It's the conviction of David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, a religious research organization, and his co-author, Gabe Lyons, that Christianity has an image problem. Kinnaman and Lyons are two young men who set out to determine through polling and interviews exactly what young people (18-40) who stood outside the faith thought of Christianity and Christians.
They published their findings two years ago in an excellent book titled Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks of Christianity, and the results aren't flattering. Fairly or unfairly, justifiably or unjustifiably, pluralities of younger adults see Christians as hypocritical, insincere, homophobic, naive, too political, and judgmental.
Now this is not how Christians see themselves, of course, and so the news is hard to take. Nevertheless, whether there are good grounds for thinking this way of Christians or not, and the authors cite a lot of anecdotal evidence that certainly justifies at least some of these perceptions, this is how millions of "outsiders" do in fact see those who claim to be followers of one who was none of those things.
Though not without its irritations, this is a book that every Christian, certainly every Christian in leadership or ministry positions, really should read. Only by knowing what those outside the church have experienced and come to believe about Christianity can there be any chance of changing those beliefs.
Kinnaman and Lyons give a chapter to each of the perceptions listed above and explain how they arrive at their conclusions. For example, their data show that in the cohort of outsiders from 16 to 29 years of age 91% think Christians are (a lot or some) antihomosexual, 87% think Christians are judgmental, and 72% think they're out of touch.
Don't think, though, that the book is just page after page of statistics. The stats are just a small part of the information Kinnaman and Lyons provide. Much of the book is comprised of stories like that of a woman who sought help in dealing with her troubled son but received instead lectures from the women in the church about her status as an unmarried mother. She left.
Such stories are depressing, but Christians need to hear them. Only by seeing how others see us can we change those things about us which can be, and need to be, changed.
Buy two copies of Unchristian - one for you and one for your pastor. It can be ordered here.RLC