A look at the headlines and the polls will be a clear indicator that all is not well with the United States. We are living in a volatile time where divisions seem to be growing wider and wider as ideologies grow further and further apart. Conservatives attack liberals, liberals attach conservatives. Moderates do their best to pretend that they want no part in any of it while trying to offer a third way. We are living in the moment, but as we live in the moment, we often take our sights off of where we’ve been and where we are going. George Barna offers an alternative with his book “America at the Crossroads.”
As he writes in the introduction, “America has become a culture that seems more interested in being “in the moment” than one that focuses on understanding the connections between past, present, and future, and how people’s choices can and should influence the future.” As the founder of the Barna Group, a leading research group that specializes in faith-related surveys, Barna offers recent data and organizes it throughout the book to lay out the current landscape of America. Barna does not hesitate to be candid and transparent in revealing that his is a Christian standpoint, but he is quick to offer his own apologetic for objectivity by saying, “I am not arguing for a theocracy or for Christianity to be instituted as the state-sanctioned religion of the land. I am, however, suggesting that when people embrace God’s principles and hold themselves accountable to them, everyone is better off.”
Barna shares his data on topics such as faith and spirituality, government and politics, and lifestyle and perspectives. He digs deep into the spiritual state of America as he reveals what people think about God, the Bible, church, and other matters of spirituality. He reveals that whereas Christians once stood in contrast to their worldly counterparts regarding behavior and morality, the dividing line is less pronounced and much more difficult to distinguish. Churches have begun to look at factors to quantify growth that only give superficial pictures of the reality that lies beneath the surface.
Barna shares data about the distrust that people have in financial institutions, churches, the government, and even the police. He also shares about the move towards political correctness in our society, a move that has vastly diverged from the initial values on which the country was founded. He says, ““In contemporary America, truth is whatever we say it is. We have adopted the mind-set that everyone must determine their own truth, and nobody can legitimately question the veracity of that perspective for that individual. The notion of embracing absolutes is anathema to most Americans.” Gone are the days of absolutes as we enter into a relativistic society where anything goes and beliefs become so personal that the only time you can attack them is when they conflict with the majority.
As he continues in “America at the Crossroads,” Barna describes an America that is shifting far away from absolutes and Christian values, an America that is not necessarily taking steps towards betterment like they may be thinking, but is instead heading down a path that will not lead to positive growth but towards demise. With this move away from absolutes and an absolute truth and a move towards political correctness and an “anything goes” ideology, we are heading into dangerous territory. He writes, “When Americans are no longer free – or no longer feel free – to hold or express opinions that conflict with the perspectives promoted by certain vocal or activist sectors of society, we are headed down a dangerous path.”
While the data that Barna shares is sobering, especially for those who espouse a similar Christian worldview and ideology, he isn’t simply a doomsday prophet speaking doom and gloom upon the world. Why offer problem without solutions? Barna asks the reader to, “imagine what would happen to the United States if all the people who are truly devoted to knowing, loving, and serving God…were to consistently live like Jesus.” He may be revealing the flaws of the country overall, but his call to action is to those who espouse Christianity, those whom he thinks can make a significant difference should they begin to live in such a way as to distinguish themselves and live and act as Jesus did.
“America at the Crossroads” is an honest and sobering book, describing an America that lies beneath the headlines, one that is not destined for the greatness that many think. It could be easy for Barna to get caught up in his data, but he shares it succinctly, connecting it in context to reveal its relevance for the matters at hand. His chapters are well-organized, sharing the data, summarizing the results, and then offering his own interpretation of the findings. While he is not without bias, it does not seem that he is doctoring the data to only reveal what he wants it to reveal.
Regardless of your worldview or ideology, “America at the Crossroads” is a good read, worthwhile and challenging. While you may not agree with Barna’s worldview, there is no denying that all is not well in America and a change is necessary. What kind of change is the point of divergence, but Barna offers a logical, practical, and viable approach for those who call themselves Christians.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)