A comment from a classmate last week reminded me of a book I got earlier in the month, began to read, and then put aside when I got pressed for time. In the last few days I’ve gone back to it and finished reading it. It’s called unchristian and is written by David Kinnaman, the president of the evangelical research group The Barna Institute. The book writes up the findings of a fairly extensive research project done with Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) and Busters (born between 1965-1983) examining their views of Christianity.
The results of the study weren’t very surprising to me but are a real indictment of 20th and 21st century Christianity, both evangelical and progressive. Teens and young adults (in or outside the church) are critical of contemporary Christianity for its being (from the greatest perception down) antihomosexual, judgmental, and hypocritical. Christianity--or better, Christians and their congregations-- are insensitive to others, boring, and out of touch with reality. And these opinions are not coming from teens and 20s who have never experienced what Christianity is offering. More than four out of every five have gone to church at some time in their life, though few would say they have ever experienced God through the church. (I wonder if that figure would really be very different among those who are older. I somehow doubt it.)
So what do we do about the message we’re conveying (and the lives we’re living that don’t reflect the teachings of Jesus)? While Kinnaman offers several suggestions – learning to love those who are not members of the “insiders” club, being genuine and transparent, demonstrating loving relationships both in and outside the church, making faith connect with a changing world-- to me a line in the conclusion becomes the clearest and most poignant solution: “It comes down to this: we must become Christlike again.”