Barna on Lying and other Issues
The folks at Barna, an evangelical survey research group, have produced some more peculiar results (here). Their basic claim: “the leading edge of Gen Z, along with Millennials, appear to hold notably different views about morality than other generations.” The results are strange.
Their first figure:
For some reason, Barna only reports “strongly agree” data. Starting with the second question, only about 1 in 5 people ‘strongly agree’ that what is morally right or wrong “depends on what an individual believes.” What else does it depend on? Do 5 of 6 people believe that morality is strictly defined by the 10 Commandments or something similar? Isn’t that a matter of individual belief? How many people have ever believed in keeping the Sabbath holy?
The first question – does morality change over time and culture – shows a lot more variation across age groups, though percentages are still surprisingly low. Respondents gave mindless answers, perhaps trying to end the survey as quickly as possible. A moment’s reflection shows that morality certainly varies over time.
A little over fifty years ago, divorce was widely viewed as immoral. Nelson Rockefeller’s national political career was effectively ended by his divorce and subsequent remarriage. Divorce rates across America were very low. Today, Donald Trump has repeatedly married, divorced, and remarried – while committing adultery throughout. Yet evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for him, and obviously view his behavior as morally acceptable. Divorce is also a cultural/societal matter. Before Christians forbade divorce, it was widely practiced and not viewed as particularly immoral.
Again, a little over fifty years ago, racial segregation was viewed as perfectly moral, and was the law throughout much of our country. Racial integration was often looked at as immoral, especially in sexual relations.
Similarly, at that time a biblical view of homosexuality prevailed. It was viewed largely as an abomination. While Hollywood hired many gay men as stars, like Rock Hudson and the late Tab Hunter, they went to great lengths to depict them as straight and virile. Even Liberace, a raving queen, always insisted he was straight. Like it or not, moral views of homosexuality have changed, and only an idiot would deny it.
It should be quite obvious that moral views change over time and with culture. It is shocking so many doubt it, which leads me to question the value of all these findings.
Select Moral Issues
Barna also examined “strongly agree” responses to selected moral issues.
Remarkably, only a minority of respondents strongly agree that lying is morally wrong. What were they thinking of? I can’t think of any culture at any time that believed it was acceptable to lie. It is true that certain types of lies – so-called little white lies – are widely viewed as acceptable. But these are an exception to the rule.
As previously discussed, there is a strong generational difference regarding the morality of divorce, with ‘elders’ – over 70 years old – viewing it as immoral. While many younger people think marriages should last forever, I suspect they don’t think that divorce is immoral.
People are surprisingly willing to say that homosexuality is morally acceptable. Barna avoided racial issues.
I’m not sure what to conclude from this. Ask a simple question and you get a simple answer.