By Brian Ford “Christianity has an image problem. Youth see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive.” These are the statements quoted from book jacket of unChristian written by David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. unChristian is based on Kinnaman's three years of research, study, and interviews from the perspective of 16 to 29 year-olds outside Christianity, and why they have such a negative view of the church and Christianity. In his book Kinnaman states that the new generation has “little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders.” He also states that outsiders “admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him.”
The book covers six broad themes based on the observations raised by those foreign to the Christian faith. The themes are as follows: hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. On the subject of antihomosexuals “outsiders say that Christians are bigoted and show disdain for gays and lesbians. They say Christians are fixated on curing homosexuals and on leveraging political solutions against them.” On the subject of too focused on getting converts “outsiders wonder if we genuinely care about them.” To outsiders Christians are hypocritical – saying one thing but doing another and “conveying a polished image that is not accurate.”
According to the research, Christians are also considered judgmental, “failing to be honest about our attitudes and perspectives about other people.” Another observation raised by others is one about political views. They say we “promote and represent politically conservative interests and issues”and “conservative Christians are often thought of as right-wingers.” Lastly, are Christians sheltered? To outsiders we are “old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality.” Kinnaman urges us to stay with him through the book as it may be difficult to take and his research is a “punch in the gut to Christians.”
Are we Christians really pushing the rest of the world away? Should we be held accountable for our actions and attitudes toward outsiders? Are we misrepresenting the holy, just and loving God we serve? Do we even care? Kinnaman's book unChristian answers these and many other questions. He challenges us to pay attention to outsiders and recognize their concerns as well as be “effective agents of spiritual transformation.” Finally he challenges readers to see themselves and their faith more clearly and consider how others reject and feel rejected by Christians.
Kinnaman's book is a wake up call to all Christians. Based on the perception of outsiders, Christianity has an image problem. The question is–are you and I willing to change that perception? For more information on unChristian, visit www.unchristian.com.