Evangelical Christianity’s Image Problem

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2007

According to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Christianity is facing a severe image problem. And the problem is best exemplified by Evangelical Christianity’s stance toward gays and lesbians.

Kinnaman and Lyons’ new book UnChristian explores how attitudes toward Christianity have changed over the past decade. Kinnaman’s organization, the Barna Group, conducted a poll in 1996 which found that 83% of Americans identified themselves as Christians, and that fewer than 20% of non-Christians held an unfavorable view of Christianity.

Since then, the Barna Group conducted two more polls, in 2004 and 2007, of young people between the ages of 16 and 29, and found a decidedly negative impression  emerging in the next generation:

Nine out of ten outsiders found Christians too “anti-homosexual,” and nearly as many perceived it as “hypocritical” and “judgmental.” Seventy-five percent found it “too involved in politics.”

Churchgoers of the same age share several of the non-Christians’ complaints about Christianity. For instance, 80% of the Christians polled picked “anti-homosexual” as a negative adjective describing Christianity today. And the view of 85% of non-Christians aged 16-29 that present day Christianity is “hypocritical — saying one thing doing another,” was, in fact, shared by 52% of Christians of the same age. Fifty percent found their own faith “too involved in politics.”

Kinnaman spoke about Christianity’s relationship with the gay community in an interview with Time magazine:

A majority of Americans continue to believe that homosexuality is inappropriate. And the Christian biblical perspective is that it is not consistent with Christian discipleship. But non-Christians regarded it as our biggest negative, and most of the Christians we sampled agreed. Many Christians say, “That’s not something we’re willing to negotiate on.” And, certainly, this is based in historical Christian convictions and scripture. But they need to guard against not wanting to grapple with the complexity of homosexuality, against trying to give very simple answers to very complex stories, and against feeling they can solve some of these deep issues without personal friendships with gay men and women. … The two sides ought to have some respect for each other — and the responsibility should be on Christians to lead by example instead of just shouting at others through the ballot box or talk shows.

More conferences like the Family Impact Summit, where leading participants talk about the “evil agenda,” will only reinforce such impressions. By the way, that Summit’s poor attendance provides some more evidence for the problems that far-right politically active Evangelicals face.  Focus On the Family is facing cutbacks, and many are speaking openly of abandoning the GOP, now that the GOP’s current front-runner for the presidential race, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is not deemed sufficiently socially conservative. With moves like that, the Evangelical right’s descendancy is likely to continue.

Hat tip: Jonathan

Randi Schimnosky

October 9th, 2007

This confirms what I frequently tell people – Christianity has come to represent being anti-gay first and foremost. When a lot of us hear someone refer to themselves as Christian what we hear is “Oppressing gays matters more to me than anything else”. Congratulations James Dobson, et al – you’ve usurped the image of Christianity and replaced it with hatred.


July 28th, 2008

I think it is time to sue some of these chrsitofacist groups for incitement to murder. It is what was done successfully against two KKK and white supremacy groups in Utah. They lost all their property and holdings.

Lance Bergstrom

July 30th, 2008

Elaygee, that is such a good idea. Maybe the ACLU will lead the charge. Good Call!

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