Monday, October 08, 2007,5:02 PM
Perceptions of Christians Meme
Brother Maynard tagged me recently for a really interesting new meme (thanks for the tag btw). This one is based on the new book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters. The book seems to be getting some buzz and sounds like a fascinating read. Making the point that in many ways America is becoming a post-Christian nation may help change the "business as usual" approach many have taken to faith, church, and politics.

Anyway, the meme jumps on this idea by asking us to list four things about Christians: three negative perceptions and one thing that Christians should be known for. I found it amusing at first because it reminded me of that old parenting technique of making a kid who has just said something mean or negative about someone then say something nice about them. That ploy always bugged me because it never addressed the validity of the negative statements and resulted in generic positives ("He's nice"). So I hope this will be neither, but will instead allow the negative perceptions to be better understood and the positives to be rightly appreciated. So for my additions to the meme...

Negative:

1. Christians are anti-intellectual. When Christians refuse to study science or history or whatever because they think it will contradict what they believe, they are not lauded for their faith but ridiculed for their rejection of basic reason and intelligence. Sure there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to encounter new ideas, but Christians make a really big deal about entrenching in ignorance. It doesn't inspire much confidence in those who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of truth.

2. Christians are manipulative. From TV preachers asking for money to the rock band creating a worship "experience" Christians are seen as being in the business of manipulating people to do what we want. We promise them health and wealth if they support our ministry. We create an emotional setting through music, lighting, and preaching that results in spiritual highs, encounters with God, and new commitments. That could just be the typical way you worship God each Sunday, but outsiders see that as manipulative, cheezy, and fake. They don't want to be conned into something false (especially if it involves money). Authenticity is even suspect because of the church's long history with manipulation.

3. Christians are selfish. Christians always want to get their way. They want their morals to rule, they want their prayers in schools, they want their holiday decorations displayed, they want their creation story taught, they want, they want, they want... Christians are not known for caring about the needs of others, just about getting their way. And when they use lawsuits and boycotts to get their way, they lose the right to claim to love and care for others.


Positive:

okay since love has already been taken by others, I'll go with...

1. Christians are passionate. Okay not in the physical sense, we still need to work on that, but in the caring deeply, being zealous sort of way. And yes, I know that this could be a scary perception for some, I think it is really a positive part of most Christians lives. Instead of being apathetic and not engaging with life or the world - Christian have a reason to care, and care passionately at that. We are passionate about God, about Jesus, about service, about worship, about truth, about love. Sure that causes issues and conflicts with others (and way too often amongst ourselves), but we care enough to be doing something. We are committed to what we believe and that counts for something. Now if we can just direct that passion into the things Jesus told us to be passionate about then we might start to change those negative perceptions.

So what are your thoughts? Are these perceptions real? Are they based in truth? How can they be altered into positives that truly reflect Jesus?

And I would love to hear from others who can add to the list. I specifically tag Makeesha and Sonja (if you want to play).

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