A Biblical Worldview: Toxic Christians’ Self-Serving Definition

A Biblical Worldview: Toxic Christians’ Self-Serving Definition September 12, 2020

Hi and welcome back! Earlier, we talked about Joe Battaglia’s book Make America Good Again. As we discovered, it’s chock-full of culture-war talking points disguised in a thick slathering of Christianese. So we spent a few days talking about Christianese. For today’s entry, I’d already planned to discuss this phrase. But then, a Christian leader came along and illustrated just why it’s so important for non-fundagelicals to understand their dogwhistles. Today, let me show you what Christian culture-warriors mean by a biblical worldview.

a biblical worldview like a map is not the actual world
(Viktor Forgacs.)

(Note: Fundagelicals are the fusion of evangelicals with fundamentalists, which occurred during the 1990s-2000s. They make up one large part of the tribe of toxic Christians. I didn’t make up any of these words. Often, I talk about Christian groups as businesses and their evangelists as salespeople. In this framing, their product is active membership in their specific groups.)

Everyone, Meet George Barna.

According to La Wiki, George Barna grew up Catholic, then went evangelical after college. He started Barna Group in 1984 and has written a number of books aimed at the evangelical market. He is professionally affiliated with Family Research Council. Nowadays, he teaches at a Christian university. (David Kinnaman, who wrote that You Lost Me book we reviewed a while ago, now leads Barna Group.)

A biography in Christianity Today from back in 2002 outlines Barna’s tireless search for the perfect TRUE CHRISTIAN™ church that was good enough for King Him. And he finally found it — at none other than Willow Creek Community Church.

(JFC, is there any toxic Christian anywhere that we will ever encounter who ISN’T joined by the hip to that dysfunctional, abusive mess of a church?!?)

Barna moved to California not long after, it sounds like, to go found Barna Research. He dedicated his life to selling his products to fundagelicals. Indeed, his entire life has centered around that one overriding principle:

SELL SELL SELL WITHOUT MERCY

His Greatest Weakness.

Even Christianity Today recognizes the major shortcoming of his work: it’s all done with an eye toward marketing. George Barna is way more interested in selling stuff to fundagelicals than he’s ever been in creating successful marketing strategies for them.

Luckily for him, fundagelicals don’t need their products to live up to their salespeople’s claims. They just need products that make the right claims. Thus, they will never hold his feet to the fire about just how (un)successful his suggestions have always been.

What makes all of it so comical is that he’s always done his best to ignore the elephant in the room (or rather, the dragon in the garage):

Christianity contains no true supernatural claims. 

But Barna’s always offered up little hints that he knows that his imaginary friend ain’t doing anything to help his followers. Like so many of his peers, he’s disturbingly big on the psychological-manipulation end of evangelism. He doesn’t even pretend otherwise.

And the big gun in his manipulation-and-coercion toolbox is a bit of Christianese that George Barna’s liked for years:

A “biblical worldview.”

Christianese: A Biblical Worldview.

Officially, it’s the worldview inspired by the Bible, as interpreted by the toxic Christian using the term. (Sometimes they call it something else, like a “biblical frame of reference,” which Joe Battaglia used in his Christian Post interview.) It supposedly informs every aspect of a Christian’s behavior, thinking, and faith. Without it, that Christian will be hypocritical and naughty, and probably leave the religion.

But oh, it’s so much more than just that! It’s the central over-torqued bolt in the wingnut psyche, the notion that grants them a free pass to be irredeemably nasty and cruel toward their many enemies.

As we discussed yesterday, the word biblical, when used by a culture warrior, means something friendly to the culture wars. So a “biblical worldview” means a worldview that falls in line with the culture wars. It’s that control-hungry, entitled, easily frightened, cruel, narcissistic, over-reactionary, crybullying, un-self-aware, conspiracy-theory-embracing, and most of all authoritarian mindset that marks today’s toxic Christians.

Christians who don’t approve of the culture wars, of course, lack this “biblical worldview.”

Toxic Christians seriously think that the Bible itself — and thus their god — not only blesses this mindset but demands that they acquire and then maintain it.

And they’re sure that if someone has been indoctrinated hard enough in childhood with a “biblical worldview,” then that person won’t ever leave the tribe.

A Well-Loved Idea.

At least as far back as 2005, George Barna was prattling on about a biblical worldview. One of Barna Group’s studies at the time asked 1002 American adults about their opinions about faith and their religious practices. They discovered that most of their respondents “lack[ed] a biblical worldview.”

That link thoughtfully tells us exactly what quirky definition Barna Group uses to assess its presence in a Christian. It is hilarious to see just how culture-war-specific and tribe-specific this definition really is:

  • Absolute moral truth exists and the source of it is the Bible alone.
  • The Bible is “accurate in all of the principles it teaches.”
  • Nobody can earn safety from Hell.
  • Jesus really truly lived on Earth and was “sinless.”
  • Satan is an actual “living force” and not just a boogeyman.
  • “God” rules the whole universe and is omnimax.
  • All Christians MUST sell sell sell without mercy.

(I found a nearly identical definition here. I bet he cribbed it from Barna Group. Focus on the Family featured Barna’s list too, but at least they attributed.)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

This definition just makes me laugh. It’s so ridiculous. Very obviously, fundagelicals wrote it specifically to gatekeep their religion.

Now, if Barna Group defines “a biblical worldview” as how culture-warrior fundagelicals think Christians should Jesus, then obviously you won’t get a lot of other types of Christians qualifying for that prized title.

And indeed, in their survey “less than one-half of one percent of Catholics” fit the definition that Barna came up with to specifically exclude Catholics from the crown. Only 8% of Protestants-in-general fit it. And though these are all fundagelical doctrines that pretty much all of their churches officially embrace, only 60% of those respondents even qualified as holding a “biblical worldview.”

You can tell it really bugged Barna Group, too, that so many Christians feel “accepted by God” just fine, and yet lack the “biblical worldview” that they feel is the only way to be accepted by their god.

Fixing This Urgent Issue in 2005.

In that 2005 Barna Group study (relink), George Barna identifies this lack of a “biblical worldview” as the reason why so many Christians “fail to live according to Bible principles.” He does not actually ever tell us what those principles are, nor what “facts and ideals” the flocks should be “categoriz[ing] and implement[ing]” from sermons.

Nonetheless, even in 2005 he saw this “biblical worldview” as a very necessary component to proper Jesus-ing. Even at the height of evangelical power, he was offering non-solutions to solve this serious problem he saw in his tribe. (I think Christianity began to decline around 2006, though it’d be nearly 10 years before fundagelical leaders really recognized that it was happening at all).

Interestingly, Barna didn’t suggest in that 2005 study that his imaginary friend would be doing anything to strong-arm a “biblical worldview” into Christians. At the time, he urged fundagelical pastors to lead the flocks toward it through correct sermons:

[. . .] Barna encouraged ministry leaders to narrow the body of biblical principles they would like to see their people embrace as the foundation of their faith and create a long-term strategy for repeatedly driving those truths home in creative and practical ways.

Though again, he doesn’t mention in this study’s writeup what those “biblical principles” might be. I guess to find that out, pastors must purchase his books. Otherwise, their flocks will stray and it’ll be all their fault.

Such marketing, very strategy, much wow.

Fixing This Same Even-More-Urgent Issue in 2020.

Fifteen long years passed. George Barna sold and left Barna Group to go hang out with even more hateful Christians. Through the years, Barna Group continued to do their thang while George Barna continued to write books and make speeches.

And all around them, their religion began very seriously to decline. Their tribe lost much of its coercive power and millions of its members — even as they gained more inroads to political power.

But don’t you worry! George Barna knows what to do!

Sure, it’s the same non-solution he offered in 2005, just worded more scarily to goose the flocks’ asses, but he’s aiming even lower than before.

Remember I mentioned that he’s got professional ties to Family Research Council? Well, he showed up on the radio show of its president, Tony Perkins, the other day. (We’ve mentioned him here and there before.)

Raw Story brought us a writeup of the interview.

“Spiritual Deficiency.”

During that interview, George Barna lamented the “spiritual deficiency” causing America’s “collapse.”

Really? “Spiritual deficiency” is The Big Problem Here?

Not the systemic racism that fundagelicals helped create and even now defend? Not the destruction of human rights of all kinds that fundagelicals have aided and abetted? Hm, not even fundagelicals’ full-throated support of a disgustingly ill-suited president who stole his office through collusion, voter suppression, and lies?

(In 2016, George Barna counted himself as one of those supporters, of course.)

No no. “Spiritual deficiency.” That’s The Big Problem Here.

Not rampant hypocrisy and unalloyed control-lust. Nor unabashed tribalism.

Stop looking over there.

“Integrated Disciples.”

I listened to the interview myself (you can find it here). Barna and Perkins tut-tutted over their favorite dogwhistle, fretted over how few TRUE CHRISTIANS™ hold a “biblical worldview” today, and then talked about how TRUE CHRISTIANS™ needed to “develop the biblical worldview” in this country.

Perkins asked Barna,

“If we develop the biblical worldview, helping them become integrated disciples, the pieces fall in place, do they not?”

“Absolutely,” Barna replied. “That’s why one of the things I’m advocating is that America has a profound spiritual deficiency and that’s what’s produced the worldview crisis that’s responsible for the collapse of American society in many ways. If we clean up that worldview issue, everything else is going to fall into place. That’s really the key domino on the board. And so if we get that right, we’re going to fix a lot of things at once.”

Ah, of course. So once they have all Christians practicing proper right-think, everything’ll be fine.

And by the way, if you wonder who “them” is in that first sentence in the quote, that’s not completely clear. But right before that, they were talking about ultra-indoctrinating children. Then, right after this quote, Perkins starts talking about that again and Barna agrees completely. (It’s just creepy to see how detailed his fantasy is.) Both men blamed parents for not doing enough of that indoctrination.

So I think they’re referring to children.

As the Night, the Day.

To summarize, a “biblical worldview” is the one that fundagelicals uniquely possess. They insist that it derives from their (warped misunderstanding) of the Bible, not from their self-serving drive to institute a theocracy in America. Further, they’re dead positive that if a Christian ever possesses this worldview, then that person will never, ever leave the tribe or disobey its Dear Leaders’ commands.

We’ve encountered this thinking before.

But how oh how does a Christian come to possess this all-important worldview?

Oh, that’s the true horror of George Barna’s plan. It doesn’t come to a Christian through inspiration. No imaginary friends magically strong-arm this “biblical worldview” into someone. Nor will someone simply see it being lived-out and think wow, self, I need to check this out — these Christians are really, I dunno, DIFFERENT somehow!

Nope. None of that. George Barna knows perfectly well that nothing about this “biblical worldview” recommends itself on its own. He knows that even evangelicals are abandoning it.

But don’t you worry none!

He’s got a plan.

NEXT UP: Tomorrow, we’ll dive deeper into George Barna’s big plan for reversing Christianity’s decline. See you then!


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(Last note: I’m glad I listened to this interview. Before today, I’d always thought George Barna was self-serving if rather befuddled and overly optimistic. Now, I think he is hands down one of the worst-of-the-worst people in that whole crowd. He’s a breathtaking piece of work, but like, in stealth mode. I’ll be keeping a weather eye on him from now on.)

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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