December 31, 2008

What I'm Learning..

I have been learning a ton since we moved to Charlottesville, mostly about myself and how I want and need to change. I have had a hard time coming up with a concise summary of what's been swimming around in my head, but recently I have been reading a book titled Unchristian and it's doing the job for me. The book is an outflow of a study done by Barna on how Christians are perceived in America by outsiders (those who are not Christians). They began to notice themes as they interviewed outsiders, with a majority of young outsiders saying these were true about Christians: (this was taken directly from the book, pg 29)

  • Hypocritical. Outsiders consider us hypocritical--saying one thing and doing another---and they are skeptical of our morally superior attitudes. They say Christians pretend to be something unreal, conveying a polished image that is not accurate. Christians think the church is only a place for virtuous and morally pure people.
  • Too focused on getting converts. Outsiders wonder if we genuinely care about them. They feel like targets rather than people. They question our motives when we try to help them "get saved," despite the fact that many of them have already "tried" Jesus and experienced church before.
  • Anti-homsexual. Outsiders say that Christians are bigoted and show disdain for gays and lesbians. They say Chritians are fixated on curing homosexuals and on leveraging political situations against them.
  • Sheltered. Christians are thought of as old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality. Outsiders say we do not respond to reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions and answers. We are not willing to deal with the grit and grime of people's lives.
  • Too political. Another common perception of Christians is that we are overly motivated by a political agenda, that we promote and represent politically conservative interests and issues. Conservative Christians are often thought of as right-wingers.
  • Judgmental. Outsiders think of Christians as quick to judge others. They say we are not honest about our attitudes and perspectives about other people. They doubt that we really love people as we say we do.
The author calls this brand of Christianity "unchristian" because even though sometimes the ideology does represent what the Bible teaches (i.e. homosexuality is a sin), the attitudes behind them do not represent Christ and true Christianity. Instead of being known by our love, we are known for our hate. Because of these perceptions, the church and Christians are quickly losing relevance in the lives of outsiders. He says we must care how we are perceived if we want people to receive the message of Christ from us.

The interesting thing is that they also studied young Christians (in their 20's) and found that many of these churched people also feel the same way about Christianity and are conflicted about how our churches approach people and topics they are confronted with daily. 

The reason why this book fits what I'm learning is that I see alot of truth in what I'm reading about Christians in general, but also myself. Where I lived previously, I was very secluded in my Christian circles, going to Bible study, and doing comfortable things, but I was not engaging outsiders in a purposeful way (to love them and be a part of their lives in a way that I could be Christ to them). I am now in a place where that is my daily purpose and I am an infant in it. I think alot of times we get the impression from the church that the world is evil and we should avoid it and fight it at all costs, but in actuality we are to walk the fine line of holiness while we engage the world. Jesus Himself avoided the Pharisees (church people) and hung out with outsiders. I sometimes think that we as Christians have everything all confused and are not really living like the Bible says to live. 

I would be interested in your thoughts.