Is the American Church “unChristian”?

I’ve recently begun reading a provocative new book called unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters. As the name hints, the book is an attempt to discern the perception of Christianity held America’s younger generation (primarily ages 16-29). Toward that end, David Kinnaman, unChristian’s primary author and president of the Barna Group, employs extensive survey research targeting not only “outsiders,” a group that “includes atheists, agnostics, those affiliated with a faith other than Christianity…and other unchurched adults who are not born-again Christians” (17), but also the younger population within the church.

And what does the data reveal? In the author’s words, “It’s not a pretty picture” (15).

One major conclusion of Kinnaman’s research is that the church’s problems are the result of much more than the biblically promised misunderstandings and even antipathy felt toward the Church by those outside of it. Rather, our problems have as much or more to do with our own numerous misconceptions and failings. (A conclusion, I might add, that is consistent with the distinction made in 1 Peter 3 and 4 between suffering for appropriate and inappropriate reasons.)

Though I’m only a few chapters in, I’ve been impressed so far by Kinnaman’s approach to his subject matter. He’s exhibited a commendable willingness to hold firmly to biblical truth while showing respect to those who do not endorse it. Avoiding self-righteous stone-throwing, he nevertheless doesn’t hesitate to call those of us professing to be Christians to take a good hard look at the current alarming realities associated with our beliefs and practices. He also seems careful to note when a particular viewpoint is salutary in some respect but incomplete or mistaken in another (see, e.g., his discussion of the priority Christians place on moral behavior in chapter 3). And finally, his overall analysis has demonstrated itself to be accessible but not simplistic.

More thoughts to come…but in the meantime, you might consider checking out unChristian yourself.

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