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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Barna Makes Me Sad While Evangelicals Anger

This has been an interesting presidential primary season. Our new home holds caucuses which is a new and different concept, we aren't registered voters here (although I think we could have done it day of). Stories I heard included people parking their cars on the Cross-Town Highway and walking to their Caucus site to make sure their voice was heard.

What has people so riled up about the election this year? Well their are plenty of reasons depending on what you value and believe to be true. The Barna Group released a report recently that highlighted some of them. The Barna snapshot was published January 21, which seems like a century ago in primary terms, but I'm sure the data will still hold up.

In their own words:
A new study from The Barna Group provides a data-driven snapshot of the U.S. population, providing a dose of objectivity to some much-debated, often-misunderstood issues. The Barna research explores matters beyond "who-will-Christians-vote-for" questions - for now - in favor of examining the perceived importance of 10 diverse issues. Those include a pair of elements (abortion and homosexuality) often linked to so-called values voters, as well as other issues that relate to morality, justice, and social concern.
What are the 10 major issues facing the country? Below is a list of them in ranked order:
  1. Poverty (78%),
  2. The personal debt of individual Americans (78%),
  3. HIV/AIDS (76%),
  4. Illegal immigration (60%),
  5. Global warming (57%),
  6. Abortion (50%),
  7. Content of television and movies (45%),
  8. Homosexual political "activists" (35%),
  9. Homosexual "lifestyles" (35%),
  10. "The political efforts of conservative Christians" (23%).
So what makes me sad? Barna segmented their data into Born-Again Christians and then even further down to see what Evangelicals thought. The rankings changed significantly, and sadly in my opinion.

Born again Christians still think poverty is a major issue (78%), but personal indebtedness is of higher concern (79%). That is ok, I think you could easily make a case that personal indebtedness is a concern ranking up there with poverty. The Born-Again group is pretty close to in line with where I would place priorities. It is the Evangelical voters that I am most saddened with.

94% of Evangelical voters think abortion is the most important issue facing America today. Poverty doesn't even make the top 5. That angers me beyond belief. What do you think a major cause of abortion is? Yup, poverty! We should focus more on reducing poverty and not legislating morality. Why is it like this?? Why have the Evangelicals lost sight of what the Bible so clearly states? We are so focused on "saving the unborn" we don't care how the born actually live. It makes me irate to think that we spend millions of dollars on preventing an abortion and then sit back and do nothing when the "teenage mom" isn't able to adequately support her child. Where is the love in that? Did Jesus say, "Save the babies so they can squalor and face starvation and general lack"? No, Jesus and the Bible talk a lot about caring for the poor. Here are a few examples:

To the Rich Young Ruler Jesus said: "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21

James says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

We have the power to change the world - it is through loving Christ and loving those He loves.


Jeremy Pierce said...

I take it you think we should remove all the laws against murder, rape, stealing, child abuse, and so on. Legislating morality really is overrated, after all.

crossn81 said...

That would definitely be taking it to far to the extreme. There is a distinction and I am not necessarily against outlawing abortion, but that should not be such a single focus that we forget about all the issues that may cause a person to want the abortion, murder, or child abuse.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I understand. I was speaking hyperbolically due to your opposition to legislating morality, which we do all the time and is uncontroversial. I can understand focusing on the causes, but I don't like explaining that by such a catch-all phrase. Legislating morality is perfectly good, and even the most hard-core pro-choicer advocates it all the time.

crossn81 said...

Very true. Do you have a phrase that might be better suited for this conversation in the future?

Jeremy Pierce said...

I generally try to think of it in terms of which kinds of moral prohibitions are worth enforcing and which kinds are not (and which kinds are worth expending great effort to enforce and which aren't). If you can think of criteria that you would use to make such distinctions, then I'd recommend just sticking with those criteria rather than talking about it as legislating morality.

Some people think in terms of what causes harm and doesn't interfere with others' consent, but I don't think that will work. Lots of things we outlaw aren't harmful (or at least it's controversial that they are), and I have no problem with those laws.

I actually think abortion is at least nearly as morally important as murder laws, so I'm not going to be that helpful in coming up with something that gets the exact results you want, which places it much lower on the list in terms of prohibitions. But the general strategy is to find some distinction that separates the two kinds of laws and then explain why that distinction justifies different treatment in law.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting phenomenon.

Christians who vote have more or less become the pro-life vote, rather than looking at the whole Christian package.

I have a lot of questions about the whole thing, and haven't worked them all out.

But you have a great point. I'm actually working on what I think about the general election at this point.

crossn81 said...

So true Wickle. It is hard to balance which issues are the most important and are representative of an individual's political view/belief system. That is probably part of the reason Evangelicals have become so focused on abortion as a litmus test. Although I think we've seen and are starting to see a shift away from that during this election.