Thursday, 11 October 2007

Barna on American Teenagers

Although quite general in scope, this American research from The Barna Group is of interest.


A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity

What Teenagers Look for in a Church

A sample:

The Set of Perceptions

While Christianity has typically generated an uneven reputation, the research shows that many of the most common critiques are becoming more concentrated. 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.

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.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 4:09pm BST | TrackBack
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Thanks for posting this, Simon. The Barna Group, which does polling mainly for Evangelical and conservative Christian organizations, has put its finger on something important going on in the USA. As someone in constant touch with young people, I have seen these negative perceptions of Christianity gaining traction rapidly, even in an area usually considered part of the American "Bible Belt." This development is something for all Christians to prayerfully consider.

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 6:06pm BST

And if that's the case in the US, what impact does the Church make in far more secular Britain?

I have said time and time again to NP that the average non-churchgoer has a very low view of evangelical Christianity and its attitudes. This supports that view.

But I don't think its about style of presentation, but content of the message

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 7:07pm BST

"Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.”"

Tell that, to those who keep trying to foist the "Love the sinner, hate the sin" CANARD...

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 7:07pm BST

This is most interesting, but not surprising. I would expect to find the same attitudes in other parts of the world too. Archbishop Jensen of Sydney himself says that the sinfulness or otherwise of homosexuality is the make-or-break issue for Christians, more important than any other doctrinal issue the church has faced. We ought not to be surprised then if young people draw the obvious conclusions.

Posted by: John Omani on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 8:41pm BST

The opinions of the young people are an accurate description of the current politics of the AC: homosexuality has become the "bigger sin" than anything else, and has to our detriment consumed the energies of leaders worldwide. It has forced our brilliant and talented and spiritual ABC to waste much of his reign on this minor matter. The alienation of young people from the Christian churches includes the tolerant and open EC. However, as the political power of the Christian right recedes, even if AC loses the Akinolites, there will be an opportunity for liberal churches to preach the gospel of a loving triune God, and thereby regain some of that generation.

Posted by: Andrew on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 8:50pm BST

God bless God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Bullies might control the pulpits and the colleges, but they don't control the minds on the street.

God will go where there are souls who will listen, if they can't be found in the church communities, God will go to where they are.

Nor are they illiterate. They can read the bible and comprehend Jesus' exhortations to love thy neighbour and love thy enemy, to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, to not judge lest you be judged, to desire God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, to not insult a mother or father for what they have conceived.

Those who have referred to this study in the last few weeks will be grateful for Simon posting it here.

Thank you.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 9:41pm BST

Isn't this EXACTLY what I was telling NP weeks ago? That the young people of the USA have given up on his brand of "orthodoxy" because they have seen with their own eyes that the people it condemns as sinners are nothing of the kind?

He probably still won't believe it, insisting that it is the "conservative, orthodox" churches that will grow in the future...though where they are going to find new members in the next generation escapes me.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 10:14pm BST

Christianity will be around for a long while yet no matter what this generation does to distort it. Cheryl is right, however: it may take some searching for where Christianity is to be found. "Out of the mouths of babes ..."

Posted by: Anthony W on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 12:40am BST

TEC USA got lots of teenagers coming to hear the "anything goes gospel"?

(TEC USA official nos suggest the answer is "nope")

Posted by: NP on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 8:39am BST

Pat - what you always ignore is that in my church we have (literally) hundreds of young people...and in yours?

Posted by: NP on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 9:02am BST

"Isn't this EXACTLY what I was telling NP weeks ago? "

NP needs to live in his world of the poor, persecuted but oddly successful for all that, Church of the True Believer. Don't break his bubble. I was interested in my own reaction. It infuriates me that we give the impression of being judgemental and hypocritical, for instance, especially since the first one is something we are directly commanded not to do, pace the Gopspel according to NP. Everyone is a hypocrite in some sense, I guess, but we in the church needn't be so proud of it. I don't care at all that young people think us old fashioned or out of touch. Out of touch with what? A set of societal ideas that in twenty years could very well change to such a degree that I would dream of the good old days of the comparatively benign homophobia of the Church. The Church didn't invent the pink triangle, society did. The Church did, however invent the "faggot". All the same, I'd rather put my faith in something a little more constant than societal whim.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 12:47pm BST

The 30-year reign of terror here in America by right-wing evangelicals is coming to an end at last! This poll shows the complete rejection of evo theology by the younger American generation!

Posted by: Kurt on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 2:41pm BST

"This poll shows the complete rejection of evo theology by the younger American generation!"

I think it shows the complete rejection of Christianity by some younger Americans. They don't know that there is a difference between Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals. This has been helped along by Evangelicals for whom 'Christian' obviously means 'Evangelical Christian'. I have actually heard the phrase "catholics persecuting Christians" since one cannot be both! We also haven't gotten over the fact that we are no longer the Church of Empire and society long ago took back our right to set public morals. Of course, we have abundantly shown that we do not have the moral credibility to do this anyway. But, to the world, all Christians are pinchfaced, pursed lipped judgemental fundamentalists, and they are getting angrier about it. Militant atheism is becoming something news shows do pieces on, and when you listen to the Christians these people love to hate, you can easily see who they are. It does little good to point out that these people are the Christian equivalent of the Taleban, and thus their behaviour is not generalizable. Now, let NP come here and tell us how Evangelical Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. Either him or the Barna polsters live on a different planet.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 7:31pm BST

RE What do people really think about evangelicals?

Comments in The Washington Post à propos the UN Secretary General's visit to an evangelical dinner

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 10:04pm BST

Psalms 17:10-14 "They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance... Rise up, O LORD, confront them… rescue me from the wicked... by your hand save me from… men of this world whose reward is in this life."

Isaiah 40:23 God reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

Luke 16:8-15 Jesus commented "...the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light... You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight."

John 8:23 "You are of this world; I am not of this world."

Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

1 Corinthians 1:28-29 "Jesus chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

1 Corithians 3:19-21 "...the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight… He catches the wise in their craftiness... So then, no more boasting about men!"

2 Corinthians 10:2-5 "I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God..."

Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

Those who arrogantly brag of success in this world, and ignore God's call to peace, play straight into God's hands. As they attempt to deny grace to others, they act as Baal prophets that are prepared to sacrifice God's children. Such conduct proves that their theology is bankrupt as it focuses on the rewards of this world.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 10:44pm BST

"Pat - what you always ignore is that in my church we have (literally) hundreds of young people...and in yours?"

Literally? How big is your church building? A cathedral?

My local parish--being truly local, both geographically and otherwise--has a mix of membership. At a typical Sunday 10AM service, with about 100 people attending, I can count on about a third being under 35...including some 10-20 under the age of 18.

BTW, we also have a Saturday evening service and a Sunday morning service, each with an average attendance of 30-40 people.

But once again, it's not numbers that count, it's faith.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 11:00pm BST

“They don't know that there is a difference between Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals. This has been helped along by Evangelicals for whom 'Christian' obviously means 'Evangelical Christian'.”—Ford Elms

Well, it’s up to us then to explain the difference, isn’t it?

Posted by: Kurt on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 1:29pm BST

"Well, it’s up to us then to explain the difference, isn’t it?"

Which would require us to say Calvinists aren't really Christians or Biblical, but Heathens into Alexandrian Indo-Greek philosphy.

And that would be bad manners ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 10:58am BST

Hi Goran and Kurt

Nice postings. I would not deny their Christianity but I would "throw the book", sorry bible, at them.

Some Christians purport that because they have the grace of Jesus they can not sin or make the same errors as their Jewish ancestral priests.

Bah! Humbug!

Go read Jesus' rebukes to the teachers of law in his time, they so apply to so many today. Even better go back and carefully study the book of Ezekiel, it is probably the best biblical book in terms of warning us about not respecting boundaries and being too obsessed about building our own church, irregardless of how it impacts on its neighbours. It is also excellent for addressing complacency and selfishness, and duck-shoving responsibility onto others.

At Ezekiel 18:25 he confronts the selfish priests of his time. To paraphrase: The house of priests say, ‘The ways of the Lord is not just.’ Are God's ways unjust, O teachers? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 9:54pm BST

"Well, it’s up to us then to explain the difference, isn’t it?"

An incredibly difficult thing to do when "the other side" has by far the loudest voice and denies that we can even BE Christian. Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, indeed anyone who does not think as they do is not Christian, unsaved, and, like all the other heathens in the world, fair game for conversion by any means necessary.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 15 October 2007 at 2:40pm BST


Have faith. God wants this to happen. It's going to happen. The tantruming is actually helping it happen.

Pity them, it doesn't matter which way they move or even if they sit still, God's Will will be done. They are like Balaam, it doesn't matter if they curse, their curses are being transmuted into blessings.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 15 October 2007 at 9:10pm BST
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