Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Captive or Casual: Christianity in America

George Barna, renowned researcher, has revealed some insightful knowledge regarding faith. George Barna is similar to the Gallup Pole for political and secular social research, only is more credible. He is quietly becoming a huge influencer on how I view faith and life, theoretically and most importantly, practically.

Though the argument can be made that Barna paints a broad stroke with his definition of Christians (in which I would agree), nonetheless, he at least casts the vision deciphering differing prevailing views of the role faith plays in our lives, and how that manifests itself practically…in the day to day…not just in the abstract. He puts them into two camps, Casual and Captive Christians.

Captive Christians: are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible.
Casual Christians: are driven by a desire for a pleasant and peaceful existence.
The major difference between the two: how they would define a successful life.
Many may reject these singular descriptions, and rightfully so because each group is complex and robust. But these factors give a short-hand sense of the heartbeat of each group.

The lives of Captive Christians are defined by their faith; their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values. Casual Christians are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible. The big difference between these two tribes is how they define a successful life. For Captives, success is obedience to God, as demonstrated by consistently serving Christ and carrying out His commands and principles. For Casuals, success is balancing everything just right so that they are able to maximize their opportunities and joys in life without undermining their perceived relationship with God and others. Stated differently, Casuals are about moderation in all things while Captives are about extreme devotion to their God regardless of the worldly consequences.

Casual Christianity is faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe, providing a faith perspective that is not demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee – and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.