President Trump’s Win: The role Conservative Christians, pastors, the media, faith and God had to play in the election. George Barna, shares data from the field at the Pro-Family Legislature Conference.
Air Date: 01/20/2017
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President Trump’s Win
You find your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! No introduction today. We’re diving right back in where we left off yesterday with George Barna at the Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Here he is. If you missed yesterday you can get it on our website right now at WallBuildersLive.com. Picking up from yesterday, here’s George Barna.
Media Wants To Turn America Socialist
Most of us lead a fairly restricted life. You know we get up. We hang with the family. We go to work. We talk to a few people, come home. We deal with a few friends. We go back and forth to church, maybe we’ll go to a public outing or a public event of some type. But that’s about the sphere of the average American’s reality.
And yet they have opinions on everything you can imagine. I know because I’ve been studying them for 40 years. And so we’ve got to rethink what we do with a media that is intent on turning America socialist. What we do with the media that will lie and steal and cheat in order to get their preferred candidates elected to office?
Everybody sitting here, the fact that you got elected is a miracle. You may not have had to deal with the national mainstream media the way that Mr. Trump did. But still you’re dealing with a lot of the distortions that the media have planted in the minds and hearts of the people even those who voted for you.
If we believe in truth we have to rethink what do we do with the media that does not believe in truth? A media that by and large is continually teaching a postmodern world view to Americans. One that says, “Truth is what you make it. Truth is what you personally decide it will be. There is no objective truth that’s right for everybody.”
What Do We Do With an Untrustable Media
I can tell you from our research with millennials more and more believe that because they are such a media saturated generation and because there is very little push back to that postmodern teaching.They’re behind that lock stock and barrel. Which is going to make it harder and harder for our younger conservative candidates to ever get elected to anything.
As I look at the future of America this to me is if not the single biggest issue that we have to address, it certainly is one of them. This is Satan’s great tool for distorting the American heart and mind. And so we’ve got to be cognizant of that and address it. I’ll tell you this, it’s interesting as we looked at, “Well where did SAGE Cons get their information about the election?”
This is not the same profile that I would show you if I were showing the national profile of where people got their information from. What this chart tells me is this is a group of people that are searching for alternatives to the mainstream media because they know they can’t trust them.
And so the internet provided a large share of the sources of information that they felt were more likely to give them an objective point of view, or maybe at least a truthful point of view. Mainstream television news came in second. How’s that possible? I could have changed those words to Fox News. Because by and large that’s where most SAGE Cons, if they were going to turn to television, that’s where they went. Now I’ll show you some information related to that in just a moment.
Which Forms of Media Were the Most Influential
You know religious radio stations that had talk programs where they discuss the issues, they discussed how the Bible relates to the issues and the candidates and the future of our country. 1 out of every 10 said that was their primary source of understanding what was going on. I will tell you that outside of an election season we do not see double digits for religious radio stations.
So they stepped up to the plate and played an important role in what was going on. We also took a look at who were the most influential voices in the various forms of media. Now again, this is based on self-report. We don’t know who actually have the greatest influence. All we know is who people think had the greatest influence on their thinking and their decision making.
But you look at this you know across the various media. You find Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Almost half of SAGE Cons said they had a significant influence on their thinking about what was going on in the election.You can look through all those. And by the way we had about I don’t know when it was 35 or 40 different media personalities that we tested.
So these were the highest rated ones. And you’ll notice that there were two in there that are essentially coming from a Christian base. You’ve got Tony Perkins up there at 30%, one of the highest numbers up on that chart and Tim Wildmon. Tony, of course, if you don’t know him he is the leader over the Family Research Council and Tim Wildmon the leader of American Family Association.
I’m not saying that these other people aren’t Christian. I’m just saying that those two in particular were coming from Christian Networks and from Christian organizations. There are several other individuals on there who as far as I can tell are in fact Christians. But that was very interesting to me.
One name that’s notably absent in this top 10 or 12 is Glenn Beck. Now Glenn came in at about 13%. So I think he rated 12th or 13th on the list. He didn’t have, at least according to SAGE Cons, as big an influence on them as some people might have expected to find.
We can also look at a few other things related to why SAGE Cons voted the way they did. I want to suggest to you that you can’t just read this as it stands, and say, “Ok, 96% thought Mr. Trump will keep America safe and strong.” Less than one half of one percent said, “Mrs. Clinton would.” And so on down the line.
The thing to remember about SAGE Cons is that they are very loyal people. The second characteristic of SAGE Cons is that they are very forgiving people. So even though they don’t necessarily trust Mr. Trump totally, even though they have great concerns about his character, they looked at the two candidates that were on the ballot to choose from and they said, “You know what this really is a no contest.”
And so that changed everything about their perspective about what he represents. So it’s not that they believe he’s the perfect or the ideal candidate that they would want to have. But when you’ve got a group of people who are driven by integrity, righteousness, and unity this is what happens. Their perspective shifts.
A Severe Partisan Divide In America Today
I want to suggest to you that SAGE Cons are not the only group in America that does that. This is what we as people do because we want to feel internally consistent with the choices that we’re making. So if I were speaking to a group of Clinton supporters and we had a tracking study that we’ve been doing with whatever their group would be called, socialist I guess, all we’d have to do would be to switch the names on the top of those two columns.
Because her supporters fervently believed that she was the embodiment of all of those characteristics that are up there. But that also speaks to the severe partisan divide that we have in America today. Again, one of our challenges is going to be, “What can we do to bring about unity in that kind of situation?”
Why did they support Mr. Trump? What were the things that drove that decision? Number one on the list, this is fascinating to me, were his position on key issues. We looked earlier at the issues that were most meaningful to them. His position on the issues coincided with what they were looking for. The reason why I say that this is fascinating is because early on in the election season during the primaries, and even after he became the GOP nominee, issue positions was second by a longshot.
The only reason that they were supporting Mr. Trump, you remember early on it went up to 71%, most of that was driven simply by their dislike for Mrs. Clinton. But as the campaign went on and they got to know him better they got to understand some of his positions better.
The Biggest Challenges Facing America
As things took place that shifted what they believed to be most important. They saw, “You know what, this guy actually stands where I stand on a lot of important areas.” So that became the thing that drove them. One thing about SAGE Cons is they are not hate prone people. The media will ever tell you that.
The media and the writers out on the street will say that were hate mongers We’re racists. We’re sexist. We’re all of these different things. But they won’t tell you, “You know what, these are actually people who want to love others. They want to serve others. They want to help others.”
It was actually kind of heart warming to me to see that shift over the course of the campaign.
They went from, “ I’ve gotta vote for Trump just because the alternative is so awful.” To a place where they said, “Wow I see him growing. I see him picking positions that coincide with mine. I can walk comfortably back in that.” We can also look at what people said are the biggest challenges facing America.
A couple of things that I want to take out of these numbers. One of those is as I was describing over the course of the election there was a major shift in what issues they considered to be most important. At the start of the campaign abortion was something that drove people for whom that is their driving issue. But as the campaign wore on, and people began to better understand what we were really choosing between here, abortion became one of the deciding issues. One of the main influence factors in the kinds of votes the people were going to give.
Faith Played A Huge Role In This Election
Supreme Court, early on only a few people knew that that would be important, that it was significant. At the time most SAGE Cons were not really focused on that. One of the things that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the fact that between probably like Easter and election day there was an enormous effort by a group of 100 to maybe 150 Christian organizations across the country to continually bang away on the importance of those two issues in particular.
Religious liberty was the third one that they kept promoting. That for some reason, which we’ve got to dig deeper and find out, that didn’t catch fire. I think it’s because the deniability that, “That couldn’t happen.” But these top two issues, abortion, Supreme Court, those organizations really made a huge difference in terms of shaping the agenda that people were thinking about.
We can look at the fact that faith played actually a very big role in the election. The media has been virtually silent on this. You can look for articles about the role that faith played but all you’ll find are articles that report 81% of white protestant evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. That’s about the extent to which they got.
Nine Questions To Classify As An Evangelical
The reality is that SAGE Cons, who are a bigger group than evangelicals. I should have told you this early on, the way that we measure evangelicals is that we’ve got nine theological questions that we asked people. And we will classify them as evangelical regardless of what they call themselves. A significant portion of people who theologically are evangelicals never call themselves evangelicals. So in the self-report approach they won’t show up.
Yet a majority of the people in the self-report approach that call themselves evangelicals don’t meet the nine theological criteria. These are simple things like do they believe that the Bible is accurate and all the principles it teaches. “Do you believe that God is the all knowing all powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today? Do you believe that Satan is a symbol of evil but does not actually exist?” Obviously, they would say absolutely not to that. “Do you believe that the only way to experience eternal salvation is by confessing your sins to Christ and inviting him to be your savior?” These kinds of things, simple stuff.
Eight Evangelical Candidates Running
We’re not talking about high-level theology. We’re talking about low branch stuff. Yet we only find seven percent of Americans meet the evangelical criteria. So SAGE Cons 12%, you’ve got some people who on one or two of those questions have a different perspective but they buy almost all of the others typically.
What did we find out? Early on, this group was awoken by the fact that you had eight evangelicals running for president. When was the last time that happened? Now there were a bunch of us that tried to get all eight in the same room. Our pitch to them was look you’re getting beat the daylights out of each other, none of you will be left standing at the end. We’re going to wind up with a compromise candidate who doesn’t represent us.
We couldn’t get one of them to come in the room to talk about that. So there was something else that was driving their activity. Nevertheless it did wake up the Christian constituency very early in the race which was a real positive. Because then they stayed engaged for the duration.
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Trump Has A Teachable Spirit
Our organization, United in Purpose, put on a meeting June 19 in New York City. You probably read about it. We had about a thousand evangelical leaders from across the country come together in that room with Mr. Trump as well as Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. And there was a discussion about the things that matter to us.
All kinds of people who had the ability to ask questions of him, whether it was Tony Perkins, or Jim Dobson. Or you might’ve been one of the ones who got to ask a question. There were a bunch of people who were there.
But that was a turning point in the election where the light bulb went on for evangelical leaders and they said, “Ok the guy’s not perfect. Yeah, he’s done a lot that we don’t embrace, a lot that we can’t endorse.” But one of the things about SAGE Cons is they want to see a teachable spirit in somebody.
One of the things that I have to say is having spoken at three events with Mr. Trump now and I’ve seen a lot of stuff, is that he does have a teachable spirit. He’s smart enough to know what he doesn’t now. He’s smart enough to know that there is something bigger than him and he’s never really gotten it. But now he’s surrounded by a whole army of people who are praying and dying for him to get it. And so that’s encouraging.
What The People Want From Pastors Politically
So there were a lot of things that happened. I mentioned United In Purpose. I mentioned over 100 different Christian nonprofit organizations that work together to try to target Christian conservative voters to make sure they get out and voted. We used the whole big data approach where we had more than a billion different data records that we were sifting through to try to figure out who are the needles in the haystack. The 1 out of every 8 that we want showing up for sure on that day. And that was a group effort.
So there was a lot of stuff that was going on. Catholic vote shifting to Mr. Trump for the first time since 2004. That’s a big deal. There’s a lot of foment in the Catholic Church now because of this election. And that’s a big deal. That’s a positive thing.
However, when we talk about the role that faith played, one of the things for us to understand is that there is a lot of work to be done in that realm. What we found is that back in August, I think it was, of last year David, Glenn Beck, and I had talked about doing a study. We did a big national study where we asked SAGE Cons about the involvement of their church in electoral politics.
What we found out is that most of them said, “I do not want my pastor telling me who to vote for. But I really do want him or her to teach me about what the Bible says about these issues that are relevant to the campaigns.”
What Pastor’s Believe Their Role Is In Politics Are
We’ve had about two thirds of Christian Conservatives said, “I need my pastor to do that. He or she is not doing it.” We ask them about what kind of topics had been preached about from the pulpit that were germane to the election. Typically, there wasn’t much that was being done.
On election day, we put out a big report on that how we’ve met with thousands and thousands of churches trying to get them to understand the importance. And why don’t they do it, by the way? It’s because number one most pastors are not leaders, they’re teachers.
Big difference between a teacher and leader. Nothing wrong with being a teacher. God gave them to us and we need them to teach us good stuff from the Scriptures. Absolutely. But the last thing you want is a teacher trying to lead a nation, or even to lead a congregation.
That doesn’t work very well because they have a whole different mindset, different heart set. That’s pastors themselves telling us those things. I’m not making that up. We ask them in major national surveys, “What has God called you to do? Who do you think God made you to be? What gifting do you think he has given to you?”
We put all this together. And we know they’re about 60% or 65% say that they’ve been called as teachers not leaders. But the only way you get to teach in our model of what the churches is by pretending to be a leader. So it doesn’t work well.
Second thing that’s a problem for most pastors is how they evaluate success. They have measurement metrics. But what they tend to measure are attendance, money given, number of programs offered, the number of staff members hired, and the amount of square footage built out.
We Ought To Be Measuring Transformation
Their idea is, “If it’s bigger this weekend then it was 52 weekends ago, then we’re a ‘healthy and growing church.’” You’ve got to remember this about metrics, you get what you measure. If those are the things you measure what are you going to get? A mega-church. Jesus did not die on the cross for us to have megachurches. Jesus died on the cross for people’s lives to be transformed. So we ought to be measuring transformation.
But if you’re not measuring that then you get the fear factor creeping into what’s going on because you don’t want to be controversial, speak about things that will anger people, because then they won’t come and attendance goes down. They won’t give money. They won’t sign up for the programs. We won’t be able hire the staff. We don’t need the square footage. And so all of their measures get blown to pieces.
Let me just give you a few closing thoughts, things for you to think about. Number one, if God tells you to run that doesn’t mean he is calling you to win. You can ask Mr. Carson, Mr. Huckabee, Mr. Walker, Mr. Rubio, and you can ask a lot of people who say that they believe God called them to run. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons why a lot of them would not come to a meeting to talk about who’s the one that we can all agree on that we will put up to represent the Christian community. “Why would I do that? God called me to this”.
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
Ok, but the key thing here isn’t so much If God called you to it, that you’re going to win, it’s that you’re going to be obedient. What God tells you to do you do it regardless of what the polls show you. And regardless of what the campaign consultants tell you.
Secondly, I don’t know if we can all sign a card later and send it to WikiLeaks but they were a huge player. Third, the Hispanic vote gets a lot of attention. The Hispanic vote is very important in America. But what we know is that although it’s about 17 and a half percent of the population in the country it was only about 11 and a half to 12 percent of the vote that was cast. So there’s still going to be a lot of growth.
Now, the implications for us is that in the future when that vote gets turned on it’s going to play an even more important part than it did this time. It was important this time around, but not as important as it could have been.
And if the Hispanic vote turned out in the numbers that they were expected to and that they could have, the election outcome probably would have been different. Yogi Berra said many brilliant things, one of them was, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” What I mean by that is that 13% of the people who voted in this election made up their mind in the last week.
Which is shocking when you think that nothing changed about the candidates, I mean we pretty much knew everything about them, and yet it took that long. So you’ve got to fight to the finish. You’ve got to finish well.
Early Spending Is A Politician’s Best Spending
Fifthly outspending your opponent does not guarantee a win, as Mrs. Clinton found out the hard way. Mr. Trump, as best we can tell, was outspent by about five to one. Yet it didn’t matter. I think one of the important lessons that comes out of this is that spending early maybe your best spending.
That’s when most people are making up their minds, when most people are putting the foundations for their decision making into place. So on the one hand 13 percent of people making up their mind last week is a lot. But what that means is the 87 percent made up their mind before that. In fact, about 7 out of 10 made up their mind two months or prior to the election. So early spending maybe good spending.
Last thoughts, people are drawn to vision and integrity. One of the things that Mr. Trump has going for him that Mrs. Clinton did not, according to the research, is that they understood his larger vision for the country. Mrs. Clinton naturally being a policy wonk wasn’t much of a visionary. She talked about tactics, but she didn’t really give us a full blown picture of what her America would look like.
Maybe it scared her as much as it scared us. I don’t know. One of the reasons why Mr. Trump got a growing number of people to back him over the course of time was that people want to be known and accepted and included. They felt like he actually understood their pain. He knew what their lives were like. He was more likely to care about the little person.
We Have To Address The Socialist Youth
As time went on Mrs. Clinton had less and less of that. We’ve got a small window of opportunity, we don’t have time to talk about that, but this is our time right now as Bob alluded to the fact that we’ve got more Conservatives and more Republicans in office than any time in the recent past. The media has to be reined in. We talked about that.
Conservative Christians want their church to engage in politics and government in terms of teaching them what the Bible says, not what the pastor feels. We talked about that. And right now we’ve got to be careful despite all the office holders that we have.
The reality is that, particularly our younger people, are moving more toward a socialist perspective. That’s what they’ve been taught in schools. That’s what their discussions are in social media and so forth. So we have to address that.
Final thought, this is a great day to be alive. I want you to remember that God, when He does magnificent things, he always uses a remnant. God has never waited until he had a majority of the people on his side to get something done.
What I see is that in this particular election the remnant was fired up, showed up. And the remnant represents the future of America. You and I are the remnant. Let’s make it happen for the glory of God! Thank you so much!
Pro-Family Legislators Conference
Well, friends that was George Barna at the Pro-family Legislators Conference. Be sure and share that with your legislator friends so that they can go to the conference next year. Great opportunity to sharpen each other’s countenance and share ideas. We’ll have some other programs from the conference we’re going to share with you over the next few weeks.
We sure do appreciate you listening today! If you tuned in in the middle the program and missed any of today or yesterday it’s available right now on our website. So this two part series with George Barna from the Pro-Family Legislative Conference is available right now at WallBuildersLive.com! Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live.