Interesting study from George Barna, proving in part that we are doing a pretty lousy job of presenting what Christian faith is all about. I’m particularly concerned, not about some of the negative perceptions (troubling as many of them are), but about the #1 positive perception. It is in bold below:
A new Barna study shows 16-to-29 year-olds are more critical toward Christianity than previous generations were at the same life stage. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of non-Christian Americans, including young people, were favorable toward Christianity’s role in society vs. just 16% of 16-29’s today. Only 3% of 16-29 year-old non-Christians have favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are 8 times less likely to experience positive associations with evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25%). It’s understandable why 91% of U.S. evangelicals believe “Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity.” Among young non-Christians, 9 of the top 12 perceptions measured were negative. Among them are: present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%). The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%). 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young church goers say “anti-homosexual” describes present-day Christianity. Beyond this they believe Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. Both young non-Christians (23%) and born-again Christians (22%) said “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.” While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations.
If our young people truly believe that our faith teaches the same basic ideas as other “religions”, then one of two things is true (or a combination of both): one, these young people just aren’t paying attention, and don’t really understand the teachings of Christian faith as opposed to other faiths, or two, we’ve done a lousy job of teaching what Christian faith is all about. But at any rate, it’s interesting—but ultimately sad—that the #1 thing that young people in America today view positively about Christian faith is something that isn’t even close to true about Christian faith at all…