“Objective Measurement” of Faith

The Barna Group has supposedly measured peoples’ faith for a long time now, but their results crack me up. The whole point of the study seems to be that while this faith-based group would like to prove that most Americans are religious, they can’t help commenting on the type of faith one exhibits, as if there is a measurement we are supposed to be living up to:

“First of all,” noted Barna, “Americans are very comfortable with religious faith. Most adults and even teenagers see themselves as people of faith. Toward that end, they have definite opinions about religion, they possess well-honed beliefs, and invest substantial amounts of their time, money and energy in religious activities. Faith and spirituality remain hot issues in people’s lives. The mass media, through news and feature stories, also play a role in keeping spiritual issues in the forefront of people’s minds”….

“Second,” he continued, “people do not have an accurate view of themselves when it comes to spirituality. American Christians are not as devoted to their faith as they like to believe. They have positive feelings about the importance of faith, but their faith is rarely the focal point of their life or a critical factor in their decision-making. The fact that few people take the time to evaluate their spiritual journey, or to develop benchmarks or indicators of their spiritual health, facilitates a distorted view of the prominence and purity of faith in their life.”

This smacks of spiritual pride. “Most people do not have an accurate view of themselves when it comes to spirituality” ????? Whose view are we supposed to have but our own? Who decides what’s “accurate”? What’s also assumed is that no one takes time to “evaluate their spiritual journey.” What? How does he know? Purity of faith? I’m sorry, but when someone starts talking “purity,” beware the faith police.

Barna’s third theme was that if people’s faith is objectively measured against a biblical standard of how faith is to be practiced, Americans are spiritually lukewarm. “Very limited effort is devoted to spiritual growth. Most Americans experience ‘accidental spiritual growth’ since there is generally no plan or process other than showing up at a church and absorbing a few ideas here and there. Even then, few people have a defined understanding of what they are hoping to become, as followers of Christ.” Barna attributed much of this to the numerous distractions common in most people’s lives.

Yeah, like living IN REALITY rather than in religious la-la land. There’s the “objective measurement” for you. The biggest oxymoron in that first sentence is using “objectively” with “biblical standard.” There ain’t no such animal. If people are “lukewarm,” I think it’s because people are realizing more and more that spirituality, not religion, has the answers they are seeking. You won’t find them at church or in a bible teacher or preacher, hence #4 below:

Finally, the bestselling author of nearly 40 books contended that the most intriguing blip on the radar screen is the growth of various converging movements of deeply spiritual people who are departing from the conventional forms and communities of faith. “The Revolutionary community – which incorporates divergent but compatible groups of people who are seeking to make their faith the driving force in their life – is reshaping American faith in ways which we are just beginning to understand.” Few researchers and journalists are tracking the behavior and beliefs of those nascent segments.

Make sure you get the plug in for your publishing history! Few are tracking it because the faith police can’t stand that people are taking control of their own spirituality rather than support institutions that are top heavy, administrator wealthy, and that do little with our money but keep it for themselves. I for one am no longer supporting a church because the pastor wants a bigger salary or because they need a new building. Support should go towards those who are hungry in this country FIRST and elsewhere next. Faith will survive on it’s own without all the church buildings thank you very much.

Those who claim authority to “study” people of faith are getting pretty full of themselves. There is no right way to have faith. There is no right way to practice spirituality. Those who say there is a “right” or “wrong” way are fooling themselves and are power hungry fundamentalists who are looking for fame and fortune. The spiritually prideful never cease to amaze me in their blindness.

2 thoughts on ““Objective Measurement” of Faith

  1. I like the way you reasoned through the pitfalls of establishing a criterion for “objective measurement” of faith in this post.

  2. Arvind,
    Did I reason my way through them, or are you being facetious? I’m not sure I did reason through them, myself. 🙂 But, if you mean that I call Barna to account for using himself and/or his own brand of religion as an “objective” measurement, then yes, thank you!

    I think I’ve confused myself. :-), but thanks for the comment!

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