Evangelical pollster George Barna has released an analysis of the voters who supported Joe Biden – and he doesn’t like what he sees.
A press release about the survey, conducted by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University, where Barna teaches, contains a rather offensive headline: “Biden voters worship at the altar of ambiguity.”
From there it asserts, “Biden is reported to have received votes from roughly 81 million adults” – as if there is some doubt about that. Barna goes on to say that nearly two-thirds of these Biden voters “consider themselves to be Christian,” but he quickly adds that “the Biden base is not particularly active in or committed to that faith.”
Barna reports that 72% of Biden voters “believe that a person who is generally good, or does enough good things for others, will earn a place in Heaven”; that 68% believe that the “Holy Spirit is not a living entity, but is merely a symbol of God’s presence, power, or purity”; and that 63% “do not believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who rules that universe today.”
According to Barna, the Bible “is also not held in high regard by the Biden base. Only three out of ten (30%) believe that the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God and contains no errors.”
At this point, a little context is helpful: Barna was raised Roman Catholic but at some point, he converted to a fundamentalist form of evangelical Christianity. For the past several years, he has been hanging out with the Family Research Council and other white Christian nationalist groups that believe the myth that the United States is an officially Christian nation and that religion should inform our secular laws and policies.
This clearly colors his interpretation of the survey results. Barna is shocked – shocked! – that many people believe good works alone can get one into heaven. He shouldn’t be – it’s an article of faith for millions of American Catholics and resonates with others as well. Barna is also bothered because millions of Americans refuse to interpret the Bible literally. He and his fellow fundamentalists have always thrust a false choice in our faces: either you interpret the Bible literally, as they do, or you can get nothing from it. Millions of Americans, Christian and non-Christian, have rejected that simplistic dichotomy.
Barna is a huge name in polling. No one doubts the accuracy of his information; it’s his interpretation that is offensive. In the press release, Barna insists that the country was founded on the Bible – it wasn’t – and says, “A strong and thriving society requires a stable foundation of truth on which to make just and appropriate decisions. The more the United States puts distance between itself and its moral and spiritual moorings, the less likely we are to facilitate a healthy and vibrant government and way of life.”
Gee, I wonder that that “stable foundation of truth” is? Could it be the rigid, fundamentalist Christianity embraced by Barna and his fellow fundamentalists? And here we have what’s really bothering these folks: Millions of Americans, including many Christians who voted for Biden, aren’t fundamentalists. They insist on interpreting the Bible differently than Barna. Some of them even have the audacity to question, to doubt and even to criticize the doctrines that are settled truth to fundamentalists.
Barna had better get used to it. According to some other polls out there, growing numbers of Americans are taking advantage of religious freedom and doing their own thing. This includes interpreting the Bible in ways that fundamentalists do not like, being liberal Christians, adopting non-Christian faiths and rejecting religion entirely.
No one should be surprised that this is happening. It’s kind of the whole point of the First Amendment, after all.