The U.S. has seven dominant faith tribes, each of which has a divergent worldview – but all of whom share 20 values that have enabled the nation to thrive. Discover the tribes, those values, and their implications. Besides our well-discussed economic woes, the nation is beset with a host of other challenges: educational demise, an aging infrastructure, war being waged against visible foes and terrorists, extensive crime, family dissipation, immigration issues, health epidemics, an aging population, globalization, spiritual malaise, and more. At the same time that we face all of these crises and challenges, there is a widespread concern about the apparent lack of leaders who will lead us through these complexities with skill, wisdom, vision and moral purity.
It seems that during the tumultuous past quarter century we have increasingly lost sight of the values that have unified us and enabled us to reach ever-greater heights. And it seems just as apparent that if the U.S. is to return to strength and progress, we must re-establish those shared values.
Why are those values so critical? Because they are the foundation from which our worldview is formed. Every person has a worldview; it is necessary in order for us to make sense of, and respond to, our daily experience. And as our research shows, America is home to a variety of worldviews. It is that variety which fosters the divergence of behaviors that make up the tapestry of the rich, American experience.
Our country’s history shows that to have a strong nation, everyone need not have a similar worldview: for more than 200 years we have been a place where disparate religious and moral perspectives have flourished side by side. But to facilitate a healthy nation there must be sufficiently widespread agreement on a set of core values that enable us to live in harmony with each other, despite some deeply-held opposing convictions and dreams. Our agreement on those shared values then empower us, as a group of independent, but cooperating individuals, to embody those common values in ways that produce a viable communal experience.
America is struggling today because our leaders have allowed us to ignore or forget those shared values. We must immediately return to those common merits as the touchstone that allow us to know what it means to be American and how to restore a strong and healthy culture.
In The Seven Faith Tribes, I examined interviews we have conducted with more than 30,000 Americans to better understand our worldviews, moral perspectives, spiritual foundations, lifestyle expectations, family behaviors and core values. The result is an understanding that the United States is home to seven dominant faith tribes, each of which has a divergent worldview – but all of which embrace twenty shared values that help to define their heart, mind and soul and have historically permitted the U.S. to thrive. It is my belief that if we were to refocus on the central values that made America great – and on which a formidable culture can truly be based – then our country can get back on the path of unity and progress. If we continue to focus on the attitudes, expectations and customs that divide us, then we are doomed to self-destruct, leaving behind a legacy as perhaps the most intriguing, longest-running experiments in democracy in world history.
In The Seven Faith Tribes I provide a research-based profile of each of the faith tribes: Casual Christians, Captive Christians, Jews, Mormons, Pantheists, Muslims, and Skeptics. Despite the differences in their beliefs, religious practices, and worldviews, the twenty shared values are what has kept America knit together until recently. Can you remember the last time a significant leader identified foundational values embraced by American Christians, Muslims and Skeptics alike? Our leaders – political, religious, business, community, media and familial – must direct our attention back to those values and help us restore faith in each other based upon our mutual understanding and appreciation.
Today, America staggers and suffers because we have become selfish and have chosen to focus on the things that divide us rather than the things we have in common. In that regard, whether you are a “leader” or not, you have a significant role to play in the restoration of our country. The Seven Faith Tribes not only describes the problem and profiles the tribes, but then provides multiple chapters outlining action we can take for the U.S. to return to stability and growth. That includes strategies related to empowering values-focused leaders; redirecting the media; redefining the efforts of families; and calling upon the faith tribes themselves to invest in the country’s future by encouraging their members to see and aggressively pursue a bigger purpose.
It is my hope that this research-driven examination of how we arrived at our current, precarious position, and what it will take to return to a place of strength, stability and prominence, will add value to the national and personal conversations regarding our next steps. But that cannot happen until each American – you, me, our family members, our work colleagues, and neighbors – commit to pulling our weight in the struggle to regain equilibrium in an increasingly complicated and competitive global environment. We have proven in the past that we are capable of such single-minded dedication.