How does “the world” see us?

Recently I wrote about David Kinnaman’s treatment of that in his book, unChristian, based on an extensive research project by The Barna Group.

Remember, Kinnaman is writing from within the conservative Christian establishment. He’s writing about himself, about us (see that prior post).

Here he is quoting “one outsider from Mississippi.” (“Outsiders” are people not involved in “our” churches. And in the US, most outsiders have had significant experience with churches and/or Christians.)

Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care.

Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart.
-Kinnaman, p15

Ooh. Major owie!

You know, I don’t want to be in a church like that. I don’t want to be associated with a movement like that. If he’s right, what’s a guy supposed to do?

Jesus saves his sharpest condemnation for self-righteous individuals, those who feel secure in their religious trappings … “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law … hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” [Mt 23:13]
-Kinnaman, p45

Of course, we tend to think that because we have “received Jesus into our hearts” we’re ok, and “they” are not. Jesus, on the other hand, says “by their fruits you will know them.” JESUS said that. And it makes sense – I would expect that if the real Christ really IS involved directly in a person’s life there will be some significant changes starting to show up. It doesn’t seem at all unreasonable – or unBiblical – to expect that.

But

In virtually every study we conduct, representing thousands of interviews every year, born-again Christians fail to display much attitudinal or behavioral evidence of transformed lives.

For example?

When asked to identify their activities over the last thirty days, born-again believers were just as likely to
• bet or gamble,
• to visit a pornographic website,
• to take something that did not belong to them,
• to consult a medium or psychic,
• to physically fight or abuse someone,
• to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk,
• to have used an illegal, nonprescription drug,
• to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did,
• and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.
– Kinnaman p47

Oops. Big fruit problem here.

I wonder what that means? It must mean something.


[Update 9/9/08]

Types of spiritual practice – whether individual and private or public (e.g. in church) – can vary a great deal and still be productive of healthy morality.

But it does matter what the morality is like.

As Jesus said, by their fruit you shall know them.

There’s apparently a lot of “Christian” spirituality out there that is producing very low-grade morality.

Why should I want to learn, or pattern my life after, that kind of spirituality?