Why I Love The Barna Group And Why Young People Hate Evangelicals
I’ve linked to them once or twice, but allow me to clearly state: I love what The Barna Group does. So much so that I’ve created a permanent link roll, which you can find to the right, of several of their studies. For those too lazy to click through, the Barna Group does exhaustive polling of religion, and more specifically the Christian religion, in modern America.
Part of the reason why I enjoy them is because I’m a statistics nerd. I love raw, real, data. In contrast to the hypothesizing and postulating-from-30,000-feet that most people call “discourse”, a well-gathered statistic is near irrefutable.
So while so much of the evangelical leadership is searching for “relevancy” or some other b.s. church management theory, Barna Group is over in the corner, crunching numbers. And those numbers are terrifying to those who are concerned with the future of the American church. Peruse the polls I’ve linked to. Not one of them is encouraging to the future of a healthy evangelical church in the United States. And what is the reason for this decline? Why are Mosaics (people between the ages of roughly 16 and 29) so negative about evangelicals (only 3% of them have positive views)? Allow me to blurb from one of the Barna Group reports:
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.
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.
(all emphasis added is mine)
I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read this. After a decade of youth pastors with soul patches and tattoos, worship bands with DJs and guitar solos, Christian “alternatives” to pop culture, and every other pathetic attempt to re-decorate a moribund movement, someone finally gets it right: young people don’t like you, Evangelical Church, because you’ve been a whiny, selectively compassionate, un-Christ-like group that has tolerated un-Christ-like jerks in your leadership for far too long.