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America's Seven "Faith Tribes"

posted Jul 7, 2012, 10:59 PM by hbchurch org   [ updated Jul 7, 2012, 11:12 PM ]


George Barna is a well-respected religious pollster who has been taking America’s religious pulse for over 30 years. In 2009 he published a book entitled The Seven Faith Tribes: Who Are They, What They Believe, and Why They Matter. In May of 2009 he was interviewed about his findings; here are some excerpts from that session.

The seven tribes include Casual Christians, Captive Christians, Mormons, Jews, Pantheists, Muslims and Skeptics...Barna’s studies indicate that Casual Christians represent 66% of the adult population of the U.S. (The percentage of the adult population represented by the other half-dozen tribes included 16% who are Captive Christians, 2% Jews, 2% Mormons, 2% Pantheists, one-half of 1% Muslims, and 11% Skeptics.)

Question: What have you found to be the appeal of Casual Christianity, as opposed to what draws people to the Captive Christian or even the Mormon tribes – that is, other tribes that are much more fervent about their faith?

Barna: Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.

Question: What are the critical elements that make the Casual Christians tick?

Barna: The comfort that this approach provides. It offers them life insights if they choose to accept them, gives them a community of relationships if they desire such, fulfills their inner need to have some type of connection with a deity, and provides the image of being a decent, faith-friendly person. Because Casuals do not view matters of faith as central to one’s purpose or success in life, this brand of Christianity supplies the multi-faceted levels of satisfaction and assurance that they desire.”

Note that Barna’s definition of a Casual Christian can easily include any person in any religious group. If his numbers are right (and his track-record is very good), then we should not be surprised to find that many churches of Christ have an increasing number of people like this in their membership. The antidote to this deadly trend is to “...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. (2 Pet. 3:18). If Mr. Barna observed you for a few weeks, what “tribe” label would he stick on you? But more importantly, what is God’s assessment of your faith? I see no room for Casual Christianity in “love...God with all your heart”. (Matt. 22:37). Do you?

Ken Dart