What do you think? If you run up and down your neighborhood, what observable differences do you see in those who say they are Christians? Tell the truth.
Do empirical studies reveal anything to help us sort these kinds of questions out?
This is the question Brad Wright asks and probes in the 5th chap of his excellent new book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media
Some people, and some of them are Christian, seem convinced that Christians are no different; some Christians seem to enjoy to hear or repeat that Christians aren’t different morally than anyone else. Some of this has to do with beliefs; some with behaviors. What does the evidence tell us?
Brad Wright examines the empirical studies of four things: beliefs, practices, commitment, and experiences.
Beliefs: 90% of Evangelicals, Mormons, JWs and Black Prots are absolutely certain God exists. There is no measurable decline since 1988 with Evangelicals on this belief.
On the Bible, 59% of Evangelicals believe the Bible is literally the Word of God while 30% say it is the Word of God but not literally so. 7% of Evangelicals think the Bible is the words of men and not the Word of God, while 5% don’t know. There is little measurable change here. (22% Mainliners.)
Life after death: 86% of Evangelicals believe in life after death; other Christian groups are from 74-79%.
Evangelicals believe in heaven (84%), hell (81%), miracles (86%), angels and demons (84%).
On church attendance, he gets after Barna’s warnings: first, he discusses “overstatement,” for researchers know that Christians overstate how often they go to church. But he assumes that overstatement factor is roughly similar over the decades. Wright’s conclusion: 60% attendance. The numbers do not show a decrease but perhaps a slight increase.
On sharing their faith with nonbelievers: 52% say so monthly; 55% of Black Prots.
On giving: the numbers show slight decrease over the decades: from about 3.1% to 2.5% of income.
Here’s a big one: Wright claims the numbers show that young Evangelicals are stronger in their beliefs today than in the late 80s. They pray more too and attend church more (35% to 40%).
He thinks Barna’s book got it wrong on the correlation of church attendance and beliefs/practices among young adults.