The founder of a respected evangelical polling company now works as a senior fellow with one of the most partisan evangelical advocacy groups in Washington, D.C.
Although the Barna Group, which he founded in 1984 as Barna Research, still bears his name, George Barna actually sold the company in 2009. He is listed on the Barna Group’s website as founder but does not appear anywhere else on the site.
What’s also not on the site is the fact that George Barna last year was named a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
George Barna’s departure from the company he founded and his more recent foray into partisan politics in service of religion has been largely unreported. He landed a role as a professor at Arizona Christian University, a small evangelical school based in Glendale, Ariz. Then in 2021, he also was named to the FRC post, along with Owen Strachan, a former Southern Baptist who previously led the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a group that advocates male headship as ordained by God.
Together, they lead the FRC’s new Center for Biblical Worldview.
Barna has written more than 50 books, including New York Times bestsellers. The Barna Group says he “has sold more books based on survey research related to matters of faith than any author in American history.”
Now, he’s lecturing on the idea of “biblical worldview” as a reason for political action.
Last week, he was a keynoter at the FRC’s Pray Vote Stand Summit at First Baptist Church of Atlanta. There, he warned of Americans’ dangerous loss of a “biblical worldview” while giving thanks that America still retains about half its “Colonial” values.
After his talk, he joined FRC President Tony Perkins for a conversation in which Perkins cited Barna’s data on “biblical worldview” as a call to political action, according to a report in Religion Dispatches. Perkins “implores the audience to commit to being a ‘SAGECON’ or ‘spiritually-active, government-engaged conservative.’ According to Barna, SAGECONs are 9% of the American adult population, but had a 99% turnout in the 2020 elections, making them 14% of voters and 30% of Trump’s base.”
FRC said in announcing creation of the Center for Biblical Worldview that one purpose was to “train Bible-believing Christians to advance and defend the faith in the workplace, in the schools, in their communities and in the public square.”
It added: “Barna’s surveys and research will play a key part in the … response to declining biblical literacy among Christians by sponsoring new initiatives to revive and cultivate a biblical worldview among believers.”
The Barna Group built its reputation originally on George Barna’s research, which for years has been taken as gospel truth by pastors and church leaders. His notion of a “biblical worldview,” however, has caused some scholars to question what appears to be a self-defining reality. Who gets to define what is a “biblical” worldview, they ask.
Upon his hiring by FRC, George Barna said: “I am excited to work more closely with FRC to apply the research findings in ways that help to transform individuals’ lives and American culture. Given FRC’s track record of making a difference in our society based upon its unwavering commitment to biblical principles, I look forward to an effective and fruitful partnership using research to guide our efforts.”
His notion of a “biblical worldview,” however, has caused some scholars to question what appears to be a self-defining reality.
Strachan likened their work to cultivating in Christians “a godly mind.” He explained: “This project is vital beyond words. If Christians do not form a biblical worldview in evil days like these, they represent sitting ducks. But when believers are trained by churches and other strengthening institutions like FRC to think in a distinctly biblical way, they cease to be an easy target. They learn to think unto God, reason from the Scriptures, and proclaim the excellency of Christ in a world that hates him.”
Meanwhile, the Barna Group appears to have ceded the “biblical worldview” market to its founder. A search of the company’s website for that exact phrase pulls up mainly older articles.
The organization and its founder still share a name, but the two apparently do not share the same obsession.
Related articles from BNG’s worldview series by Jacob Alan Cook: