More on the View of Christians

From my previous post, recall that the Barna Research Group reported that a majority of youth—late teens to late thirty-year-olds (which I’ll call 20/30s)—who grew up in Christian homes have turned their backs on the faith.

Highlights of the Barna study revealed the 20/30s describe Christians 10 ways:

  1. Holding a morally superior attitude
  2. Judgmental and entrenched in their thinking
  3. Anti-gay
  4. Anti-choice
  5. Angry
  6. Illogical and out of touch
  7. Hypocritical
  8. Too focused on getting converts
  9. Very conservative
  10. Having an Us vs. Them mentality

How did such a perverted view of Christianity and Christians come about?

  1. First, realize that most of those charges are at least partially true.
  2. And they are not good, except the last three—wanting to convert everyone, very conservative, and realizing the Us versus Them condition.
  3. Add to that a hostility against Christianity by many university professors and you begin to see where this attitude gained footing.
  4. Primary, I think, is that the Christian witness has become static. Instead of a personal encounter with Jesus flowering into a dynamic lifestyle reflecting God’s love and holiness, our religion becomes just another activity we do.

This is how they see us. We have to accept that fact if we want our lives to impact our society. So, how do we as Christian witnesses go about changing these perceptions?

  1. Recognize that there’s an element of truth in those charges against Christians. Work to change that. Show humility and seek forgiveness where it applies to you. II Chronicles 7:14 says: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
  2. Ask God to remove judgmental attitudes from your thinking, your words, your writing. Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  3. Don’t equate Christianity with patriotism. I’m a veteran and proud of my country. I’m ticked off when someone disrespects our flag. We should speak out against that. But it’s a turnoff to unbelievers when Christians wrap their faith in the flag or their political party. When we do so, we expose Christ to ridicule.
  4. Abortion and the homosexual lifestyle are two great divides between Christians and the outsiders. Our opposition is branded intolerance. Yes, we have freedom of speech but begin by pointing people to Jesus. I’m not going to mouth simplistic solutions here. Jesus offered compassion to the woman caught in the act of adultery. At the conclusion of that confrontation, Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more.” Can we do no less?
  5. Anger. There’s a lot to be angry about in our country but don’t let it poison your writing or your speech. We naturally get satisfaction from venting our emotions. Though anger fires up your true believers, it also says you’ve stopped listening to the people you want to reach. Pray for the people who smirk at your mistakes and treat you unfairly. Learn why they are unkind and try to help them. Use what you learn about them in your writing.
  6. Us vs. Them. This is tough because that’s what it really is. They don’t understand because unbelievers don’t have the mind of Christ. The standard atheist approach is to look for proof before considering belief—or faith. As one outsider put it, “I will accept proof of the existence of the supernatural only after finding it in what science can prove …”

That’s the reverse of St. Anselm’s credo ut intelligan—“I believe so I can understand.” Or as C.S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”

Develop a thankful heart, remembering that you were once alienated from God.

We may have to choose between success and significance.  Christian writers have an exceptional opportunity—I would say responsibility—to repair the breach between the Christian faith and the 20/30 generation. Ask God to help you show what is real. In your writing—Screenplay, Short Story, Romance Novel, Memoir,  Essay, Poetry, Song Lyrics, Historical Novel, even your Letter to the Editor—speak truth with love.

We Christian writers hold in our hands, in our hearts, in our commitment to our craft—the tools to convey what matters … what is real … and to foster real understanding of our faith.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
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12 Responses to More on the View of Christians

  1. Jerry says:

    From a used book (compiled by George Seldes) called “The Great Thoughts” that I recently bought, I have found several quotations related to religion generally and Christianity specifically. The authors of the quotations are listed in alphabetical order, and here are a couple of thoughts from the letter “C”, which I have reached in reading:

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), British poet, critic, philosopher

    “Whenever philosophy has taken into its plan religion, it has ended in skepticism; and whenever religion excludes philosophy, or the spirit of free inquiry, it leads to willful blindness and superstition.”

    Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), English poet, essayist

    “Religion has treated knowledge sometimes as an enemy, sometimes as a hostage, often as a captive and more often as a child, but knowledge has become of age and religion must either renounce her acquaintance, or introduce her as a companion and respect her as a friend.”

    There apparently were theological problems in the 18th and 19th centuries, too. Maybe these thoughts will provide a clue to resolve such problems.

    • samuelehall says:

      Pungent thoughts, Jerry.
      I always welcome you and Stan Baldwin to the arena. These exchanges de-fang the lions, purify free inquiry, and welcome expanded knowledge.

  2. Stan Baldwin says:

    Good article. I would say that not only are the youthful criticisms “accurate” on seven of the ten points raised but on all ten. Since you grant them credilbility on the first seven, I’ll briefly address the final three. 1) “Too focused on getting converts.” Jesus made the same critcism of the Pharisees. Matthew 23:15, “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” While witnessing and evangelism are good and necessary, one can do it in self-serving, self-righteous, unloving ways.
    2) “Very conservative.” You pronounce this to be good. Chapter and verse, please. Seems to me one of the last things Christian should do is abitrarily declare their own social or political views to be the right ones, and to imply, “Sorry if you don’t agree because conservative views are what Christianity demands.” 3) “Us versus them” gets it all wrong. We are not versus unbelievers. They are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). You don’t win people with an adversarial approach. Even if you win the argument you lose the person. Jesus was “versus” only self-righteous religious people, not sinners.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Stan. I believe I said in an earlier response that in order to limit word count, I didn’t explore all nuances of any argument. Not a good reason to be unclear.
      Taking each in turn: 1) Are we to ignore The Great Commission and Acts 1:8 simply because non-believers object to our zeal or because of some self-serving preachers? True, if we focus on body count instead of the leading of the Spirit, we betray our mandate. But I know Christians whose witness is so insipid that they feel it’s offensive to mention the name of Jesus Christ outside the halls of the church. This is the very spirit of our age, that sits quietly while atheists erase the mention of God, the exercise of prayer from the public square.
      2) Agreed. In today’s politically correct atmosphere, “very conservative” is usually viewed within the social or political context. I should have expanded my remarks to clarify a view for an orthodox expression of God’s grace and love. I believe in some quarters that’s considered “conservative.”
      3) Us vs. Them, wrong. You’re right. Even tho I was thinking of Ephesians 6:12–Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms–we cannot allow ourselves to be against those we are trying to win.
      Jesus opposed more than the hypocrites. In just the first seven chapters of Mathew, Jesus opposed Satan and his minions (Mt 4:10), anything that comes from the evil one (Mt 5:37), the “religious” whose real god is money (Mt 6:24), and religious charlatans (Mt 7:23).
      I suppose my angst ferments in my distress over the Christians who are not self-righteous; they are simply self-satisfied. They’ve got theirs (salvation) while a lost world spirals toward eternity without God.

      • Stan Baldwin says:

        We agree for the most part. I would just add with regard to the “very conservative” question: You clarify that you were not referring to social/political conservatism but to being “theologically conservative” (my term). Problem there is that the 20/30-year-olds are referring to social political issues, are they not? So to answer with a defense of conservative theology is irrelevant to the diiscussion.

      • samuelehall says:

        Stan, if the 20/30s are responding to social political issues, they are missing the mark and instead firing their darts at (some) Christians. The question they must answer is that posed by Pilate: “What would you do with this man Jesus?”
        To anticipate your next comment, why should we expect them to separate the message from the messenger?
        Therein lies the task before the Christian: to first attend to the condition of the lost–to bring them to Christ. In our zeal to protect the purity of our religion, we too often insist upon a humanly determined level of acceptability before we let outsiders inside the church doors. It is we, the messengers, who must purge ourselves of offensive sanctimony and show the 20/30s the loving Lord Jesus. They’ll see Him thru us. Which, I guess, makes your point.

  3. Eric FOrbes says:

    I think there’s a big difference between the us vs. them attitude that people of my generation describe and the us vs. them reality that you talk about. The attitude is much more than an acceptance of a reality. The way I see it, Christians, actually just about any group of people out there, develop a, “I am different, therefore I am better.”This is how the fundamentalists view the evangelicals and how home schoolers view public schoolers within the church, and how the church people view people outside the church. I mentioned this once to a home schooling father. he replied< "What if the kids are better." I replied to the effect, "It's never good to act or feel like you're better."

    The us vs. them reality is real. We have a job to do and many individuals don't want us to do it. The us vs. them attitude where we approach a situation expecting someone to be antagonistic is asking for failure.

    • samuelehall says:

      Eric, you pose an interesting point. Agreed, most people view themselves as special–an attitude that is healthy and promotes our success. In the space limitations of my posting, I couldn’t flesh out many of my points so your comment helps.
      Could you amplify what you mean by “expecting someone to be antagonistic”? I didn’t mean to give that impression.

      • Eric FOrbes says:

        the connotations of a them vs us attitude bring to me an expectation of antagonism.

      • samuelehall says:

        Yes, Eric, I agree with your original comment that “the Us vs. Them reality” exists. No attitude. Simply condition. That’s the way things are.
        Thus, your “expectation of antagonism” won’t change the condition. It’s what it is.
        I didn’t invent the Us vs. Them scenario. I didn’t even identify it. I simply parroted what the researchers at Barna extrapolated from their polling of young people.

  4. Dawn Shipman says:

    This is great, Sam. You’ve hit it right on the head. I have 3 children–all, raised in the church–and the oldest fits right into the age range you’ve mentioned. And he believes pretty much exactly as you’ve said. We HAVE to figure out what we’re doing wrong, and fix it! Thanks for taking on this tough subject.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Dawn, for sharing. My initial reaction was to try to show how people from the 20/30 group were missing it. Didn’t work. I didn’t realize the extent of the indoctrination they’d absorbed from their post-HS peers and professors.
      What helps is simply to listen. If I argue first, instead of hearing them out (w/o comment), this is viewed as disrespectful. And that is true–not to listen to another person, no matter how off-the-wall their arguments may be. So–first, find out why the rejection of the faith. Ask for specifics. Since they believe I unknowingly bring with me attitudes reprehensible to them–racism, anti-gay, pro-life–they tend to wrap my faith in the same banner (perhaps I’ve contributed to the murk). If I respond with “because the Bible says so,” that means nothing because of the anti-Christian mantra found on most campuses.
      Many of the 20/30s have not really appropriated the Christian faith as their own; they’ve gotten just enough to inoculate them against it. They’ve not endured the hard knocks we experienced. But they will. Time is the great leveler and tho we’d rather they not be limited by living these vital years w/o the power and love of Christ, they will reach the end of themselves. Our prayers and the great power of God will shine Christ’s light thru.

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