Religious Right

Unbelievers’ View of Christians – A Big Problem With Fruit

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.


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?

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1 Comment

  • Thanks again, Larry, for your courage in speaking up.

    It seems the name of Jesus gets thrown around like a lucky rabbit’s foot, without thinking much of obeying his words. In the US corporate/media culture of labels and no substance, it comes as no surprise that the teachings of Jesus would be thrown out the window for mere rental of a “label.”

    I think one thing that is important is to distinguish between US Christians and those of most other countries.

    Why? Because the US stands unique as a superpower. It becomes possible to inhale the arrogance of imperial militarism into the Christian equation.

    It would be laughable for, say, a Nigerian believer to subscribe to statist “Christian” prescriptions for war on a par with US Christian tolerance for the butchery in Iraq. For obviously the government of Nigeria is in no shape to wage war against much of anyone.

    But when people are spoiled on the fruits of now some 60 years’ worth of war, never minding that their countless military bases and operatives out there are killing all kinds of people in numerous nations both directly and indirectly in their various efforts to “defend American interests” – and for all this churches themselves are yet waving the flag, calling for more war here and there – they do demonstrate hypocrisy to the rest of the world.

    How about the “pre-trib rapture” for instance? HUH?

    In addition to the little problem of the word “rapture” not figuring in any major English edition of the Bible, it is too late for most of the countries the US has invaded for a “pre-trib” rapture. Much too late for Iraq. Too late for Nigeria, whose coastal waters have been destroyed by US companies and the goon squads who defend them, whose lives have been ruined by the greedy quest for oil (please see the Feb 2007 issue of National Geographic for an in-depth account of the dealings of “Babylon”).

    So I would posit a case for isolating the US churches and their teachers from the rest of the world. Most Christians’ governments don’t have that much power to abuse in the first place. I doubt you’ll hear much talk of a “pre-trib rapture” in most African nations. I believe they view themselves as already deeply in tribulation, thanks in great measure to 60 years’ worth of greed and plundering by the G-7 nations in general (International Monetary Fund and World Bank, please stand and bow) and the US in particular (who controls those entities).

    In a word, if it doesn’t bother US Christians that thousands of people are slain every month to put gas in their autos and hamburgers on their tables… where are the words of Jesus in all of that?

    What part of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is too difficult for US Christians to understand?