Thinking Anglicans

Barna on American Teenagers

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

See:

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.

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Charlotte
Charlotte
14 years ago

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.

Merseymike
Merseymike
14 years ago

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

JCF
JCF
14 years ago

“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…

John Omani
John Omani
14 years ago

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.

Andrew
Andrew
14 years ago

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… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
14 years ago

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… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
14 years ago

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.

Anthony W
Anthony W
14 years ago

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 …”

NP
NP
14 years ago

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

(TEC USA official nos suggest the answer is “nope”)

NP
NP
14 years ago

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

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“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… Read more »

Kurt
Kurt
14 years ago

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!

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“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… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
14 years ago

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

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/11/AR2007101102537_Comments.html#

Cheryl Va. Clough
14 years ago

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… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
14 years ago

“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… Read more »

Kurt
Kurt
14 years ago

“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?

Göran Koch-Swahne
14 years ago

“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 ;=)

Cheryl Va. Clough
14 years ago

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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“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.

Cheryl Va. Clough
14 years ago

Ford

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.

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