Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Skepticism and Frustration

When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus."
The quote above is from a new study by The Barna Group targeting the beliefs and experiences of 16- 29-year olds. The reserach found that, "a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago." Part of this is that a larger group of American teens than ever self-identifies as being outside the Christian faith (atheists, agnostics, people associated with another faith, or those who have essentially no faith orientation).

Barna Group Chart of data

Yet these teens who say they are outside of the faith do have more than five friends who are Christian and have attended Christian churches at some point.

David Kinnaman, who served on the Barna reserach team for the project, said
I was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected.
The survey found that teens have had bad experiences with Christians and got turned off in the process. Common perceptions of Christian are:

hypocritical (85%),
old-fashioned (78%),
too involved in politics (75%)

As to "anti-homosexuality, they found that "beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians." These reactions were not just among those outside the church. They also found "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."

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%).

The summary of the study is found online at A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity. There is a another study there looking at the teens who do go to church, that finds that those who go are more active than most groups. That study is What Teenagers Look for in a Church.

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