A Biblical Worldview

“America’s remnant: Only 4% now hold biblical worldview” – That’s the headline. What’s the story behind it? Based on a study by well-known evangelical researcher, George Barna, conservative opinion columnists trumpet a call to arms (taken too literally at times) for Christians who hold what they call a “biblical worldview.” One writer urges Christians who hold to his idea of such a worldview to have courage to “fight the culture war.” He quotes a character from Lord of the Rings to tell his readers: “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”

This story of “open culture wars” being forced upon this “remnant” of Christians motivates the movement now called Christian nationalism. Barna’s research contributes to it. George Barna is the Director of Research and cofounder of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. An editor at The Christian Post wrote about this study and said:

“The data found, among other things, that while 51% of American adults said they have a ‘biblical worldview,’ only 6% of American adults actually hold this worldview.

Barna drew the conclusion of inconsistency among the 51% reporting a biblical worldview by noting that many of the questions to determine worldview found this group technically outside of what the pollster defined as a ‘biblical worldview.’”

“Technically outside of what the pollster defined as a ‘biblical worldview.’” That’s how narrow all of this really is. One example is whether you agree that “human beings are born with a sinful nature.” I don’t. Neither have a great many Christians down through the centuries, let alone today. In the article calling for courage, the writer said that “it’s important to preach what Jesus preached.” As a Christian, I agree with the words, but I do not agree with what he means by them. For instance:

“As Christians, we believe that the ‘common good’ must be based upon ‘Creation order’— that is, it acknowledges the existence of God, the reality of men and women, and the importance of Christian values as the foundation of a moral society.”

Reading between the lines, I hear him say that this nation must be governed by laws and legislators who believe in God (as he does), who hold a narrow view of gender identity, and who define “Christian values” the same way he does. He goes on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as saying that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” I might agree with that, but then he goes on to say:

“Fighting to save our children from radical gender ideology and the horrors of abortion won’t be pretty. Fighting against Marxists who are working diligently to separate children from their parents will be costly. And it will look and sound like a war — because it is.”

One report George Barna released is titled, “A National Moment of Truth: Whose Vision and Values Will Prevail?” I do think he’s correct to name that as a central challenge of our day. I agree that it’s at the core of the division created by Christian nationalism and this narrow definition of a “biblical worldview.”

Our worldview is about how we see the world – how we think the world “should” be. It’s about the core values of life. I think a truly “biblical worldview” would emphasize compassion and love, as Jesus did –  as does the best in every religion. It would call for justice for the poor, healing for the sick, freedom for the oppressed – and would call out the greed and selfishness of too many leaders of this movement. (Again, as the best in all religions would.) It would seek not an authoritarian power (a power over people), but a power of love (a power shared with people). It would value relationships more than rules and people more than empty principles. The worldview of Christian nationalism is not, I believe, a truly biblical worldview.

Common Ground?

With decades of work in conflict transformation, I must ask the question: “Do we have any common ground?” We oppose a movement that threatens democracy around the world. It must be challenged and its power destroyed. Yet a movement is made up of individual people. My question is whether I share any common ground with them and if that might offer hope for transformation.

This authoritarian, radical right movement is not a single entity. It includes radical economic and political conservatives, Christian Nationalists, MAGA followers, militia groups, and people who lust for power and money – all of which must be opposed. Are there not, though, individuals caught up in diverse parts of this movement who share desires and dreams in common with mine?

As I wandered among the vendor stands at Reawaken America and listened to the speakers and watched the people, I knew that at some level we all have similar desires:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • A decent income
  • Freedom from fear
  • Trust in our leaders and confidence in our government
  • Hope for our nation and the world our grandchildren will live in

Dr. Mark Sherwood, with his wife, Dr. Michele Neil-Sherwood, founded the Functional Medicine Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma (https://fmidr.com/). Their stories, briefly told on their website, sound inspiring, and their commitment to the health of the whole person seems genuine. While I might question some aspects of their practice of medicine, I do not doubt that we share some common ground in what we want for people in this life.

Dr. Mark Sherwood

As Mark Sherwood spoke on Saturday morning, he talked about our desire to live and not die. Who doesn’t share that desire? He talked about abundant living and a desire for a better life and a nation we want for our grandchildren. Even in that context, though, he also talked about “battling tyranny” – meaning the government and current administration. I disagree with that. He used the “Make America Great Again” language and claimed that our problems are because “we fail to put God first.” While I may agree with that last statement, I am sure we mean very different things by what it means.

Among all the speakers those two days, Mark Sherwood’s presentation brought me to ask the question of common ground, not with everyone but with enough people in this broad movement that we might change the trajectory. I doubt that he and I would agree on many questions of politics or religion, but don’t we share common desires for a better life – for health, family, a decent living, freedom, trust in our leaders?

It’s an opening, a place to begin – like the entrance to a dark cave where we don’t know what’s inside – but can we do it together?  I may never sit down and talk with the Sherwoods, but I know a great many people – family and friends – with whom I share common dreams and desires, but disagree on how to move toward them. This is one way forward in our nation. Sit down with people, listen to each other’s stories – our desires and dreams – and create a new story for transformation in our future.