Thursday, May 10, 2012

Study: Younger generation more frustrated with Christianity

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Street signs: “Religion” and “Politics”

A 2007 study reveals more about how the Millennial generation feels about Christianity, and the results, while slightly outdated, are both interesting and heartening (though not for Christians):

A new study by The Barna Group conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.


The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day 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.

What’s more, the continuing demonization of gays and lesbians is taking its toll:

Interestingly, 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% 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.

You mean that hearing Christian leaders constantly pound on the anti-gay war drums is starting to drive more sensible young people away? Who woulda thunk it …

Now, none of this is particularly surprising, at least not to anyone who keeps minimally aware of current social and religious trends. But what makes it rather interesting is that the organization that conducted the study, The Barna Group, is actually an evangelical Christian firm, itself, whose goals are to produce research that can be used to improve the influence and public opinion of Christendom. It’s somewhat heartening to see that even Christians – those who aren’t blinded by delusions of dogmatic infallibility, that is – are able to recognize that in the greater scheme of things, their side is losing ground, and with increasing speed. (And even then, these numbers are five years old, which makes it clear that they’ll have only continued in favor of secularism.)

In the end, what this study shows is that in the culture war between dogma and modernity, the camp with an actual vested interest in morality and human dignity will inevitably – and soon – relegate the narrow-minded Christian creed into as distant a position of relevance in our culture as the Bronze Age from whence it and its morals originated.

(via Rob F)