do everything they can to avoid the experience of it. Individual believers seek to avoid brokenness because our culture proclaims that it is for weak people – losers who don’t have the strength, the smarts, the resources, or the resilience necessary to succeed in a competitive world. That same society also tempts people into believing that you need not be broken because the world enables you to have it all, if you set your sights on winning and then play your cards right.

An overwhelming majority of Americans has spent little or no time thinking about or preparing for brokenness. It is not something that families discuss with their children. It is not a lesson taught in schools, even Christian schools. It is not an outcome supported by government programs or rhetoric. In fact, brokenness is not likely to gain much attention from families, schools, or government because it requires a long-term view of life, truth, and purpose that places God and His ways at the center of the discussion. Instead we conceive and promote strategies designed to help us live “in the moment” more effectively, ignoring the well-known truth that such a lifestyle is destined to fail. When comfortable survival and immediate gratification are the chief ends of life, that life is resigned to insignificance.

Churches are partly at fault for Christians not taking brokenness seriously. Because the perceived success of most churches is so intimately tied to the number of people attending, and because it is virtually impossible to draw (and retain) a crowd when the teaching promises the inevitable struggles that accompany brokenness, this is one of the topics that gets little attention and urgency. My studies have found that churchgoers are taught very little, if anything, about the beauty and necessity of brokenness for their own wholeness. Few church people are allowed to reach the precipice of brokenness within their congregational context because individual happiness is often accepted as a natural outcome and a higher end of the Christian life than the necessity of being crushed by our offenses against God. Some Christian churches even preach a theology that claims God will protect His people from all hurt and hardship.

The Importance of Being Broken

The Maximum Faith research indicated that the pain and distress of being broken is necessary in order to facilitate personal and corporate wholeness. Let me briefly share four reasons underlying the significance of this experience.

1.     We are called to imitate the life of Christ.

One of the most pressing challenges that followers of Christ face is that of mimicking what He modeled for us. (Eph 5:1) He assumed the burden of our sins, sins He did not commit, and was crushed by them. He did not savor that pain but He embraced the brokenness that led to not only God’s grace and Christ’s own glorification but also to the justification and sanctification of hundreds of millions of human beings.

Many Christians in America talk about following Christ but the true way to imitate Him is to eliminate the grip of sin, self, and society on our mind, heart and soul. That starts with seeing sin, self, and society for what they are, especially in contrast to the incomparable riches available through Jesus Christ, and then choosing wisely between those options. Our salvation is not of our own making but our sanctification is certainly related to our willingness to replicate the model that Jesus gave us: rejecting sin, allowing its weight to break us, and allowing God to restore us through our voluntary and comprehensive determination to surrender and submit to Him.

2.     Our intimacy with God is blocked by our love of other things – and can only be restored by willingly becoming a broken vessel.

The concept of “fatal attractions” has no better application than in regard to things that get in the way of our relationship with God. Our life is meant to be lived for Him and His purposes. Objectively, it doesn’t get better than that. Yet 99% of American adults – literally – have chosen to pursue beings, possessions, and conditions that relegate God to a secondary (or worse) position in our minds, hearts, and lives. Those preferences amount to our continuing affair with sin, self, society.

In essence we are adulterers until we voluntarily abandon those errant passions. If we do not master those distractions and preferences they control us and keep us from being who God created us to be: His loving and obedient servants.

In our “sophisticated” culture we denigrate any decision that is portrayed in black or white terms. In reality, our life is based upon a series of pivotal black or white decisions. The most important of those is: Will I live my life solely for the pleasure and benefit of God, or not? Every subsequent choice in life is built upon the foundation of that answer.

3.     Brokenness precedes wholeness.

A friend challenged my thinking on this, noting that something must be whole before it can be broken. What he overlooked was that we were conceived by God to be holy before we chose to pursue the elements that offend and replace God in our lives, and that is what created the weakness in us that allows for the benefit of true brokenness. But, of course, once we have been separated from that which made us weak, we then have the opportunity to again be made strong by the One who has the strength to do all things.

Unless we understand and embrace our own brokenness we are insulated from so many of the glorious and desirable promises God has made to us. Rejecting brokenness prevents us from:

1.     experiencing all the promises God has made to you in His Word (2Cor 6:14-7:1; Heb 6:9-12, 11:4-19; 2Pet 1:3-11)

2.     becoming the “new creation” God envisions us to be (2Cor 5:17; Eph 4:24; Rom 12:2; Gal 6:15)

3.     experiencing true freedom from the bondage of sin, self, society (Rom 6:14, Gal 3:22-5:13)

4.     worshiping God in fullness because He is not on the throne of our life (Matt 4:10, 15:9; John 4:23-24, 9:31; Rom 1:23, 9:4; Col 3:5)

5.     realizing our utter impotence in the grand scope of creation, and the inevitability of either giving in to God or suffering tragic earthly and eternal consequences (Job 38; Gal 6:7-10; Phil 2:5-10)

4.     For God to complete His work in your life, you must decide to eliminate the garbage you have chosen that keeps Him at arm’s length.

Jesus told his detractors that the most important task they faced was to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30). My research with American adults who are people on the journey to holiness emphasized the importance and accuracy of that contention. People become isolated from God and resistant to brokenness because of emotional blockages or pain (i.e., issues of the heart); because of spiritual ignorance, confusion, or self-indulgence (i.e., matters of the soul); because of intellectual distortions and misunderstandings (i.e., challenges of the mind); or because of behavioral and physical obstacles (i.e., manifestations of our strength). Our adversary is expert at blending potential seductions in these areas into a minefield that maims and retards us.

However, in our moments of clarity, we might recognize the truth: we are being held back from the loving embrace of a Father who wants nothing less than to heal, love, preserve, and enjoy us. When we feel that His response to our stray behaviors and thoughts are stern, we have to realize that His unyielding response to our rebellion is the necessary act of a loving parent who must discipline a wayward child for the good of that youngster. And we must see our difficult times as the precursor to ultimate victory in Christ. While the powers of this world have often succeeded at distorting our understanding of the process and purposes of God, in the end the hardships He allows are a necessary and beneficial aspect of our development.

In fact, if we study God’s teachings about our well-being, we cannot escape the realization that brokenness is a biblical promise and an eternal gift. We resent it because western societies have become soft and embrace a sense of entitlement. We believe our own press about our great accomplishments and sensitivities. We seek continual comfort, abundance, security, and leisure. We deem hardships and sacrifice unnecessary, and sometimes believe they are even unfair or counterproductive. We consider pain and suffering to be avoidable and undesirable. We recoil in horror at the notion of voluntary brokenness. Our wholehearted embrace of this worldly perspective is our tangible rejection of the foundation of Jesus’s model and message for us.

The Importance of Brokenness

The process of allowing God to transform you into the people He envisioned you becoming is a lifelong challenge. Often, we believe we have dealt with our sin issue by saying some words that invite Jesus to be our savior, and after making that decision we move on to face the other challenges of life. We feel comforted in believing that our place in heaven is secure and that we no longer have to fret about Satan’s impact on our eternal life.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is a lot of misunderstanding and unfinished business related to our salvation. (And yes, this topic is fraught with theological landmines, so I will attempt to tread carefully.) My research suggests that millions of Americans “say the prayer” that they assume guarantees them eternal salvation. But the research also confirms that a large share of those people does not develop a real “relationship” with Christ, they have not really broken ranks with sin, and they are not truly living for God’s purposes. Millions of people who have said a salvation prayer missed the primary caveat of that offer: you must be broken of sin, self, and society in order to truly be freed to become a follower of Christ.

The data indicate that very few people – barely one out of ten adults in the United States – could be considered to have been broken by their understanding of and distaste for their offenses against God. And a huge majority of Christians believes that you can be saved without experiencing such brokenness.

Sadly, they are wrong. There is no salvation without brokenness.

The Bible leaves no doubt as to the necessity of brokenness. Consider some of the evidence:

  • King David lived life to the fullest –sometimes too full. Among other sins, we know that he suffered from lust, engaged in adultery, and was guilty of murder. In order to grab David’s attention and teach him the seriousness of what he had willfully done, God allowed David’s marriage to dissolve, his baby died, and his older children rebelled against him. David was a man after God’s heart, but God had to break him. (2Samuel 11-15)

 

  • The apostle Paul was a brilliant scholar and skilled debater. But he suffered from hatred (of Christians) and pride. God loved Paul enough to break him through blindness, beatings, imprisonment, mistrust, questions about his standing as an apostle, and public humiliation. (Acts 9, 2Cor 6, 12)

 

  • Jonah was a reluctant and disobedient prophet. He heard and refused the call of God, preferring to let his enemies experience God’s harsh judgment. Jonah’s self-centeredness and lack of compassion toward fellow sinners resulted in a life marked by emotional turmoil, physical peril, and public rejection. (Jonah 1-3)

 

  • Moses was a highly educated orphan, raised in a privileged environment to prepare for leadership. But after breaking away from his Egyptian setting, he returned to lead God’s people. Unfortunately, in one particular circumstance he disobeyed God and beat a rock with a stick, ostensibly taking credit for a miracle God performed by generating water from that stone. That act of defiance displayed the level of pride and anger residing within Moses. In response, God allowed Israel’s leader to complete the work of leading the Jews to the brink of the Promised Land but banned Moses from entering it. (Numbers 20)

Note that in each case God’s response was more than simple punishment. It was actions intended to break the heart of the sinner and cause them to reform their relationship with God.

Personally, it was God’s reaction to Moses that finally awoke me to what was going on. For years I had felt that Moses got a raw deal. Sure, he hit a rock with a stick because he was tired of people whining. That hardly seems worthy of depriving Moses, the diligent leader who had to put up with doubters and complainers for years of miserable trekking through a desert based on little more than pure faith, the joy of experiencing the place God had reserved for Israel. What would motivate God to react so sternly to such a minor miscue? To my human mind, the punishment did not fit the crime; it seemed way over the top. From my arrogant, self-absorbed perspective, it seemed blatantly unfair.

But that punishment was simply a necessary means to a glorious end. That in-your-face response by God finally pierced the spirit of Moses and enabled him to receive an incredible gift: brokenness. Through the ensuing brokenness, Moses was able to know God more genuinely, deeply and completely. He was able to walk more closely with Him and serve Him more appropriately. He transitioned from self-centered leadership to God-centered service. And he was able to accept the loss of a prized earthly reward in exchange for an invaluable eternal reward.

Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention that Jesus Himself was broken. He had to experience that devastation, not because of anything He did, but because of our sin. But even the holy Son of God was not spared the pain and suffering inherent in being separated from intimacy with God because of our offensive choices. As much as anything, the fact that our holy and righteous savior was broken is the ultimate sign to us, God’s offenders, of just how important it is for us to abandon anything that stands in the way of our complete reliance upon God for true life.

Almost every great biblical hero was broken by God through multiple life crises or harsh circumstances designed for that purpose. There is no getting around the reality: even the best of us needs to be broken, fully and completely detached from our dalliance with sin, self, and society.

If you examine the individuals involved in all these instances, you’ll see that God does not force us to accept brokenness. He always allows us to choose. But if you are wise, you will discover that you either allow God to use circumstances to wake you and break you, or you may count on continuing to fight Him and suffer.

Most people never realize that brokenness is actually a gift from God that demonstrates His awesome and unyielding love. We typically examine the circumstances designed to guide us from a casual acquaintance to an intense and intimate lover of God and foolishly conclude that they are harmful to our well-being. In reality, they are God’s means of bringing us to our knees before Him, in full-on repentance, enabling us to see the truth of who we are, who He is, how we treat Him, and how compassionate He is.

In our culture-aided confusion we focus on the deprivation, sacrifice, pain, suffering, hardship, and persecution that God injects into our experience. We mistakenly assume that once we believe nice things about God and invest a few personal resources in the development of our faith, the appropriate response by our Father should be affirmation, comfort, pleasure, rewards, and happiness.

But that’s only because we understand neither the nature of God nor the beauty of brokenness.

So if you are serious about honoring and loving God, eliminating your gnawing sense of spiritual discontent or incompleteness, and living your life to the fullest degree, then you have no choice but to embrace brokenness and to trust God alone to bring you through it.