UnChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, focuses on the perceptions of Christianity from outsiders (non-Christians) of the last two generations. The gist of the book is that non-Christians don’t hate Jesus, (in fact, they love him!) but they don’t like Christians, and Kinnaman and Lyons put forth the reasons why this is.
Outsiders believe Christians are:
85% of young outsiders believe that Christians are hypocritical. Even half of all young people within the church share that opinion. Many of the outsiders interviewed for the book are former insiders. They were Christians; involved in their church communities, but recognized numerous holes in the lives of those they encountered, like the pastor who taught baptism by immersion until he got a better-paying job at a Presbyterian church that taught baptism by sprinkling. Or the single mom who ingratiated herself with the church leaders by being “spiritual” in order to get much-needed support for her family. Or the abusive husband who taught a bible study on how husbands should love their wives. These are all stories of hypocrisy seen from inside the church that partially caused people to leave.
*New Perception: Christians are transparent about their flaws and act first, talk second.
2. Get Saved
Unfortunately, evangelism in the church has gotten a bad reputation. Many times it seems as if Christians want to get to know others only in order to convert them; they don’t actually care about being friends regardless of whether others become Christians. When this perception has taken such a strong hold in our culture, it’s no wonder that people don’t like us. Because we don’t actually care about them; We act like we do, but they can tell when we really don’t. One of the worst things Christians can do is to start building relationships with outsiders only to run when outsiders reject Christianity. Why not actually build a relationship with someone? Whoever said evangelism was a one-day process? But even then, evangelism doesn’t have to be the goal of a relationship. How about focusing on showing God’s love and companionship to others instead?
*New Perception: Christians cultivate relationships and environments where others can be deeply transformed by God.
The issue of homosexuality has become a huge one, not only in the church but in the rest of society. Regardless of our personal views on homosexuality, everyone deserves to be treated as a human being. “When most of us engage homosexuals, we come across as arrogant, self-righteous, and uncaring—the opposite of how Jesus engaged outsiders.” Many Christians automatically assume many things about homosexuals, such as: They are incapable of acting morally; they have the goal of undermining conservative Christianity; homosexuality is a simple issue; friendships with them should be avoided, etc. Each and every one of these perceptions is wrong, but we are too caught up in our own crusade against homosexuality to realize how we are hurting God’s children.
*New Perception: Christians show compassion and love to all people, regardless of their lifestyle.
“Outsiders think Christianity is out-of-tune with the real-world choices, challenges, and lifestyles they face.” Christianity is seen as old-fashioned, antiquated. Many people think Christianity insulates people from thinking; it stifles curiosity, questions. “It makes people brain-dead.” Christianity is often seen as an exclusive club that speaks at a different level than others, purposefully leaving them out of conversation. They see it as a Christian “bubble.”
*New Perception: Christians are engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face.
5. Too Political
“The political arena is a crucial setting for influencing culture and an important domain for expressing a Christian worldview.” While it is true that some outsiders might simply resent the fact that Christians embrace a different and unpopular set of political perspectives, the truth is that many young people, including young Christians, are growing increasingly impatient with the political activism of many in the church as well as churches themselves. In recent decades, Christians have made a determined effort to engage in politics and because the faith of political candidates always seems to become an issue, people’s perceptions of the political environment and their views of Christians become inescapably linked.
*New Perception: Christians are characterized by respecting people, thinking biblically, and finding solutions to complex issues.
One of the most significantly concerning perceptions of Christians is that we are judgmental. “One outsider described it like this: ‘Christians like to hear themselves talk. They are arrogant about their beliefs, but they never bother figuring out what other people actually think. They don’t seem to be very compassionate, especially when they feel strongly about something.’” Another outsider said that the judgment comes from a place of self-righteousness, which is probably true. The really sad part is 53% of young Christians said they believe the word judgmental accurately fits present-day Christianity.The sad reality is even those within the church believe it! Confronted with judgment, outsiders are not likely to be open to cultivating a relationship with God. They “. . . say Christians are more focused on condemning people than helping people become more like Jesus.”
*New Perception: Christians show grace by finding the good in others and seeing their potential to be Christ followers.
At first, these perceptions of Christianity are shocking; but after a little bit of thought, I can see why. This perception of our faith is harsh but true. I think this book is a wake-up call to all Christians to reexamine their lives and change the world’s perception of Christianity.
This post is only the first in a series which will more closely examine the reputation which the Christian faith has gain in recent years.