Statistics: Sunday Christians Among American Adults

"These statistics highlight the fact that millions of people who rely on Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny have problems translating their religious beliefs into action beyond Sunday mornings"
( [email protected] ) May 27, 2004 10:14 AM EDT

A new study released on May 24 by the Barna Research Center found that a person’s faith does not translate completely into action, especially among non-evangelical born again Christians. The survey, conducted in May, was performed through phone interviews with 1,002 American adults across the nation.

Barna separated the people into five main categories: Evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, Notional Christians, adherent of non-Christian faiths and Agnostics. From these groups, the most distinguishable were the first and the last – evangelicals and agnostics. The ‘middle-way’ groups were similar in the19 lifestyle activities, chosen by Barna, which might be affected by the faith views.

The first group, Christian Evangelicals, represent only a small portion of the random sample of surveyed adults. However, the 7% who identified themselves as evangelical held a strong connection between their faith and their lifestyle. They are the ones most likely to pray to God, attend Church and read the Bible. By the definition set by Barna, the evangelicals believe in “the accuracy of the Bible, contend that they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others, claim that their religious faith is very important in their life, reject the idea that Jesus Christ sinned, describe God as the Creator who still rules the universe today, and believe that Satan is real.”

Evangelicals are also the group most likely to discuss spiritual matters with other people;· volunteer at a church or non-profit organization; ·discuss political matters with other people; discuss moral issues and conditions with others;· stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints and go out of their way to encourage or compliment someone;

They are also the group lease likely to; contact a political official; ·view pornographic media; ·read their horoscope and use tobacco products

At the other end of the pole, the Atheists and Agnostics – representing the fastest growing faith segment with12% of American adults, were distinguishable from other groups because of several lifestyle-activities and characteristics.

According to the survey, those who did not believe in the existence of God was most likely to: recycle used materials; ·visit an adult-only website; ·view pornographic media; ·get legally drunk and have sexual intercourse with someone to whom they are not married;

The same group was lease likely to volunteer at a church or non-profit organization; ·stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints; ·fast for religious reasons and do at least 30 minutes of physical exercise in the past week

Meanwhile, the ‘sandwiched’ groups shared similar characteristics. The non-evangelical born again Christians, representing a third of the population, were indistinguishable from people of other faith in 10 of 19 lifestyle factors and were similar to notional Christians in 12 of 19 factors. By definition, non-evangelical born again Christians have accepted Christ as their savior, but do not accept the complete accuracy of the Bible nor believe in a personal responsibility to share their faith with others. They also do not cite faith as very important in their lives, believe that Jesus Christ was holy, believe that God is the Creator who continues to rule the universe today, or believe that Satan is not symbolic but truly exists.

Notional Christians, those who say they are Christian but have never professed Jesus as Christ, represent a third of the U.S. population and half of the churchgoing population. These Christians, the survey found, were more similar in lifestyle to non-Christians than to evangelicals. They are more likely to non-Christians in the following matters: the likelihood of discussing faith matters, volunteering, turning off offensive television programs, discussing moral issues, gambling, using tobacco, having sex outside of marriage, getting drunk, and passing on encouragement to others.

The survey conclusively found that people are not always likely to live the life they claim to follow. For example, evangelical and non-evangelical born again Christians were the two groups least likely to recycle, and born again Christians were more likely to purchase lottery tickets than were atheists and adherents of other faiths.

According to George Barna, director of the Barna Group, the statistics reveal a lack of ‘translating” one’s beliefs into actions.

“The ultimate aim of belief in Jesus is not simply to possess divergent theological ideas but to become a transformed person. These statistics highlight the fact that millions of people who rely on Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny have problems translating their religious beliefs into action beyond Sunday mornings,” said Barna.

Barna also encouraged Christian adults to follow the lifestyle they encourage their children to live, in order to make an effective impact.

“We have found that unless young children are taught how to tie their beliefs into their daily behavior, the chances of that faith ever influencing their lifestyle in significant ways is slim. Parents and religious teachers must both model such integration for young people while simultaneously working through such behavior and choices with them,” said Barna. “Faith perspectives that are not quickly translated into action become mantras that get lip service but have limited affect on lives – theology without hands and feet. Our studies consistently show that the habits formed while we are young are the behaviors that define us when we are old.”

The Ventura, CA.- based Barna Research Group is an independent cultural analysis and strategic consulting firm. Since 1984, it has been conducting primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.