The Crisis No One in America Is Talking About
This article was adapted from remarks given by Dr. George Barna at Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall Texas Pastors Briefing at Grace Woodlands, June 3rd.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand that America is a nation in crisis. The issue, however, is that understanding the nature of this crisis might not be quite as obvious as recognizing that we are, in fact, in one. My proposal to you is that we have a single crisis in America that’s introduced a number of serious challenges in this nation: a crisis of worldview.
Everybody has a worldview. And that worldview essentially is the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual filter through which we understand, interpret, and respond to the world around us. It’s how we make sense of the world, figure out who we are, figure out how we want to interact with the world, decide what kind of influence we want to have and what kind of legacy we want to believe. Every single decision that every single person makes, every moment of every day, is a result of their worldview. So frankly, there’s nothing more important we could be talking about as we look at the state of America than the prevailing worldview in our country.
The reason it’s a crisis is because most Americans — including most parents, most children, and most pastors — have an unbiblical worldview. And in the last several years, that’s created a wealth of problems in our society. All you have to do is turn on the news any day or go on the internet and read about what’s happening. There are more issues than we can even identify off the top of our heads. But when you strip it away and ask, “Why is that an issue?” — it’s an issue because of the choices that Americans have made. Whether we’re talking about the economy, family, faith, politics, education — no matter what we’re talking about, it’s all about worldview. So the reality is, if you don’t like the situation America is in, the solution is not just about electing different leaders. It’s about changing the worldview of Americans so that we possess the mind and the heart of God every time we make a decision. If we had a nation that did that, we’d have a completely different cultural experience today.
Over the past three years at the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, we’ve been doing groundbreaking research regarding the worldview of Americans. We’ve discovered there is no single worldview that dominates in America. Small percentages of Americans are sold out to Marxism. Small percentages are sold out to Eastern mysticism. Small percentages are sold out to biblical theism, which is what we call the biblical worldview. But most people are creating their own worldview. They get exposed to ideas from all these worldviews from a variety of places, then pick and choose elements from each of them — blending them together into a customized worldview. They may have a few things that they draw from the Bible. They have a few things they draw from Karl Marx. They have a few things they draw from secular humanism, and so forth. In the end, they put it all together and they’ve got this unique, personalized worldview that drives their decision making. It’s part of the reason why in America today only 6% of adults have a biblical worldview.
You may be thinking, “Well, how did we get here?” We got here because we don’t even understand how worldview works. Did you know that a person’s worldview starts developing at 15 to 18 months of age and is almost completely formed by the age of 13? I did some longitudinal research over the course of several decades, tracking people related to their worldview. What we discovered is that most people die with, in essence, the same worldview that they had at the age of 13. It doesn’t change much. So we have to make an impact early on. We’ve got to minister to children, because if we’re not there to help develop a biblical worldview, somebody else will help them develop an alternative worldview. We’re seeing that play out right now in education, as schools introduce all kinds of sexually-charged topics to young children.
If we’re going to change things, we’ve got to go back to God’s Word and figure out how He said we should handle this. And what He tells us — first and foremost — is that it’s the responsibility of parents to develop the worldview of their children. Secondly, He says it’s the job of a community of faith to equip the parents, to support the parents, to hold the parents accountable in that process. Those two groups need to be laboring together to make a biblical worldview real in the minds, hearts, and souls of our children.
And therein lies our problem. Why do I say that? Because our research shows that only 2% of the current parents of children under the age of 13 have a biblical worldview. You cannot give what you do not have. So, should the church take on this job? Well, it’s not quite that simple either, because what we discovered is only 37% of pastors of Christian churches in America have a biblical worldview, including just 12% of children’s and youth pastors. That’s deeply troubling — and if we have any hope of righting the ship, that has to change.
We have to get back to basics and emphasize biblical beliefs. If the goal is to help people become more Christlike, we have to teach them to think like Jesus so they can act like Jesus. Worldview is at the heart of all of that. And as churches and as parents, we have to constantly assess where we stand in building biblical foundations and developing solid worldviews.
This may all sound like bad news, but don’t be discouraged. In the scriptures, God always uses a remnant of people, a small, small percentage of individuals who are completely sold out to Him to be placed into a despicable cultural situation and to transform it with His truth and His love and His principles. Every one of us has to look deep inside at what we really believe, and most importantly, at what we model to the world. We can turn this around, but we have to dig in and be prepared for this to be a multi-generational process. It’s not going to happen with a year of good preaching. It’s going to take decades for us to turn around the mess that we’re in — but together, we can do it.
George Barna is a professor and research director at Arizona Christian University and a senior research fellow at Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview.
George Barna is a Senior Research Fellow at FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview.