Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Are Christians Really….? 5

BREWright.jpgDo Christians behave like Christians? Are they any different? 

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.
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Brian McLaughlin

posted July 14, 2010 at 7:59 am

These numbers don’t surprise me because they are about churchy things. I think when some evangelicals claim that we are no different from the rest it is in terms of divorce rate, cheating in school, etc, etc. Any hard data on that?

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posted July 14, 2010 at 8:03 am

I agreee with Brian #1. I had to read the post twice to make sure I was not missing something about non-“churchy things”.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 14, 2010 at 8:48 am

Brian #1
I remember that when you compare self-identified “Born-Again” Christians against the rest of culture you don’t get much difference on personal and social behavior. However, when you factor in weekly church attendance, those that attend church weekly you do have a significant difference.
And as Arthur Brooks shows in his research, attendance at weekly services (church, synagogue, mosque) is far more highly correlated with giving and volunteerism than particular religious beliefs. Don’t know what Brad’s research shows but I look forward to reading the book.

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posted July 14, 2010 at 8:57 am

Yes, like they said, what about non-churchy?
The question you asked is if Christians behave like Christians. I would contend that the defining characteristic of Christianity is the love for the other. Is there data on that?
My opinion is that evangelical christians make people alienate the other, not embrace them (based on my rural VA observations). In this culture I am an “other”, and they certainly don’t love me.

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Jason Lee

posted July 14, 2010 at 9:56 am

DRT: “I would contend that the defining characteristic of Christianity is the love for the other.”
So you wouldn’t say that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the defining characteristic of Christianity? If your answer is no … many historic Christians (regardless of whether they’re Evangelical) would likely call you out on that. Would you perceive this calling out a lack of “love”? It is possible that such orthodox Christians would see calling you out as the most loving thing to express to you. Not calling you out would be a lack of love … a lack of care for you as a person.
I fully understand that orthodox Christians often are totally inappropriate and insensitive in how they call people out on theological slippage. But this is a different issue about the WAY calling out is done, not the fact that it is done.

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Joshua Wooden

posted July 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

Honestly, Christians are some of the best and some of the worst people I know (speaking from my experiences growing up in church). The people that are the most generous, gracious, charitable and overall loving people have all been Christians. But the people that are the most judgmental, prejudiced and condescending people I have ever met have also been Christians. I myself have struggled with both sides of the spectrum. I’m not sure statistics ever really prove anything.
capatcha: 1976 sonnets- anybody know of any?

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posted July 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

Add me to the list curious about non-churchy behaviors.
Perhaps the perceived difference in those behaviors is related to one’s view of the defining characteristic of Christianity: Salvation, as expressed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, or Love for neighbor, as expressed through the Words of Christ.
Just from my own experiences, the Christians who have done bad things to me seemed to have operated from a position of trust in their own personal salvation and little concern for me in the here-and-now.

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posted July 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

I think DRT meant to say the defining characteristic of Christians. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, so if I’m wrong, tell me.

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posted July 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

Yes, I did mean the defining characteristic of how Christians are to be known. I believe they are supposed to be known by the way they treat each other, and the other.
FWIW, my Grandpa was in the RCC seminary when he met a wonderful RCC Nun and they, had to leave the church…. They were awesome love giving and sharing people.
I had not experienced evangelicals until the past 10 years and the difference in behavior is a stark contrast compared with what I knew before.

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posted July 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm

BTW, would the experience of my Grandparents count as a “conversion experience” as far as the evangelicals are concerned?

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