January 20, 2008

Homophobia Making Christianity Less Appealing to American Youth

The Great Realization recently highlighted an interesting story from Alternet in which the results from one of the Barna survey are discussed. Evidently, one of the important reasons leading young Americans to reject Christianity in increasing numbers is the homophobia espoused by many Christian groups.

We've been hearing for some time about American youth becoming increasingly critical of Christianity. There are sure to be many reasons for this, but it appears that one is the association between Christianity and homophobia.

Referring to the religious right, Sara Robinson writes,
I don't know how long they thought they were going to go on that way, all self-righteous and judgmental, blaming homosexuals and feminists for everything from 9/11 to the price of gas, ignoring the interests of the poor in favor of those of big business, and dismissing any kind of environmental stewardship as nothing more than a way to waste time until the Rapture comes. Clearly, the didn't see anything at all wrong with elevating the most spiteful and amoral among them as their national spokespeople, and rewarding them in direct proportion to the heat of their rhetoric. No, these folks were on fire (we're still not sure if it was Jesus or heartburn), and they weren't afraid to let their bilious light shine on the TV, in the streets, all the way to the White House. They did their best to set it high above the rest of the culture, where none of the rest of us could miss it if we wanted to.
Data from the Barna Group, a well-known evangelical research firm that conducts frequent polls on religion and attitudes toward religion, indicate that American youth (Christian and non-Christian alike) are increasingly critical of Christianity. Ten years ago, most non-Christians still had positive impressions of Christianity. However, only 16% feel this way now, and attitudes of non-Christians toward evangelicals are even worse.
When he ranked young non-Christians' most common perceptions of Christianity, nine of the 12 most common attributes they named were negative ones. According to the study, "Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%)."
It was also interesting to see that 80% of Christians under 30 surveyed reporting believing that Christianity is "anti-homosexual."
In the Barna summary, Kinnaman says, "Non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians."
I realize that this will not come as a surprise to many of you, but it seems that the Barna data provide some confirmation of the idea that Christianity has become increasingly intolerant and divisive. It could be mere coincidence that this is happening at the same time as interest in atheism is on the rise. Then again, it could be that dissatisfaction with intolerance is leading at least some Christians to step away from superstition and explore reality.

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