By Mariah Secrest
I’m thrilled with the push for Christian authors who are finally engaging the fact that we live in a postmodern world and need to re-think our paradigms of faith and culture in light of those facts. I really sense a revolution happening within the Christian faith, particularly among the younger generations.
The exciting thing about this revolution is that it’s finding ways to reach out beyond itself and quit hiding from the world that needs it most. Authors like Donald Miller, Rob Bell, and Shane Claiborne are causing ripples with their commentaries on the Christian faith within our postmodern culture.
But the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons brings something unique to the discussion: cold, hard data. David Kinnaman writes from a distinctive vantage point, being the president of The Barna Group, a research group that gathers information about the spiritual and cultural climate in America. Through a series of rigorous surveys and interviews, Kinnaman and co-writer Lyons have carefully compiled data about the image of Christianity in America. The results are astounding.
Having grown up myself in the Bible belt, I never had a quite accurate grasp on the overall spiritual climate of our nation. Traveling internationally for several consecutive summers and then moving out West three years ago, I’ve slowly been awakened to the deeply-etched negative undertone towards Christianity in the mind of the average American. This book confirms it.
Using statistics and data to talk about something dynamic like faith seems a little odd at first, but as I read the results for myself I understood the motivation. Theories and personal experience and hearsay can bring us to a certain level of understanding. But numbers don’t lie. When 87% of Americans between the ages of 18-29 who don’t profess Christianity claim that they consider Christians to be judgmental and 78% consider us to be old-fashioned, we need to take a serious look at how we’re living out our faith.
Clarity comes along with reality, and this book takes a serious assessment of the perception that we as Christ-followers have been emanating towards our neighbors. The book explores in depth through its research the most widely-held perceptions of Christians-that we are hypocritical, anti homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental.
But the book is hardly a dry compilation of statistics. Kinnaman and Lyons do a beautiful job of evaluating just what it is that the research suggests and what that should mean as we let Christ redeem the mistakes we’ve made as a generation of Christians.
They deal with the content in an honest but sensitive manner, tracing the contours of the culture of 20-something’s at large and interpreting spiritual climate in light of those trends. For them, the goal is not to point fingers but rather to use this information as a starting point towards restoration.
About the authors (taken from unChristian):
David Kinnaman is the president of The Barna Group, which provides research and resources that facilitate spiritual transformation in people’s lives. Since joining Barna in 1995, David has designed and analyzed nearly five hundred studies for a variety of churches, nonprofits, and corporations. He and George Barna write a free research report published online at www.barna.org. David and his wife Jill have three children and live in Ventura, California.
Gabe Lyons is founder of the Fermi Project, a broad collective of innovators, social entrepreneurs, and church and society leaders working together to make positive contributions to culture. His work has been featured by CNN, the New York Times, and Newsweek, representing a fresh perspective on Christianity’s role in culture. Gabe co-founded Catalyst, a national gathering of young leaders, while serving as vice president for John Maxwell’s INJOY organization. Gabe, his wife Rebekah, and their three children reside in Atlanta, Georgia. www.fermiproject.com
If you liked this article, check out: Confessions of a Good Christian Guy: Book Review
Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she just finished a philosophy degree. She enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on Myspace at www.myspace.com/mariahsecrestmusic.