A new study by The Barna Group, conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds, shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago. This age group today exhibits a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did the previous generation, fueled in part by the growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people.
A decade ago, the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Now, just 16 percent of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties have a “good impression” of Christianity.
One of the groups hit the hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture, but those negative views are now crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. Only three percent currently express favorable views of evangelicals.
Christians are aware of this shift. Ninety-one percent of the nation’s evangelicals believe that “Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity.” Among senior pastors, half contend that “ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity.”
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, including perceptions that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%),
old-fashioned (78%) and
too involved in politics (75%).
The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity
teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%),
has good values and principles (76%),
is friendly (71%) and
is a faith they respect (55%).
Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.
Review the full results of the survey at the Barna Web site at www.barna.com.
Article quoted from The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing®, October 27, 2007. © 2007, Focus on the Family, All rights reserved.