An article by Rachel Held Evans, entitled “How to win a culture war and lose a generation,” has me wondering if younger people will begin echoing a similar refrain with respect to Christianity.
Evans reports some findings:
“When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was ‘antihomosexual.’ For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : ‘judgmental,’ ‘hypocritical,’ and ‘too involved in politics.’)
In the book that documents these findings, titled unChristian, David Kinnaman writes:
“The gay issue has become the ‘big one, the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation. It is also the dimensions that most clearly demonstrates the unchristian faith to young people today, surfacing in a spate of negative perceptions: judgmental, bigoted, sheltered, right-wingers, hypocritical, insincere, and uncaring. Outsiders say [Christian] hostility toward gays…has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.”
Later research, documented in [David] Kinnaman’s You Lost Me, reveals that one of the top reasons 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background have left the church is because they perceive the church to be too exclusive, particularly regarding their LGBT friends. Eight million twenty-somethings have left the church, and this is one reason why.“
Are we going to start hearing, “I’m not a Christian, but I do accept as Jesus as my personal savior?” as people become reluctant to associate themselves with Culture War Christians? Do we hear this already?
As a member of the LGBT community, I know what many Culture War Christians are <i>against</i> (much moreso than what they are “for”) as they wield their religion like a weapon to negate the lives, choices, and dignity of people like myself. Although such people often profess to love their LGBT neighbors, their words, actions, lies, and aggressions repeatedly demonstrate otherwise.
I also know that many LGBT people are Christians, and that a good many heterosexual Christians exist who are accepting, affirming, and loving toward LGBT people.
Personally, I vacillate between thinking that Christianity can and should be redeemed versus thinking that such a thing is impossible, given so many of its followers’ entrenchment in violence, male supremacy, and anti-LGBT bigotry. If it is to be made better, if it can be made better, it will be through the work and reconciliation of LGBT/feminist Christians and allies, rather than through Culture War Christians rendering inflexible, absolute condemnations of other people’s lives from upon high.
And sure, I can already hear some retorts from Culture War Christians: “It’s not us saying these things about homosexuality. It’s God” or “We can’t change God’s law to placate a selfish minority group.”
In which case, they should prepare themselves to lose a generation. And when that happens, they can blame the cruel god they choose to worship for that too.