When I hear the word evangelical, the hairs on the back of neck start to rise, my blood pressure starts to rise and a sea of anger begins to boil in my throat. However, there is one Evangelical Christian that I like and even admire even though I think his religion daily tries to make progress a foreign word of the type found in glossolalia.
Founder of the Barna Group, George Barna, earns my respect, not because he is a researcher, but because he is a researcher who usually lets the numbers speak for themselves. I have used his research many times to make a point, letting other religionist know that the information I use comes from one of their own. Because he is usually honest with his research, it has not always kept him in the good graces of other Christians, even the evangelicals of which he is a member in good standing.
One of his studies that landed him in hot water with the evangelical and the born-again communities, was the research he released regarding divorce in the Christian community. That research included Catholics, Born-Again Christians, Evangelical Christians and other Protestant denominations such as Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. Barna found that Christians were the most highly divorced group in the United States. He also found that individual groups like born-agains and evangelicals were no better in marriage failure rates.
That one study brought the wrath of numerous Christian magazines and newspapers, but it also showed up in national news media, including newspapers, television and radio. Reports from Christian media opposed to Barna's findings said the research was flawed, that is was a vendetta and more. However, studies by the Associated Press, ABC news and numerous colleges and universities vindicated Barna with research of their own that validated his study.
Although I've found some of his writings to be naive, such as the book, UNChristian, written by Barna's right-hand-man, David Kinnaman, for the most part his data in is on the money. I reviewed that book on this site and mentioned that Kinnaman was surprised that many Christian youth found the church too bigoted toward homosexuals, too involved with politics and lacking the universal love Jesus spoke of in the Bible. Of course, research wasn't necessary to determine that, at least as far as general information is concerned. Nevertheless, his surprise was genuinely puzzling.
When writing about current moral and ethical problems in the United States, I always turn to Barna at some point to get a religious viewpoint that is more likely, than not, to be unbiased even if the news is unfavorable to religion. And, as I previously mentioned, when writing about Protestant religion, I've found that even mentioning Barna's name changes the game. Not that he is the only source I use, but because he is usually scrupulously honest and fair.
Of course, when it comes to Biblical exegesis, I must part ways with Mr. Barna. However, when it comes everyday trends, I've found that his information is just as good as any secular source. For instance, his polling information predicted an Obama win and what it would mean for evangelicals, especially those courting political favor.
Normally, I don't truck with most Evangelicals, but George Barna is one of my exceptions.
PS: Barna’s logo isn’t my cup of tea, but it is their logo, not mine.