Hating Christianity a little less

enhanced-buzz-10139-1337547152-5I almost didn’t drag Jesus into it.

The audience at American University had gathered for a premiere of Tom Rath’s new film, Fully Charged, in which his recent research about how sleep, diet and others are the ingredients for a fully engaged life.  On the panel with me was a family practice doc, a career military officer, along with a lively octogenarian and Tom Rath himself.

All of us were practitioners in our field, yet still, when I was asked a question about how individuals form meaningful relationships, I paused. I knew I could answer in a number of ways that wouldn’t use the word Christian.  I could be more persuasive without mentioning Jesus. 

I didn’t see that as a good thing. 

Christianity has an image problem. Actually, more than an image problem. According to Barna pollster David Kinnamon (who is a Christian), Christianity has a brand problem. “Most Christians,” he writes, “have no idea just how poorly they are perceived by those outside their faith.”

In short, those who identify themselves as unaffiliated with a religious tradition think the following about us:


Perception Outsiders, aged 16-29

Antihomosexual 91%
Judgmental 87%
Hypocritical 85%
Sheltered (old-fashioned, out of touch with reality) 78%
Too political 75%
Proselytizers (insensitive to others, not genuine) 70%

One-quarter of outsiders say their perception of Christianity has changed for the worse. The only ones who hold a favorable opinion of Christians….is, well, Christians. 

This is not news to most of us — some of this research started showing up in 2007. But what’s surprising is how little this research has influenced what we do, how we talk, and where we engage.

If people’s opinions of what is Christian has changed for the negative, then it means they can be changed for the positive as well. But that would mean we have to start a paying attention to how we are presenting Christ to the world — not just to ourselves. We would have to pay attention to issues those outside our doors are worried about; we would need to listen more deeply to the needs of the world and where and how the good news of Christ enters into those needs.

At church on Sunday I said I hope our witness helps people hate Christianity a little less. That’s my prayer anyway. That the church could recover our voice to present Jesus as he is: the exact image of God. Full of grace and truth.

On the stage at American University, I looked out and said, “Fully charged is all about a truth that Jesus saw so clearly: To love others is to love yourself and to love yourself is to love others. They are inseparable.”

They applauded. It was a beginning.



3 thoughts on “Hating Christianity a little less

      • Hi Randall: Speaking the truth is a good thing- speaking truth to power, or speaking the truth in love.

        Rather I quoted that Facebook sentiment because I think that Christians can present a poor witness by saying or doing jerky things. I have a judgement that some far right Christians are speaking and behaving in a way that is not the way Jesus would have us speak or behave. For example, the media tells us that white evangelicals speak hatefully about Muslims. I’m sure there are many conservative white evangelicals who would not speak that way, but they are not the ones getting attention.

        I apologize for my lack of clarity. Susan

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