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Changing perceptions5 min read

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I have always enjoyed the written word much more than those that are spoken. I’m much better with the former and have no problem admitting that. (Not sure how much that says for my speaking ability since I am so often misunderstood in my writing.)

When I was young, I lost my first “girlfriend” because of this preference. (One of her letters had gotten lost in the mail. She called to tell me what it said. I asked if she could send the letter again instead. I’m still not really sure why that relationship never worked out.)

Despite my love for reading the words of others, as well as reading my own, very few things I have ever read have radically changed me and the way I view things. Don’t get me wrong. I have read a lot of good books, quite a few great books, but rarely do the books ever cause me to view life differently. Outside of the Bible, only three or four books have ever been that meaningful to me. But a book I bought almost accidentally over Christmas has now been added to that select list – unChristian.

In the near future, I will be posting a lot of my thoughts (and thoughts from the books and the contributors), but I just wanted to give a general overview of the book and why it has so impacted me – and hopefully changed the way I interact with people in my daily life and the way I blog and respond to our regular commenters here.

According to research by Barna and published in the book, Christianity has an image problem – especially among the younger generations, the under-30 crowd. While I knew much of the information to be true anecdotally, it is still somewhat jolting to see the thoughts put in the forms of statistics and disheartening to read interview in which 20-something’s (my age group) expressed so much emptiness and hurt that steemed from their treatment by those who claim to represent Jesus.

The statistical backbone of the story is that there are five big negative views that Americans aged 16-29 hold in regard to present day Christianity: antihomosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), too involved with politics (75%) and out of touch with reality (or sheltered) (72%). Going along with those are other negatives that can be grouped within those five: old-fashioned (78%), insensitive to others (70%), boring (68%) and confusing (61%). I can hear the nodding of many of our regulars through my screen.

There wasn’t much positive to go along with it. The top rated positive is in some senses not really positives. Teaches same basic ideas as other religions was agreed to by 82% of respondents. The things that we should be known for were way down the list: consistently shows love for other people (55%), offers hope for the future (54%), people you trust (52%), seems genuine and real (41%), something that makes sense (41%) and relevant to your life (30%).

Unfortunately, I have probably contributed more to the negatives than I have toward the positives. As much as I grieve over our current state and others perception of us, I could not helped but be encouraged by the book as well. Many Christian leaders gave their thoughts on how we can correct the problem and I began to think about working those things in to my own life. That’s a start. I can’t change the behavior of millions of professed Christians who live out an unChristian faith, but I can allow Christ to change my behavior. I can’t change the perceptions of millions of those outside my faith, but I can work to lessen the negatives and increase the positives in the minds of those I come in contact with. I’m going to do everything I can to change those numbers in the future.

Hopefully, you will see a change in the things I post about. I’m trying to shift my attention away from things of temporal importance (politics mainly) to things that can have a real impact on the future (relationship building, service to others, sacrifice). I will not be perfect at it, especially as we are entering an election year, but I am workiing at it. I don’t think Christians should eschew politics. It is part of life that we should be involved in and work to better, but we must remember that Jesus saved us not through becoming the Governor of Judea or by overthrowing the Roman Empire. He did it through His love, sacrifice and obedience to God’s call on His life.

The book is a must-read for the next generation of Christian leaders. We owe it to our generation, to Christ and to his bride, the Church, to digest the information and seek to change the way the world views us. For those who are on the outside looking into our faith, you may also benefit from the book. You will find many of your thoughts about modern day Christianity affirmed, but you may also be challenged to look at the faith in a different light after reading the heart of Christians who are just as sickened if not more so about what Christians are doing and saying in the name of Christ.