I'm in the middle of reading a book titled unChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters.
Long title, amazing book.
I try to not talk about or come to conclusions about books until I've finished reading them, but my mind is exploding with the information unChristian contains that I need to spill some of it out. I want to quote nearly everything in the book....it's just full of incredible information.
This book sprouted out of a three year research project by the Barna Group and contains a lot of information of how Americans age 16-29 (at the time the info was gathered, 2004-2006) view Christianity, Christians, the Church, the Bible, faith, and God. It also contains contributions from prominent Christian leaders: Chuck Colson, Mike Foster, Rick Warren, Kevin Palau, Andy Stanley, John Stott, Brain McLaren and many (20+) others.
For purposes of simplicity, people were polled in two separate groups: Christians, and non-Christians. Non-Christians being active adherents to any type of faith structure other than Christianity including no faith structure at all.
In 1996 the Barna group released a report "Christianity has a Strong Positive Image Despite Fewer Active Participants." Among non-Christians, 85% were favorable toward Christianity's role in society. And the 16-29 age demographic correlated.
Ready for what it looks like now? A mere 10 years later among the 16-29 demographic?
Even worse, when exchanging the word "Christianity" with the phrase "Born-again Christian" the number drops to 10%. And when exchanged for the word "Evangelical" it PLUMMETS to 3%.
Yeah. Three freaking percent of non-Christians age 16-29 have a "good impression" of Evangelical Christians. Compared to 49% who say they have a "bad impression" and 48% who have a "neutral impression."
You know that 85% from 10 years ago from ages 16-29? It wasn't good + neutral together. It was just "good." Now, it is merely 16% among ages 16-29.
Why is this? Well, the book goes into very large and painful detail of what Christianity has become and how it is perceived. You can complain about people's perceptions all you want, but at the end of the day their perceptions are how you are viewed.
The researches used 10 negative words/phrases (they also used 10 positive phrases...it's not encouraging either) that people could use to describe a religious faith and asked people to indicate of they agreed (a lot or some) with the phrase being able to describe modern day Christianity:
Anti-homosexual - 91%
Judgmental - 87%
Hypocritical: Saying one thing, doing another - 85%
Too involved in politics - 75%
Out of touch with reality - 72%
Old Fashioned - 78%
Insensitive to others - 70%
Boring - 68%
Not accepting of other faiths - 64%
Confusing - 61%
Every one was nearly 2/3 affirmed as an effective phrase to describe present day Christianity.
This is disgusting. And although I knew already these things to be true, it hurts to read them. To read hard data about the disgusting job that we are doing as the Church. To read that 59% of people surveyed say their PERSONAL EXPERIENCES at churches influenced their views, and that 50% say that PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH CHRISTIANS are the most common way their views are shaped.
This is horribly damning evidence. It makes me sick and it makes me embarrassed to be counted among Christians.
It makes me want to do something about it. It makes me NEED to do something about it.
It makes me burn with a desire to show people that these perceptions are NOT what God intends. I don't mean the perceptions are wrong....I believe that they're right. I believe the best way to define/describe an institution is from the perspective of those outside of it. Anyone who involved in a group is far more likely to glaze over problems and inconsistencies, but it is those who are outside who give the best perspective. Their opinions are not warped by being a member of that which they're criticizing. And I believe that the accuracy of the perceptions is the worst part.
We have failed to represent the grace that Jesus offers.
We have been poor representatives of a holy and loving God.
We bear responsibility for this problem.
We have to be the solution...