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Author Topic:   Christianity's public image problems
Modulous
Member (Idle past 337 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 1 of 14 (427419)
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


A group calling themselves The Barna Group have recently been looking into the public image of Christianity...what people's perceptions of it are etc. The Barna Group is a Christian association whose aim is to 'partner with Christian ministries and individuals to be a catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States.'

They have titled their article based on these findings, "A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity" and some of its findings are rather interesting. It appears to be a summary of the findings published in a book called unChristian - and given the discussion What Is A Christian (Remix) I thought EvC might be interested in exploring it. I figured it was suitably diversionary to warrant its own thread and I believe Coffee House is the most suitable place. Admins - feel free to move it if you feel it is errantly placed. Directors - feel free to append it to the other thread if you think it best.

quote:
Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. 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%).

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

...

Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual." Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.


quote:
David Kinnaman, who is a 12-year-veteran of the Barna team, pointed out some of the unexpected findings of the research. "Going into this three-year project, I assumed that people’s perceptions were generally soft, based on misinformation, and would gradually morph into more traditional views. But then, as we probed why young people had come to such conclusions, I was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected."

Source of above quotations

It seems as though the anti-homosexual rhetoric of the public faces in Christianity has become a source of disenfranchisement amongst young Americans Christian and non-Christian alike. If we assume for the moment that the TruthTM is that homosexuality is a sin, then we can say that its recent overemphasis is hampering efforts to spread the WordTM. Time for a new tactic, methinks. I'd assume that means a changing of the guard for Christianity. Perhaps we shall have to wait for the younger generation of Christians to step forward as public ministers...but is the damage done, is a quick recovery possible? If the more moderate Christians are being turned off, does that mean the population of Christians that remain have an increased frequency of the judgemental variety? Religious selection seems to be in play, which tactic will we be left with when it reaches equilibrium?

Food for thought for some of our members, perhaps.

In the interests of full disclosure: The Barna Group is a protestant group; I have not examined the methodology of the study to determine its validity

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Added "Source of above quotations" link.


No - I don't believe a cosmic Jewish zombie can make me live forever if I eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that I accept him as my master, so he can then remove an evil force from my soul that is present in all of humanity because a dirt/rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree about 6,000 years ago just after the universe was created. Why should I?
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dwise1
Member
Posts: 3656
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 2 of 14 (427510)
10-11-2007 7:35 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


FWIW, I first and last heard of the Barna Group back in 1991 when an AP article about a poll they did about what Americans believe appeared in the newspaper. I reposted it at http://members.aol.com/dwise1/religion/survey.html.

The entire article here, since it's not too long:

quote:
SURVEY: Americans believe all people worship same God, poll shows

The Associated Press
As printed in The Orange County Register, Saturday, 07 September 1991:

NEW YORK - Most Americans think there is no such thing as absolute truth and believe that people of different religions all worship the same God, a new survey says.

George Barna, whose Barna Research Group of Glendale conducted the survey, has produced a book from it called "What Americans Believe." His findings show an interest in religion. However, "If there is a revival going on," it "must be viewed as a religious revival, not a Christian revival."

Barna, a marketing research professional who has done work for Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, says a "massive realignment of thinking is taking place in which people are transferring many elements formerly deemed `necessary' into the realm of the `optional,' " such as Bible reading, prayer and involvement in church.

While most say religion is important to them, they're increasingly likely "to feel that being part of a local church is not a necessity," the findings say. Traditional Christian beliefs are eroding, too."

For instance, the report says, 82 percent of adults think that "God helps those who help themselves," and 56 percent mistakenly think the idea is from the Bible.

Actually, the saying is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. The report says it runs counter to Christian teaching that people cannot attain wholeness by their own deeds, but only through God's forgiveness of their failings.

The self-sufficiency streak also shows up in a finding that 82 percent of adults think that "every person has the power to determine his or her own destiny in life."

In a similarly amalgamating way, 65 percent of Americans say Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists "pray to the same God," although by different names.

The survey involved telephone interviews with a representative 1,005 US adults on about 60 questions covering a broad range of topics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.



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Taz
Member (Idle past 1525 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 3 of 14 (427520)
10-11-2007 7:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


Modulous writes:

They have titled their article based on these findings, "A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity"


I don't see this as any kind of a problem for christianity, considering the fact that the overwhelming majority, if not most, people in the US are still christians. Regardless of what the public image is, it will remain a powerful force against human rights for many generations to come.


Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Damouse
Member (Idle past 3139 days)
Posts: 215
From: Brookfield, Wisconsin
Joined: 12-18-2005


Message 4 of 14 (427530)
10-11-2007 9:25 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Taz
10-11-2007 7:51 PM


I don't see this as any kind of a problem for christianity, considering the fact that the overwhelming majority, if not most, people in the US are still christians. Regardless of what the public image is, it will remain a powerful force against human rights for many generations to come.

heh heh heh ouch.

That nonwithstanding, christianity is on a recession to what it once was. Speaking from the perspective of the RC church, numbers are way down on everything, and all across the board church attendace is not what it used to be.

A powerful force, indeed, but on its way out imho.


This statement is false.

Yeah so i lurk more than i post, thats why my posts are so low for two year's worth of membership. So sue me.


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cypher227
Junior Member (Idle past 4239 days)
Posts: 5
Joined: 10-11-2007


Message 5 of 14 (427531)
10-11-2007 9:33 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Damouse
10-11-2007 9:25 PM


It seems to me that Christianity is going through some kind of death throes. Not that I'm issuing some kind of doom prophecy for Christianity, the system took 1250-1500 years to reach its zenith and its fall may take just as long. I think these public image problems are symptoms of a deeper issue.
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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 710 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 6 of 14 (427542)
10-11-2007 10:19 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Damouse
10-11-2007 9:25 PM


Damouse writes:

A powerful force, indeed, but on its way out imho.

Indeed. About 75% of Americans are self-described Christians. If the loss of religion continues at the rate it's been going at, they'll be a minority in the middle of this century.

Here in the U.K., I heard on the radio a few days ago that a whopping 6% of the nation's babies are being baptized. This is down from 15% in the 1990's.


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1525 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 7 of 14 (427546)
10-11-2007 10:40 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Damouse
10-11-2007 9:25 PM


Damouse writes:

A powerful force, indeed, but on its way out imho.


While I have no doubt that most religions will ultimately go belly up, I don't think christianity is on its way out anytime soon. Yes, the number of nonbelievers are higher than ever before, but so is the overall population.

Speaking from the perspective of the RC church, numbers are way down on everything, and all across the board church attendace is not what it used to be.

I suspect that the younger generation catholics are more drawn to other denominations because of their specific appeal to their age group. The christian youth group that I belonged to in college before I turned atheist recruited a significant number of former catholics.

That nonwithstanding, christianity is on a recession to what it once was.

I think the appearance of recession come from the fact that witch hunts are no longer allowed and that the RC church has lost most of its political power in the world. Scratch that, I think they lost direct power. But now that the western world has pretty much turned one form or other of democracy, christianity as a whole is still retaining most of its power through the voting system.

Think about it. You can't get voted into office without constantly telling people you believe in god and you pray everyday.


Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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 Message 4 by Damouse, posted 10-11-2007 9:25 PM Damouse has responded

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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3749
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 8 of 14 (427549)
10-11-2007 10:47 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


The loud minority
No one has said such before in this topic, so I'll state what is probably the obvious - Much of the cited perceptions about Christians are probably about certain prominent examples. Mostly the Christian right wing. Much of Christiandom is less extreme and flying below the radar.

Moose


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Damouse
Member (Idle past 3139 days)
Posts: 215
From: Brookfield, Wisconsin
Joined: 12-18-2005


Message 9 of 14 (427550)
10-11-2007 10:54 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Taz
10-11-2007 10:40 PM


@ Taz.

My only observed differance from the Former christian faith and the current is a whole lot more intermediaries. I think i can safely say that the number of aetheists has gone upwards at some sort of steady rate for quite some time, but i think the amount of fundemental-to-the-roots christians has dropped dramatically, and most have become IDers or otherwise-faithed christians. The weight of the evidance is increasingly on the opposite side of religion, and i dont think that that isnt registering in the population.

Then of course is the "quasi-christians". They may call themselves christian and put that on all their offical forms but they dont practice or dont specifically adhere to a certain system of beliefs, they are religious only in name. My general train of thought is that these people, and the children of these people are more likely to move away from christianity over the children of a fundy catholic family.

Maybe slow, but i would argue that the balance is shifting away from blind adherance in religion. Someone once argued that the aetheist movement is at the same place the gay movement was 10 years ago; that it will only take one outcry, one large snowball effect to begin to pick up speed.

Edited by Damouse, : No reason given.


This statement is false.

Yeah so i lurk more than i post, thats why my posts are so low for two year's worth of membership. So sue me.


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AnswersInGenitals
Member
Posts: 509
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 10 of 14 (427568)
10-12-2007 1:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


How, exactly, are these surveys conducted?
I don't doubt that the results of this survey are true, but I certainly would not rely solely on this Barna group to present the facts accurately. This survey is just too self serving for them. They are in the business (spelled with capital $$'s) of helping churches attract or retain (paying) members so that these results would tend to scare churches into believing their (the Barna group's) services were needed. Surveys that rely on the results of 1000 respondees to telephone interviews, and that is about all of them, are very suspect. They are far too weighted towards people who are willing, or dumb enough, to answer personal questions from a total stranger over the phone. That's why I give no credence to polls that continually show that about 10% of Americans are atheists. These polls also use phone interviews usually using automatic dialing systems and are thus limited to people who don't have the skills and intelligence to install a telezapper, i. e., they automatic exclude most atheists.

Edited by AnswersInGenitals, : No reason given.


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nator
Member (Idle past 403 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 11 of 14 (427603)
10-12-2007 8:03 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


The Barna folks are a great resource for those of us debating with Christians who hold inaccurate, rose-tinted ideas of Christianity.

I found a great study by them that showed that in America divorce rates are highest among strict, conservative Christian sets and lowest among Catholics, and Atheists and Agnostics.

As for the points you raise about the future of Christianity, I think that what will happen is what has always happened; religions change, and possibly go extinct, in response to the larger culture.

Evolutionary change, as it were.


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jar
Member
Posts: 31201
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 12 of 14 (427605)
10-12-2007 8:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Modulous
10-11-2007 11:54 AM


A very encouraging report
I think that it is not simply interesting, but it is also very encouraging. It also seems to be supported by "Facts on the Ground".

The general image of Christianity is that it is judgmental, hypocritical, too political and out of touch with reality and that image seems to be a direct reflection of the Truthâ„¢ of Christianity as so often practiced and marketed in the US.

The encouraging things is that as that perception takes hold, particularly among Christians themselves, perhaps a new reformation will take place.

There are many indications that is exactly what is happening.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
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nator
Member (Idle past 403 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 13 of 14 (427606)
10-12-2007 8:14 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by AnswersInGenitals
10-12-2007 1:13 AM


Re: How, exactly, are these surveys conducted?
quote:
I don't doubt that the results of this survey are true, but I certainly would not rely solely on this Barna group to present the facts accurately.

Er, either the results are true, or they aren't.

What about the presentation of these true facts do you think is misleading?

quote:
This survey is just too self serving for them. They are in the business (spelled with capital $$'s) of helping churches attract or retain (paying) members so that these results would tend to scare churches into believing their (the Barna group's) services were needed.

Again, can you point out where the flaws are in their analysis?

quote:
Surveys that rely on the results of 1000 respondees to telephone interviews, and that is about all of them, are very suspect. They are far too weighted towards people who are willing, or dumb enough, to answer personal questions from a total stranger over the phone.

When phone surveys are independently verified to judge their accuracy, they are, for elections to give one example, shown to be accurate within a few percentage points.

quote:
That's why I give no credence to polls that continually show that about 10% of Americans are atheists.

Here's a report of a US Census survey of 50,000 people that showed that about 8% of Americans are non-believers.

The thing is, do you think that the people conducting telephone surveys haven't already come up with the issues you have raised as well as others?


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 337 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 14 of 14 (427607)
10-12-2007 8:20 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by AnswersInGenitals
10-12-2007 1:13 AM


Re: How, exactly, are these surveys conducted?
I don't doubt that the results of this survey are true, but I certainly would not rely solely on this Barna group to present the facts accurately. This survey is just too self serving for them. They are in the business (spelled with capital $$'s) of helping churches attract or retain (paying) members so that these results would tend to scare churches into believing their (the Barna group's) services were needed.

Agreed.

Surveys that rely on the results of 1000 respondees to telephone interviews, and that is about all of them, are very suspect. They are far too weighted towards people who are willing, or dumb enough, to answer personal questions from a total stranger over the phone.

Refusal rates are often high, and refusal rates are often one of those pieces of data that are neglected to be mentioned.

That's why I give no credence to polls that continually show that about 10% of Americans are atheists. These polls also use phone interviews usually using automatic dialing systems and are thus limited to people who don't have the skills and intelligence to install a telezapper, i. e., they automatic exclude most atheists.

Perhaps. I'm not sure on the methodology used in this paper, however I do know that most of the people they spoke to were not Christian. According to usatoday: "The findings were based on surveys of a sample of 867 young people. From that total, researchers reported responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers." - I'd certainly agree that their sample size is small - but it doesn't look like they employed the random ringing around tactic. However, it does raise other questions...such as how random was their sample, exactly? To me it looks like they asked about 20 people from each state - which doesn't seem particularly useful, but as I noted in the OP, I haven't got the materials necessary to examine potential flaws in the methodology.


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