Survey Describes an Opportunity to Reshape American Society
Christian conservatives are not just dismayed with the state of American culture; most of them want to get involved in doing something about it. That is one of the key findings from a new national survey conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Christian conservatives who make up roughly one-tenth of the nation’s voting population.
American Culture is Broken
An overwhelming majority of SAGE Cons – 95% – indicated that they are not satisfied with the current state of American culture. Less than 1% of the group said that they are either “extremely” or “very” satisfied with today’s culture. The other 5% admitted that they are somewhat satisfied.
That extreme level of dissatisfaction fits with their concern about the direction of the country; the ineffective performance of government; their disappointment and lack of trust related to major social institutions; and their worries about the state of the family.
The Majority View
Survey respondents were given 18 adjectives to choose from in order to describe how they view American culture today. Overall, less than half of those adjectives were selected by a majority of SAGE Cons to convey their view of the present culture. Consistent with their sense of dissatisfaction, six of those seven adjectives conveyed negative feelings about our society today.
The most common terms selected by respondents were “self-indulgent” (chosen by 96%) and “selfish” (94%).
More than four out of five SAGE Cons described American culture as “intolerant” (84%) and “mean-spirited” (82%).
Two out of every three respondents (65%) picked the adjective “fast-paced” to describe America these days.
The other two descriptions adopted by a majority were “corrupt” (61%) and “decadent” (59%).
Close to half of the respondents (44%) called the nation’s culture “interactive.”
There were a number of positive-tone adjectives tested, but those terms fared poorly among Christian conservatives. For example, slightly less than three out of ten respondents (28%) used the words “intellectual” or “celebrative” to characterize present-day America.
Although most Americans consider themselves to be friendly, not many SAGE Cons think of the United States as “friendly” – just one out of every eight (13%). In fact, the only other term that was chosen by at least one out of every ten respondents was “emotionally safe,” an adjective embraced by 10%.
Six terms – all of them positive in nature – were selected by fewer than 10% of the Christian conservative population. Those terms were “transparent” (9%); “affirming” (8%); “spiritual” (6%); “family-friendly” (4%); “uplifting” (3%); and “biblical” (2%).
Challenge to Change
The unflattering national portrait painted by these choices leads to the challenging question: what will you do about it? To their credit, two out of three SAGE Cons (67%) said they were either “extremely” or “very” interested in being personally involved “in activities designed to produce positive cultural transformation in the US in the near future.” Beyond that group, another three out of ten (29%) admitted to being “somewhat interested,” while only 4% said they were not interested in personally trying to improve the condition of the country’s culture.
Call to Leadership
According to George Barna, the researcher who directed the ACFI survey, the results raise a direct challenge to Christian leaders to take advantage of the pent-up frustration, unexpected hope, and latent energy of Christian conservatives.
“The danger is that many Christian leaders appear to be waiting for the Trump Administration to work some magic to turn around the culture,” Barna commented. “The reality is that the complexity of modern cultures precludes any one leader or even a single sector of society from effectively producing wholesale, positive change in a short period of time. With an energized and hopeful constituency such as SAGE Cons looking for positive transformation, the opportunity is ripe for visionary, faith-driven leaders to mobilize the group and take strategic action while the people are willing. If it takes too long to mobilize and activate these people, the momentum and hope will be lost, and nothing will change. Timing is critical.”
Noting the widespread cultural engagement of the cultural Left in the wake of the Trump electoral victory, Barna suggested that the cultural Right cannot afford to sit by and watch as the smaller, liberal segment of the population rallies around its leaders and causes in the hope of returning their agenda to prominence. “The sufficiency or appropriateness of the Trump agenda is not really the issue that is begging for a response from Christian conservatives,” Barna explained. “Bible-based followers of Christ are responsible for pursuing a more comprehensive vision of a better society for all, or they will lose the energy that is currently available for positive action. Churches, families, parachurch organizations, conservative media, faith-friendly schools – all of these entities and more have a moment of opportunity to redirect the nation and to shape the future in different ways than have been the norm throughout the last decade. But without effective and timely leadership, little progress will be made.”
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