Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Summary of findings

(Part 2 in a series)

It seems that many of the statistics discussed by Christians revolve around one of two issues:

1) Christians are not very Christian (an example)

2) The Church is rapidly declining (an example)

This book, UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is a variation on the first theme. It holds that people outside of the church, especially young people, view Christians as acting in an unChristian manner. They write that "Christianity has an image problem," and this book details the specifics of this problem.

The authors base their study on data collected by the Barna Group, which Kinnaman heads. They don't give a lot of details about how they collected their data, but they appear to have collected a nationwide phone survey that included 440 respondents who did not fit Barna's definition of being a born-again Christian. As I've discussed elsewhere, this definition includes people who agree with a couple of theological statements, regardless of whether they define themselves as Christian or whether they attend a church. This definition excludes people not affiliated with a religion, affiliated with non-Christian religions, and many non-Evangelical Christians, including Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Based on interviewing these 440 non-Evangelicals, the authors conclude that the Evangelical church and its members are thought of very poorly. One-third to one-half of the sample had a bad impression of Christianity, Evangelical Christians, and Born-Again Christians (p. 25). These apparent bad feelings stem from six broad impressions about Christians (p. 29).

The 440 respondents identified Christians as:
- Hypocritical (saying one thing and doing another)
- Too focused on getting converts (viewing people as targets)
- Antihomosexual (bigoted)
- Sheltered (old fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality)
- Too political (motivated by conservative political agenda)
- Judgmental (quick to judge others)

These negative perceptions alter how people interact with Christians and their willingness to become Christians themselves (p. 11).

The majority of the book unpacks these themes, addressing one per chapter. It also uses the insights of the authors as well as various Christian leaders in how Christians can get these perceptions.

Next: Reactions to UnChristian.

1 comment:

jeremy said...

I'm glad you're doing this. I haven't read it, but am (somewhat) frequently asked about it. Now I'll have a place to direct interested parties. (And the reviews will be enlightening for me as well!)