Fred Clark writes today about a new study of perceptions of Christianity in American culture.
Fred excerpts this paragraph from the study:
The study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent 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.
I’ve long maintained that the silent majority of Christians–the people in the pews, not the ones on the radio and TV–aren’t really that engaged in the political and religious battle over homosexuality. I have no doubt that most Christians consider homosexual sex acts a sin (which I don’t really agree with), but I’ve assumed that issues closer to home were of greater concern.
So, when I read the paragraph above, I immediately assumed that this perception was shaped by the bigmouths in the media who spout hatred, but who don’t really represent this presumed silent majority. But then, I read on in the article about the study’s report and found this:
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 peopleâ€™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 â€˜unChristianâ€™ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected.”
Great. So maybe my presumed silent majority is, in fact, a minority. That’s just depressing in so many ways. It also makes me think that I need to try harder to explain the tolerant and loving version of Christianity to those around me.