4-13-18: Barna’s Latest Research – American’s favor Capitalism, but tempted by Socialism

Sam Rohrer:                 Well in 1682, William Penn, upon receiving land which later became the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he got it from the King of England. William Penn chose not to make himself king, although he could have done so. He had the ability to do so. Instead, he laid down his frame of government, which is what it’s called, in which he identified 10 Biblical principles necessary for a new nation to be formed based on the model of Israel of old, established by God himself. And I’m going to share those 10 principles with you in just a moment but suffice it to say William Penn called his hopeful model for a new nation based on Biblical principles of free choice and self government, he called that a Holy Experiment. It was Holy because it was based on Biblical principles. And it was an experiment because it had never been done before.

Well God answered his prayer for a Holy Experiment to become an example to the nations, that was his prayer, and that became the United States of America. His prayer was answered. But William Penn and the founders that followed his model made one point very clear, the experiment in self government, a self governing republic based on the Old Testament model of capitalism could only begin, grow and survive if the citizens and the leaders submitted themselves in the fear of God to following the 10 commandments of God.

Now, was an understanding of this warning of William Penn and the founders evident in the latest research from the American Culture and Faith Institute? We’re going to find out on this program today with our special guest and the initiator of recent research, George Barna. He’s executive director of the American Culture and Faith Institute. And with that introduction I’d like to welcome you to stand in the gap today. I’m Sam Rohrer and I’m accompanied today by evangelist Dave Kistler, president of the North Carolina’s Pastor Network and of Hope to the Hill in Washington DC and Dr. Gary Dull, executive director of the Pennsylvania’s Pastor Network and senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Well men, before we get into the research today with George on his latest research that he entitled, “Americans Favor Capitalism but Tempted by Socialism,” let me read quickly the 10 principles necessary to begin and maintain a self governing republic that incorporates the concept of capitalism. These are what William Penn laid out in 1682 that really formed the foundation of our nation. Very quickly they are these:

  1. Understand the nature and the role of God as creator, judge, holy and sovereign.
  2. Understand the nature of man, that man is sinful and depraved.
  3. Understand the purpose for government. It is to enact justice, praise those who do well, punish those who do evil.
  4. Understand the purpose for law, that law was made for the lawbreaker. It’s the basis for determining of justice and it’s the basis for government.
  5. Understand the natural tendency of government. And that is to consolidate itself and to become ultimately dictatorial.
  6. Understand the components of justice. That is truth, balanced with mercy and applied equitably to all. That’s justice.
  7. Understand the duty of citizens and leaders to protect freedom.
  8. Understand the need to build safeguards into the system because of the nature of man to be sinful and the nature of government to consolidate it’s power.
  9. Understand the need for a virtuous education of the youth. You’ve got to teach them certain basic principles or you’re going to lose it is what they said.
  10. Understand the need for an ongoing dependence upon prayer. Because, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain” that doted Psalm 127.

And that’s what Penn said and that’s what even Benjamin Franklin cited at the beginning of the Constitution. Now with that, I’m going to lay that foundation down. I want to go to George right off and say, George, thanks for being with us today again on the program.

George Barna:              It’s good to be with you and I’m looking forward to this discussion. That’s a great way to open this up.

Sam Rohrer:                 Well George, I want to start right off here with you and before you share, though, the findings of your research, I want to get that into the next segment. Just in a general sense, you heard those principles I laid down there. Is there any evidence to suggest that the 2,000 participants or so that were a part of your survey demonstrated any working knowledge of these 10 principles that I just cited? And if they had, would the results have been strikingly different?

George Barna:              Well it’s an interesting question because, Sam, basically what you began to lay down for us were the fundamental elements of having a world view that’s based on the Bible. And so really I interpret what you just asked me as, do the people that we interview who are a representation of people from across the country, do the Americans have a Biblical world view? And essentially what we know from our ongoing research is that only about one out of every 10 adults in America has a Biblical world view. And our background testing on this particular sample in this survey found exactly the same thing.

And so we know that people who have a Biblical world view have a very different perspective, a very different way of thinking about meaning and purpose in life, about truth and about how they’re going to live their lives in accordance with Biblical principles. That’s uncommon in America today. So when you lay out William Penn’s 10 principles, that would be something that people with a Biblical world view would be not only familiar with and comfortable with, but something that they would hold as a personal standard at their time to live in accordance with.

And when we do our research and compare the people, the 10% or so who have a Biblical world view with the views and the behaviors of those who do not, we always find huge difference in both beliefs and behavior. Differences in terms of how we look at what is success in life, what is meaning in life, what’s the purpose of government, what’s the appropriate behavior of government, how should a family be developed and how should family parent their children? How would finances or money be handled? What’s appropriate there? How to think about the role of the church, the local church and the church at large in a person’s life and in society? The content of truth and where you find it.

All of those things we consistently find to be radically different between those two groups. So in direct answer to your question, do people basically have a working knowledge of William Penn’s 10 principles? Not today. Historically the evidence suggests that in colonial America, nothing that he put on paper there would have been an eye opener to people. Nothing that he put on paper in those 10 principles would have been deemed controversial. Today it’s exactly the opposite. I’m sure as you were reading that many people who were listening didn’t understand that and had never heard that before. So there is a big difference.

Sam Rohrer:                 Surveys and research, if done accurately reflect the attitudes and the views of people in a given class at a certain point in time. They’re helpful for many reasons. And without a doubt, had this particular research, which George Barna will share in just a moment, had been done a generation ago, even 10 years ago, regarding the understanding of capitalism, socialism, private property or any underlying principle of our self governing republic, I suspect that the results would have been strikingly different. And George actually did comment on that just a little bit ago.

Nations and cultures, though, tend to be always moving. They’re not static. They’re like living organisms. The question is what direction are they moving? Are they moving toward the principles of freedom? Or towards totalitarianism? Are they moving toward the principles of what God lays down or away from God? Toward truth or towards relativism? In this segment we’re going to talk with George Barna, executive director of American Culture and Faith Institute about what he means when he says Americans only favor capitalism but tempted by socialism.

So George I want to get you back in here right off and say give us the top line and the bottom line of the research you just completed. Why did you conclude that Americans only “favor” capitalism?

George Barna:              Well it was kind of interesting the way we do the research. First of all the big item for everybody to understand and that precipitated this particular research was that over the last two or three years, we’ve been noticing that when we ask people whether they prefer socialism to capitalism, started out two or three years ago where we were in the low 30% range of people saying they would prefer socialism. And that was shocking enough. But over the last three years or so we’ve seen that that proportion has slowly but steadily increased to the point where today 40% of American adults say they would prefer socialism to capitalism.

Now it’s important to understand, somebody’s going to say that’s not across the board. It’s true. As you look at different subgroups of the population, they all have different proportions which lean in that way. And what you find is that the millennials, the youngest adults in America today, those generally under the age of 30 are the ones that are the most likely to say that they prefer socialism. What’s most shocking about that is it’s a majority of millennials who say they would prefer socialism.

Now that’s meaningful for a number of reasons. Number one, they’re the largest generation in America’s history. Number two, they are the future leaders of American society. And right now when you have 52% of them saying they’d prefer socialism, that should send up a red flag for those who believe that capitalism is the appropriate manner for America. Millennials, of course, are generally building their world view upon post modernism so it may not be surprising, but I think it is frightening.

Part of the other thing that comes out of this research is that we also discovered that the more that we talked with people about their preference, whether it was socialism, communism, capitalism, what we found is the more that we talk with people, the less sure they became about what they believed. And by the end of the survey we asked them the initial question again, which one they would prefer and we found that there was a tremendous softening of people’s perspectives on this with a huge proportion of them actually coming up, the largest proportion coming out and saying they didn’t know.

So that tells us that people are really ill informed about the systems of government, the systems of our society within which we live. And so there’s a tremendous educational opportunity and we have no time to waste in that.

Gary Dull:                     You know, George, it’s interesting that you use that word preference and at some point in time I think I’d like to dig into this a little bit with you. Preference versus conviction on world view and even on capitalism versus socialism. But sticking with your survey, you found some interesting proportions in various population groups as it relates to socialism. And when I read over this earlier this morning, it was interesting what you found. In other words, you found that one out of every five political conservatives, that’s 21% lean towards socialism. Three out of 10 born again Christians lean towards socialism. One fourth of those who are theologically conservative, 24% lean toward socialism. One in six adults with a Biblical world view lean toward socialism. 15% and more than four out of 10 residents of the south, that’s 43% lean towards socialism.

I was interested in noticing there that 30% of those who call themselves Christian and 24% of those who call themselves theologically conservative are leaning towards socialism. It doesn’t surprise me that only one in six adults with a Biblical world view lean towards socialism but I don’t even know how that one does it, to be honest. But having said all of that, out of all of these statistics and the findings, which one most surprised you?

George Barna:              Well honestly maybe different ones that have surprised you the most. I mean the one that really shocked me was residents of the South where you’ve got almost half of the people living in the South, 43% saying that they would prefer socialism. To me that’s shocking because when we look at the political map and we divide it into the red and the blue and the purple states, typically what we find is those are what we consider the red states. Those are the ones that would be considered, typically, to be the most solidly conservative. And if we were to put a map on there of where we would find devoted Christians, the heaviest ink would be in the southern states because that’s where you find most of the people who still are most committed to Christianity.

So yeah, I was really surprised by that. The other one that I guess would get second place on that list would be political conservatives. Because when you think about what it means to be a political conservative, typically it has to do with fighting for freedom and independence, wanting limited government, government to have limited authority, people having more freedom. Conservatism usually has to do with self reliance, it has to do with individual responsibility. All those things are the antithesis of what socialism is about. So to find that one out of five political conservatives said that they would prefer socialism was also pretty shocking to me.

Dave Kistler:                 George, one of the things you do incredibly well is drill down below the numbers and try to find out not only the reason for why people are saying what they’re saying that’s reflected in your research, but you also sometimes find inconsistencies in people’s response that we have found on this program to be very, very interesting. In this particular research that you did, were there any inconsistencies that you found as you drilled down into some of the responses?

George Barna:              Yeah, Dave, that’s a great question because it’s actually one of the key things that we discovered and it’s in the report, that we found that when we compared people’s stated preference for either capitalism or socialism with a series of questions we followed up with about lifestyles and about governance choices, where we did not attach any kind of labels to those lifestyles or governance choices, what we found was that there was huge inconsistency which tells us that people really don’t understand what capitalism is or what socialism is.

Perhaps it’s just that they’re not sold on one or the other and so they’d like more of a syncretistic form of government. But in all likelihood, we’re not very well informed about these things. We found that people who say they prefer capitalism, only 17% of the time did they actually choose the capitalistic approach to a lifestyle and governance every time. People who said they preferred socialism, there was only a 2% consistency in terms of the answers that they gave, which tells us that really they like the label more than they may like the substance of what socialism is.

So a different way of saying all that is in 81% of the cases, people had inconsistent views given the stated preference of what kind of nation they want, capitalistic or socialistic. And again, I think this goes back to what we opened up the program talking about, which has to do with a person’s world view. When we study people’s world view from a spiritual perspective, in America we find that very, very, very few people have a consistent world view. Even if they have a Biblical world view, there are elements of post modernism and existentialism and many other world views that tend to prevent. And so it tends to be more syncretistic where we’ve combined elements from different entities.

So I think that’s part of what we’re struggling with here in America. People don’t really understand what it is. They like the label socialism and I think the reason is because they believe that’s going to give us a kinder, gentler approach to life in America. That’s one of the things that Americans are looking for. And so they tend to think socialism may be the thing that gives it to us. And if it does that, it may help to unite the country.

People right now, the vast majority of them believe the country is on the wrong track, we’re moving in the wrong direction. They’re dissatisfied with government, they’re looking for leaders who are going to heal the divide that we have in America today. And because they know, perhaps that we’ve been a capitalist nation but also because they’ve been bombarded with information from the prior administration as well as the mass media, they tend to believe maybe socialism would be a better way to go because what we’re doing right now in their eyes isn’t working.

Sam Rohrer:                 George, what you just laid out there, quite a mouthful. And I’m not going to be able to follow up with another question for you right now. We’ll save some of that for the next segment, but I wonder if they could even come to an agreement on a common definition of socialism and a capitalist. Based on what you’re saying, probably not.

Now, moving further into the implications of this research as we’ve been finding. When you have a near majority of Americans actually lean to socialism we’re in trouble. The extraordinary lack of understanding about basic principles of government, understanding of God, the concept of right and wrong and a host of things seem to mark our current American 21st century culture. Unfortunately, as we’ve talked many times in this program about, this lack of understanding is not limited to just non church people. But also it’s finding it’s way into those who identify themselves as Christians. Although in that segment it’s normally to a slightly less degree. But it’s there.

The real facts seem to indicate that our nation is moving, at break neck speed, away from God, away from freedom, away from truth really into the hands and the arms of totalitarians, what our founders were so fearful about. And we’re moving from our national heritage at such a speed that when you look at the numbers it causes you to think of this, can our national long survive? So in this segment I’m going to talk with George Barna about the implications of this most recent research. Again, the title that he titled it, Americans Favor Capitalism, but Tempted by Socialism, but they’re ill informed about both.

George, I want to get right in to this and ask you straight out, in your opinion as a long standing researcher, social science researcher, doing things in the church, outside the church all across this nation for a long time, based on the findings of this latest research and others, is the American republic as we have known it facing extinction? And if so, unless something intervenes quickly and deeply, how long do we have until we join the dustpan of history like so many of the great empires have done?

George Barna:              Yeah, it’s kind of a scary question to ever think about, Sam, but I think it’s the right one for us to be asking given the results of a survey like this. I think if we’re talking about whether or not we’re going to go extinct as a democratic republic that was and has been for more than 200 years, based on Biblical principles, I would say yeah. I think that’s abundantly possible when you look at many different factors that play into that. You look at the fact that the fastest growing faith group in America are people who say they have no faith and they want no faith. When you look at the fact that only 10% of Americans have a Biblical world view, when you look at what it is that our churches consider to be success in ministry. When you look at what people do and do not know about the government systems and all of the social institutions that form the framework of what has made America such a great nation for so long.

I would have to say, yeah it is certainly possible. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. But if we look at the momentum that takes place in a culture, the momentum is on the side of America shifting from what it has been traditionally to what people think they may want it to be in the future. But the challenge here, I think, is that the basis for decision making, which is what we would call the world view, is that most Americans do not equate their world view with having anything to do with politics or government.

And so we’ve got the difficulty of even Christians think they’re buying into the secular idea that you have to separate faith and the rest of your existence, including politics and government. Now, I would also, however, say that the hope for us being able to pull America back from the brink here is the levels of confusion and ignorance that we’re measuring. And I don’t say that to be derogatory toward the American people, it’s just an observation based on the data. We really don’t know what it is we’re talking about when 40% of us say we want socialism.

And to your comment at the end of the last segment before the commercial break, could people give us a solid definition of socialism or capitalism? No. I’ve got the research, I can definitively show you that people don’t really know what either one of those are. And right now they’re simply looking for different kinds of things in life, a much more superficial understanding of how to live. They want to be happy, they want to be free, they want to be safe, they want to be comfortable. Those are the things they’re looking for but they haven’t put it together with, yes but what are the responsibilities that you have to take on? What are the commitments that you have to embrace in order to live in a place where you could hope to have those kinds of outcomes?

Dave Kistler:                 George, last week we did five programs on the topic of Islam and one of those programs actually was a discussion on the infiltration of Islam into the church of Jesus Christ. It’s stunning what is taking place, has taken place. So obviously over the last number of years the targeting of public education and the media, the rewriting of history, the continual demeaning of Christianity, Biblical standards, even the infiltration of Bible colleges and seminaries by Marxists, communists, those on the left, obviously they’ve been very successful in their infiltration. So my question to you is this, what has the church not done well? Or maybe even better worded, what is it the church needs to do much better, significantly better, if we’re going to have any chance of keeping, as Sam asked you earlier, keeping America from going into the dustpan of history?

George Barna:              Well, again, a great question there. And it’s because, I think our churches have fallen into the same kind of confusion and distractions that the rest of the society has been prone to. So when we look at what the church has and hasn’t been doing, we hae not done a good job of raising up each generation with a solid foundation in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. People do not know how to think about whether or not God exists, they don’t know very much about the character of God, they know very little about the mechanics of sin and salvation and how the Bible talks about the interplay of those.

People don’t buy into the notion that the Bible provides truth and that in fact many situations, there’s absolute moral truth. It’s not relative to the individual and his or her circumstances or feelings. They don’t understand the spiritual authorities that exist and the fact that we live in the context of a spiritual battle between those spiritual authorities.

So those very, very basic things for a world view, the church typically doesn’t teach on those things. There are many churches that do it, but when you look at the 320,000 or so Protestant churches, the 20,000 Catholic churches that we’ve got across America, those aren’t things that they focus on.

Now that’s compounded by the problem where we tend not to help people think about and hold them accountable for integrating Biblical principles into every dimension of life. This is the application of our faith, not just the knowledge and understanding of it, but taking it and making it real from moment to moment in our lives. Instead, what we’ve been led to do by the society and allowed to do it in many cases by our faith communities is we compartmentalize our faith. So we’re Christians on Sunday morning but the rest of the week, we’re worried about making money, about having free time, about feeling good and so forth.

So bottom line here, I’d say, is that part of what we’ve lost is the boldness of the church in the marketplace. What we’ve done is we’ve accommodated our opponents notion that there should be a separation of church and state, meaning that religious elements, our faith, should not be evident in the marketplace. When a point in fact, that’s not in the Constitution, it’s not what the framers of the Constitution believe. It’s not something that would have served our nation well as it was getting off the ground. It’s not right.

In fact, we need our faith to be integrated into every nook and cranny of our culture and of our individual lives. We cannot afford to be timid. We need to protect the opportunity to have our faith be integrated into every dimension of life. And that’s not something the church has done well. We’ve almost become like salts that we just throw on the corner of the steak. And so we’re just seasoning that one little portion rather than seasoning the entire landscape.

Gary Dull:                     You know, George, we’re about out of time for this segment but I’ve just finished a four week series on the Biblical world views. I do, so often in my preaching ministry here at Altoona. But you know, I just want to say to those listening, pastors have a great responsibility, do they not, to teach the components of the Biblical world view and back in 2005, I think it is, you wrote a book entitled something like Thinking Like Jesus.

George Barna:              Think Like Jesus, yeah.

Gary Dull:                     What’s that George?

George Barna:              Yeah it was Think Like Jesus.

Gary Dull:                     Think Like Jesus. It’s an excellent book and I would encourage everybody and anybody to get that. It gets them on track as it relates to the Biblical world view.

Sam Rohrer:                 Research and knowledge does no good if it’s not well considered and then applied. But research properly done should provide data that not only points to where we are at a moment of time but over time to tell us how we got to this point. And how things must change if the findings are to be altered. Now in the case of the findings of this research about Christians and the American’s views towards socialism and capitalism and their attitudes and their knowledge towards not only the definition of capitalism and socialism that we know now is not understood, but the application of the underlying principles that under gird that as they relate, for instance to the purposes and the function of government or the role of the church and the family. They know that even less.

So the question is, how’d we get here? And is there a way back? So in this solution segment here as we wrap up the program from today I’m going to go back now to our special guest, George Barna, executive director of the American Culture and Faith Institute to talk and ask you, George, now this. When did the shift in our cultural understanding of economics, the role of the church, the role of government, these things that we’re talking about here that come to bear on your research socialism, capitalism, when did these things actually begin to fundamentally change? And in your opinion, what was the primary cause for that change?

George Barna:              Well, you know, it’s one of those realities where none of this happens overnight. And so if we’re going to talk about how this change has progressed over time we’ve actually got to go back, I believe, to the turn of the 20th century when Woodrow Wilson was elected president. In essence he was our first socialist who took office in the White House. He put in a number of different programs, introduced a lot of different perspectives. A few years after his presidency, then, a couple of presidents later you have Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR, who brought in his New Deal kinds of programs and he used the war time as his excuse for giving government more power, for taking more freedoms away from people.

You jump ahead a few presidents and you’ve got Lyndon Johnson after John Kennedy died. He took over as president so he finished out Kennedy’s term, he had his own four year term. So while he was there he had what he called the Great Society Programs and there again was a power grab and a money grab by government and by the people running the government.

And then of course you had President Obama, Barrack Obama for eight years very recently who continued and advanced that socialist agenda. From a political point of view, that’s kind of the stepping stone that we’ve had for where we’re at today. With their idea that the people are not smart enough and they’re not capable enough of governing themselves, what we really need is the elite, the intelligentsia who can fill those positions of power and authority and make the key decisions.

But that wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t have churches losing their standing in the culture. And that really began around the 70s. 1970s where suddenly instead of focusing on spiritual depth, we had churches beginning to focus on church growth. And so there were all kinds of movements, the secret movements and other things, which in and of themselves weren’t bad but what they did was they took their eye off depth of spirituality and making real, genuine disciples. And instead became very responsive to coverage by the media, very concerned about whether or not they could grow large enough to be considered a mega church.

And all of that with a reduced teaching on scriptural truth had allowed the culture to change in terms of it’s values and it’s world view. Our values shifted from things like truth and obedience to things like comfort and popularity. Our world view went from being predominantly a world view to more of a post modern world view, which says there’s no absolute moral truth. All that matters are the experiences that you have, the connections that you make with other people, how you feel about yourself. Your feelings are supreme rather than any kind of dedicated truth.

So I think all of that started coming together in the 70s and has progressed since then without much opposition. And that’s what’s put us in the situation we’re in today.

Gary Dull:                     Seems to me I recall somebody wrote a book entitled the Paganism of Christianity. Have you ever heard of that one, George? And maybe people ought to get it out and read it. It’s another George Barna book. But it’s interesting you talk about President Wilson. I have often wondered and maybe you can draw a connection here, I don’t know. But I’ve often wondered if the philosophy that Woodrow Wilson put out for us in this nation has itself actually led to the demise of Biblical truth that we see over the pulpit that you talked about in the 1970s. I kind of think that there’s a relationship between the two of those.

And I know we don’t have time to delve into it today but you know when we started the program we listed the 10 principles cited by William Penn necessary for the beginning, growing and maintaining the holy experiment of self government. And so my question to you is what will be required for those foundational principles to once again become known and become recalibrate back into our culture so that we don’t go down that road of extinction?

George Barna:              Well, Gary, another great question. I think there are a few critical elements. One is that we have to remember that our democratic republic hinges on what families do. If families are gonna tech Biblical principles to their kids, if families will hold their community and their political leaders accountable to Biblical principles in what they’re doing to lead us forward, that’s going to go a long way towards solving the issue. Because we can’t rely on our schools, particularly at this point, to do that job. Nor should we.

However, our schools, which are simply an arm of the government, need to be responsive to parents. Right now as you look at what takes place, schools tend to dictate to parents what has to be happening in the home. And it ought to be the reverse of that. So we’ve got to once again get control of that situation.

I would say churches have a big role to play in this and it goes back to what we’ve been describing, which is teaching world view principles, Biblical principles so that people have a solid foundation through which they can make their decisions. A world view is only a mental filter through which we make our decisions and we’ve got to recalibrate that mental filter.

Church leaders, I think, in addition to teaching scriptural truths to people and making sure that they get it and apply it, also have to boldly proclaim the gospel and all Biblical truths in the marketplace. We’ve pretty much been silenced over the last quarter century and you can see the dramatic negative impact it’s having on our culture. So pastors have to stand up, they have to show that leadership back bone that God has given to them and to use it in the marketplace. Not to be ugly about anything, but to proclaim God’s principles as the basis for our nation.

And of course, we’ve got to hold our political leaders responsible for maintaining the capitalistic principles, the democratic principles that the founding fathers put into the Constitution that have made this such a unique country for the last 250 years. And so to be able to facilitate and encourage individuality and the private sector having responsibility for what goes on in our culture. Taking away some of that authority and giving it back.

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