I like your Christ; your Christians, not so much
I believe it was Gandhi that once said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
I've always thought about those words and what they meant to me in my own experiences with other Christians.
Then when I read a survey by the Barna Group, a Christian research organization, my worst suspicions were confirmed.
The survey was about how young people view Christianity, and it showed that among 16-29-year-olds, young people have never been more critical and skeptical of Christianity.
When asked to choose their perceptions of Christians from a list of 10 positive and 10 negative, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative.
The survey cited feelings of disengagement and disillusionment among young people as a primary reason for this.
Whereas a decade ago, the majority of non-Christians had a favorable view of Christians, that rate now sits at 16 percent.
Which group draws most of the ire from non-Christians?
Well, if you are the average Baylor student, you need only look in the mirror -- only 3 percent of people expressed positive views of evangelicals.
But don't use this as an excuse to get all high and mighty and cry about how our society is hostile toward Christianity, and that increased persecution is a sign of the end times and that if prayer would not have ever been taken out of schools and blah blah blah... .
Just consider this: Half of young Christians themselves echoed the same sentiments -- that they "perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical and too political."
I often find myself within this camp.
Simply put, I think the church as an institution, our leaders -- perhaps even some of our parents -- have failed us.
Over the past few decades, while mainline Protestantism was growing out of touch with modernity, evangelicals became too radicalized and began to turn many people off. Suddenly, seeking people were forced to choose. Well, many young people have chosen now, and they choose neither.
Respondents to this poll gave deeply intimate stories of experiences that have turned them off to Christianity -- not broad, sweeping generalizations. Finally, there is statistical evidence for what we have already known all along but were just afraid to admit to ourselves.
This shouldn't be too surprising. Yes, we live in a post-modern society, and it shouldn't be a shock that young people are so detached.
But supposing you are a Christian, the fact of the matter is that what's being done in our name (particularly by the Christian far right) is killing Christianity. Since they are often the people who hijack the dialogue and speak loudest, they are the ones the public most often sees.
Consider this a plea to those so-called Christians. The next time you malevolently condemn homosexuals, try to get creationism into classrooms or join the cries for war, just remember: The rest of us are watching.
For the rest of us, we should make it a fundamental aspect of our faith to oppose these markedly un-Christian actions that turn people off to Christianity.
It's good to know the observations of someone outside the faith. We must always be looking for the plank in our own eye, before we look for the splinter in others.
It helps us to take inventory of ourselves and learn what we can be doing better to let the world know what we are really about.
Gandhi also said that what passes as Christianity these days is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.
I think he was right.
Brad Briggs is a senior at Baylor University in Texas. He wrote this for the student paper there, The Lariat Online.