I commented on Kevin Bussey’s blog the other day in which he reviewed David Kinnamon’s book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why it Matters, that I had already ordered the book before reading his review of it. My copy arrived in the mail today and I’ve been challenged by some of the things Kinnamon reports in the second chapter entitled, “Discovering Unchristian Faith.” He observes for example the radical shift that has taken place in just a decade in terms of “a growing tide of hostility and resentment toward Christianity.” Whereas a 1996 Barna study revealed that 85% of “outsiders” as he describes non-Christians at that time were favorable toward Christianity’s role in society, a decade later in 2006 almost 2 out of 5 (38%) of young outsiders claim to have a bad impression of present-day Christianity. One-third of young outsiders state that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not choose to be associated.
The statistics on outsiders’ perceptions of “born-again Christians” and “evangelicals” revealed a negative stance as well. While over half of young outsiders were neutral toward “born-again Christians,” 35% had a bad impression and only 10% had a positive impression. The term “evangelical” generated far more negative response. Almost half (49%) had a bad impression of evangelicals, with 48% being neutral, and only 3% viewing them positively. Most associated evangelicals with political activists.
Kinnamon argues that the primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians isn’t based on theology but a negative reaction to our “swagger”—how we go about things and project an image of self-importance. Probing further into the reasons for such hostility, Kinnamon states that “it is clear that Christians are primarily perceived for what they stand against. We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.” His words echo those of current SBC President Frank Page shortly after his initial election to office in the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, NC. At that time Page said, “I believe in the Word of God. I am just not mad about it. Too long Baptists have been known for what we are against. Please let us tell you what we are for.”
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book but thought I’d give a brief synopsis of Kinnamon’s main argument in the early chapters.