Missouri Baptists Help Sponsor Conference Featuring David Barton and George Barna

TurningAmericaLogoJune 26 and 27, David Barton and George Barna will take their tour to Springfield MO for the Turning America Conference. To the chagrin of most Southern Baptist academic historians, the conference is sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Convention which is the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The meetings will be held at the Second Baptist Church in Springfield, MO.
Contact information for anyone in that neck of woods who might want it is 417-239-4216 and [email protected].

George Barna, Please Meet the Barna Group

Reading the book U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots is a frustrating experience. For the most part, authors George Barna and David Barton labor to make the case that America needs to turn back to God in order to avoid judgment. I have been hearing these appeals since I was in high school (“If my people who are called by my name…”). In all of them, the speakers or authors have warned that America had become so bad that judgment was just around the corner.
As a part of their efforts to make a doomsday scenario believable, the authors recruit lots of statistics and surveys. This is understandable since George Barna is a pollster. However, what is puzzling is Barna’s and Barton’s failure to use the most recent work of the Barna Group. To illustrate, here is what Barna and Barton say about students, their faith and college attendance.

Clearly many parents of these younger adults failed to transmit to them a vibrant and useful faith, which was largely because the parents themselves lacked a vibrant and useful faith. As proof of this, although eight out of ten Americans claim to be Christians, only 9 percent of these Christians agree with six of the most elementary nonnegotiables of the Christian faith.* So poorly equipped are Christian young people by their minimally believing Christian parents that 61 percent of Christian youth who now attend college abandon their faith as a result.79 (Barna, George; Barton, David (2014-10-21). U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots (pp. 100-101). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.)

Barna and Barton take a dim view of Christian parents and higher education and blame them for what they say is a generation falling away from Christianity. The footnote for this paragraph leads to a book by co-authored by Ken Ham. In that book, Already Gone, Ham and his co-authors cite a 2006 article on the Barna Group website:
To me, it seems odd that Barna would cite someone who cites him. Why not just cite your own work directly? More puzzling, perhaps, is the fact that Barna did not cite the recent research group bearing his name.* Furthermore, in U-Turn, he makes the situation sounds worse than it is. 
The 2006 Barna said that 61% were “spiritually disengaged.” The 2014 Barna says 61% of youth “abandon their faith.” As the 2011 Barna Group article will teach us, being spiritually disengaged isn’t quite the same thing as abandonment of one’s faith.
In a 2011 article on the Barna Group website, five myths are identified about youth leaving church. While it isn’t the last word on the subject, it is a reasonable article which breaks down the religious development of several groups of young people. Barna and Barton should have used it. People considering this book should be aware that Barna didn’t use the research he helped start in 2007. 
The Barna Group in 2011 rebuts George Barna of 2014 (which is really an amplification of Barna of 2006). The 2014 Barna says “61 percent of Christian youth who attend college abandon their faith as a result.” The 2011 Barna Group said that statement contains two myths. They are:

Myth 1: Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.
Reality: There has been considerable attention paid to the so-called loss of faith that happens between high school and early adulthood. Some have estimated this dropout in alarming terms, estimating that a large majority of young Christians will lose their faith. The reality is more nuanced. In general, there are three distinct patterns of loss: prodigals, nomads, and exiles.

Compare what Barna says in his new book with what an article on the Barna Group website said in 2011. It seems ironic that he has become one of the people who say a large majority of young Christians will “lose their faith.” As the 2011 article correctly notes, the reality is more nuanced. If you want nuance, skip U-Turn and read the Barna Group’s website.
The second myth contained in Barna of 2014 relates to the impact of college. Barna and Barton say 61% abandon their faith “as a result” of college. On the contrary, the Barna Group in 2011, said:

Myth 3: College experiences are the key factor that cause people to drop out.
Reality: College certainly plays a role in young Christians’ spiritual journeys, but it is not necessarily the ‘faith killer’ many assume. College experiences, particularly in public universities, can be neutral or even adversarial to faith. However, it is too simplistic to blame college for today’s young church dropouts. As evidence, many young Christians dissociate from their church upbringing well before they reach a college environment; in fact, many are emotionally disconnected from church before their 16th birthday.

Mr. Barna, I didn’t say it; the group you founded did. It is too simplistic to blame changes in faith on higher education. And yet, that is exactly what you and David Barton do in your book. I recognize you also blame parents, but let me go out of a limb to say I think that is too simplistic too.
There are more instances where data are used incorrectly to yield a misleading conclusion. There are too many problems with this book to address them all but I intend to get to some of them as I am able. For more, see also here and here.
*The original post indicated that Barna was affiliated with the Barna Group. He sold it in 2009 to David Kinnaman.

Mike Huckabee and David Barton Coming to PA Pastor's Conference in March

Yesterday, the PA Pastors Network, a small group of far right pastors announced that Mike Huckabee will appear via video at a March 19 conference at Lancaster Bible College. Also appearing will be David Barton, and George Barna. The title of the conference (U-Turn: A Conversation with Pastors on Society, Culture, and Leadership) makes it sound like a stop on the promo tour for Barna’s and Barton’s new book (U-Turn).

Other confirmed speakers for PPN’s “U-Turn” conference include: author Steve Scheibner, Gary Dull of the American Pastors Network, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association and American Family Radio, Jeff Mateer of the Liberty Institute, Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries, who will speak on PPN’s Ministers Together project, an initiative which brings together pastors and elected officials on a biblical rather than political basis.

Looks like big fun if you are a tea partier or Christian nation advocate. Sam Rohrer heads the PA pastors’ organization and is also working with David Barton on the initiative to make the Ukraine a biblically based nation.
Lancaster is about 5 hours from here; maybe I’ll go over and see what happens.
PA is home to numerous conservative Christian historians (Historians at GCC and Messiah College come to mind immediately and there are others). If Sam Rohrer wanted pastors to hear from Christian historians on the nation’s founding, he has a wealth of options.

Reactions to the New Book by George Barna and David Barton, Part One

In the future, I might write a formal review of U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots by George Barna and David Barton, but for now I am going to offer some preliminary reactions to it.
My first reaction was disappointment that George Barna would team up with document collector Barton. It is hard to imagine a more unified reaction from scholars, Christian and not, against Barton’s approach to history than occurred in 2012-2013. In August 2012, Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies was pulled from publication by Thomas Nelson due to lost confidence in the books facts. The book was voted least credible history book in print by readers of the History News Network. Academic reviewers were uniform in their criticism of the book. In 2013, the Family Research Council removed from view a video of Barton’s Capitol tour, and Focus on the Family had to admit that they edited radio presentations to remove errors. The actions taken by FRC and Focus on the Family followed complaints to the organizations by over three dozen Christian historians.
With a year like that, one would think it would take a public apology and a commitment to change in order to be published again, if ever, as a writer of history. Not so; Barton did none of that. And yet Charisma’s Frontline imprint paired Barton with George Barna to create a past useful for their apocalyptic warning.
The book begins with a series of assumptions:

Values largely reflect our emotional and experiential perspectives. Our beliefs typically stem more from our spirituality. Like values, beliefs play a powerful role in shaping our behavior. Our ideas about the existence, nature, and engagement of God; about the existence of absolute guidelines for right and wrong; about our ability to influence God’s responses to humanity through prayer; and about our sense of eternal destiny—all of these perspectives play a discernible role in how we view ourselves and our world and in the decisions and actions that come to define our lives.
As you will see, we are in the midst of a major era of change on the beliefs front, occurring in tandem with the changes related to our shifting values. As you consider the transitions in our beliefs, notice the inescapable interplay between values and beliefs. Their mutual influence means that a change in one necessitates a related change in the other in order for us to minimize our personal cognitive dissonance. Here is an overview of some of the central religious beliefs that characterize the American public today.
Barna, George; Barton, David (2014-10-21). U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots (Kindle Locations 643-647). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

The book begins by proposing to describe the “American public.” The authors refer to “we” as if there is a “we” to refer to. I immediately distrust authors who claim to speak for me. In this case, such overgeneralization leads quickly to nonsense:

As you consider the transitions in our beliefs, notice the inescapable interplay between values and beliefs. Their mutual influence means that a change in one necessitates a related change in the other in order for us to minimize our personal cognitive dissonance.

The authors talk about “our beliefs” but then refer to “our personal cognitive dissonance.” Personal dissonance is personal, not collective. The authors strive mightily to create an “American public” straw man to castigate and rail against throughout the rest of the book. Ultimately, the authors want to move “us” back to a set of values that “we” once held. Survey data and history suffer due to this impulse.
Frequently throughout the first chapter, Barna and Barton cite statistics which convince them that Americans are less moral and less Christian than during past times and that the reason “we” are less moral is because “we” are less Christian. The authors then compare “us” now to “Early Americans” then. For instance, they write:

Early Americans believed that God’s Word applied to every aspect of daily life—a fact documented by any perusal of early sermons. If something important was in the news, then it was also covered from the pulpit with a biblical perspective. Consequently, it is easy to find countless early sermons on numerous topics never covered today, such as earthquakes, fires, droughts, and hurricanes;76 the execution of murderers;77 solar eclipses, the sighting of a comet, or the discovery of a new planet;78 national defense and foreign affairs;79 the duties of civil rulers and of citizens toward government;80 the issues associated with aging;81 immigration;82 education;83 medicine and medical issues;84 economics and taxation;85 and other practical topics.
Barna, George; Barton, David (2014-10-21). U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots (Kindle Locations 964-974). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

Has David Barton never listened to the 700 Club? Or his good friend Kenneth Copeland? Those preachers talk about natural disasters, money, politics, etc. all the time. Kenneth Copeland and Barton believe PTSD can be cured with Bible verses. If his historical method was applied now, he would have to conclude that “we” are every bit as devout as the early Americans since examples of sermons about many current events can be located today.
Barton does in this book what he does in others. He finds quotes he likes and makes them representative of the view point he wants to support. For his analysis to have doomsday importance, he and Barna need to make the past look like a Christian society and the present look like a departure. In both cases, the reality of the situation is skewed.
To be continued…

Barton and Barna: If We Don't Do Something We Didn't Do Before, We're Doomed

And so it begins. The hype for George Barna and David Barton’s new book, U-Turn will be familiar to anyone who is aware of the Christian nationalist pitch. Charisma “News” has the story, which is really an ad for the book:

The United States became a unique, prosperous and admired nation because of its faith in God and the willingness of the people to abide by God’s standards and principles. Over time, however, the urge to glorify oneself rather than God has seriously eroded the strength and potential of the nation.
Based on shocking new research and compelling interviews, FrontLine’s newly released book, U-Turn, combines George Barna’s and David Barton’s unique insights and cultural analysis to demonstrate the moral and spiritual underpinnings that made the United States great, its decline over the past forty years and a detailed road map for the future.

How can America right the ship?

“Unless we invite God to be at the center of our process and operate in strict accordance with His principles, we are doomed to continue our downward slide,” Barna and Barton write. “Because He has proven Himself to be a merciful ruler, though, if we will humble ourselves before Him, there is hope. U-Turn will describe the radical action Americans must take in partnership with God to restore the nation.”

There is nothing new about this. This is the same Christian nationalist doctrine Barton has pushed for decades. Unless we do something we didn’t do before — make Christian doctrine the “center of our process” — then we are doomed as a nation. This simplistic prescription is based on a tendentious reading of history which is nothing new for Barton. For instance, Barton says the Constitution quotes the Bible verbatim. This, of course, is not true but is consistent with the faulty reading of history Barton wants us to believe. If he can get us to believe we once had the evangelical God at the “center of our process” and once self-consciously operated “in strict accordance with His principles,” then Barton has leverage to press these concepts today as political objectives.
When it comes to Barton’s status as an historian, Charisma probably hopes that the public has a short memory. The Charisma News piece neglects to mention The Jefferson Lies which was pulled from publication by Thomas Nelson in 2012.