An article in USA Today http://USAtoday.com that was published on Thursday paints a very uphill battle for the Christian faith among young people in the United States.
The article sites a book based on research by The Barna Group, an evangelical organization that analyzes religious trends, that says people in the always popular 18-29 age group are turned off by their perception of Christianity and the most highlighted negatives are the "judgementalism" and "anti-gay" attitudes of Christians.
The writer of the article, Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service really went after the modernists bogeymen, "judgementalism" and "anti-gay"
According to Miss Banks, the author of "UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity", David Kinnaman says the following:
"The Christian community's ability to take the high road and help to deal with some of the challenges that this (anti-gay) perception represents may be the. . .defining response of the Christian church in the next decade. The anti-homosexual perception has now become sort the Geiger counter of Christians' ability to love and work with people."
Hmm, what a loaded bunch of rhetoric considering that this is all based of a sample of 867 young people, 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers.
According to the findings, 91% of non-Christians said that Christianity has an anti-homosexual image, 87% said too "judgemental" and 85% that it is hypocritical.
Now that I have presented the basis of the article, here are some observations.
It is not a good thing to use a mere 867 people and claim that is the prevailing view among young people about Christianity. The article implies that it is irreproachable to mend these young people's perception and understanding of the Christian message.
The fact that three points of note, views on homosexuality, "judgementalism" and hypocrisy, show the biases of both the book author, Mr. Kinnaman and the article's writer, Miss Banks.
How about the fact that when there is trouble, there are the multitude of Christian agencies from multiple denominations that are usually first on the scene to offer assistance? The Salvation Army was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina faster than the Louisiana National Guard.
It was Christian relief agencies that swarmed all over Asia in the wake of the Christmas earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.
Also, what about the fact that it is Christians that run almost all of the rescue missions in most of the United States major cities? Take care of the homeless?
I will be the first to write that there is a lot of carnage in the dispute between Christians about homosexuality and there are flamethrowers on both sides who site the Holy Bible to prop up their view concerning homosexuality. But, if there are such disputes, why are these young people unaware that there are many Christians that are very sympathetic with homosexuals and are very welcoming to those who are gay or lesbian?
Also, I will agree that we who are Christian do often tell others what we are against and not what we are for.
Where I find all of this information faulting is the fact that there is an absolute hunger among this young group for something other than what this secular world offers. And that is where the church in general fails to go after the most vulnerable group in positive ways.
The reason that God gave the gift of Jesus Christ was to save people from their own ways and to show the ways of an almighty God.
The message of Jesus Christ is that the world can be better if people turn to God.
If there was not a hunger for faith, spirituality or whatever one wants to call it, then someone like Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California would not have one of the largest selling books of all time, "The Purpose Driven Life" which is a clear, positive message about Jesus Christ.
Pastor Warren was cited in the article and said something profound:
"The church will become know more by what it is for than what it is against."
Poor Pastor Warren ran into trouble when he hosted a conference on AIDS in Africa at his church earlier this year and invited two United States senators, Sam Brownback (R-Kans) and Barack Obama (D-Ill) because of inviting Sen. Obama because he is pro-abortion. Now, if we are going to change anyone, especially another professing Christian as is Sen. Obama, on an faith issue, we do not close the door. Clearly a case of what some Christians are against more than what they are for.
Sadly, politics has been a reason that there is such hostility between Christians and non-Christians and even among Christians. I for one believe in using the terms traditional and modernist rather than the political labels conservative and liberal in discussing affairs of church and faith. That maybe a little start.
I think that if nothing else, the article and book gives those of us who are Christians a way to take the negatives and make them positives. After all, that is what Jesus Christ did.