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Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media Paperback – July 1, 2010
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From Publishers Weekly
A sociologist at the University of Connecticut, Wright examines recent survey data on Christian evangelicals to see if they substantiate the often misguided and hyperbolic public perceptions of this faith group. Separating the wheat from the chaff, he explains how some poorly worded, ill-sampled statistics give the wrong impression of evangelicals and why people should avoid giving them credence. Though he often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians, he doesnÖt spare evangelical polemicists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for their false exaggerations of evangelical shortcomings. His biggest target may be the pollster George Barna, whose surveys on Christianity have generated intense controversy. WrightÖs colloquial writing style gives this volume the feel of a folksy college lecture series. The abundant use of graphics adds to the impression the bookÖs genesis was cribbed from introductory sociology of religion classes. The conclusions drawn here--no surprise--are that the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Back Cover
What if all the bad news you've been hearing about Christians isn't true?
Here are some facts that may surprise you:
• Evangelicals are more respected by society today than they were twenty years ago.
• Divorce rates of Christian couples are lower than those of nonbelievers.
• The percentage of young people who attend church has held steady over the past twenty years.
All these statements are true, yet we've been told the opposite time and time again. Why is the church being misled? And what is the true state of Christianity in America today?
Sociologist Brad Wright shatters popular myths by sifting through the best available data. He reveals how Christians are doing when it comes to everything from marriage and morality to church growth and public perception. While not all the news is good, it turns out there is a wealth of encouraging information that we're not being told.
Get the truth behind the statistics you've been hearing and how the numbers are being manipulated, and discover what is really happening in American Christianity.
"Buy this book and read it carefully. Then buy one more and give it to your best friend and ask that person to do the same thing. I hope this book goes viral because this book shows that there's lots of good news when it comes to the condition of the church in the West."
Karl A. Olsson, Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University
"Amid the widespread, distorted, alarmist, and erroneous claims about American Christianity, it is always good to learn some basic, reliable facts. Brad Wright pulls together a lot of good ones in these pages to reconnect people to reality. Let us hope that the misinformed critics and alarmists pay attention."
Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame
"This is an extremely needed book that is a delight to read."
Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University
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At the end of the day, the book is a simply a list of questions that Wright attempts to answer through reporting and analyzing a wealth of research, surveys, and questionnaires. Questions such as, "What do others think of Christians?" to "Do Christians always do the right thing?" provide excellent discussion opportunities with those around you. I think his cause is noble. And I think there is a lot of good information buried here in the pages. But for me, the format was identical chapter to chapter, and everything just began to run together.
I guess I was wanting more nuance, and perhaps more application. Wright is strongest when he is adding personal anecdotes, or contributing to the statistics with his opinions. But this is rare, and he often goes in the opposite direction. For instance, while on the subject of the less-than-favorable light with which Christians often view others, Wright offers this: "So how should we change things? Beats me - I'm just a sociologist, and if you have to depend on sociology for moral guidance, you are in deep trouble."
I would hope and think as a Christian, regardless of profession, some simply moral advice wouldn't be too hard to come by, let alone the wisdom that should accompany decades of research into social issues (with a Christian foundation, no less).
But, I don't want to come down too hard on Wright. In fact, I want to recommend the book - I still think it is worth your time, especially if you understand what you're getting. There are some eye-opening statistics presented here, along with the radical proposition that things aren't nearly as bad as the wise men of the tribe would have us believe.
I noticed Amazon and Goodreads have a slightly different meanings to their 5-point scale. I thought it was odd to have a different rating for the same book on two different sites, so I came up with my own scale below. For the record, it is fairly close to Amazon's scale, but allows me to be consistent between the two sites.
5 - Fantastic. Life-altering. Maybe only 25 in a lifetime.
4 - Very good.
3 - Worth your time.
2 - Not very good.
1 - Atrocious
Dr Wright hits significant areas of bad stats and shows good data about why that belief is either true, not true or the answer is more difficult. A prime example is the many bad statistics about how Evangelical youth are running away from the church. One stat asserts that 94% of all Evangelical youth will leave the church after high school never to return. Wright ends the book by saying if a stats seems wrong, it probably is. This is a good example. From a variety of sources through a number of surveys Wright shows that youth are not running away, in fact, this may be one of the most religious (and orthodox Christian) generations in the last couple hundred years.
Wright does the same for Christian behavior (Christians divorce at higher rates than non-Christians, etc.), Who Christians are (all Evangelicals are poor, uneducated Southern Whites), Do Christians love others and how non-Christians think of us. This is a very number heavy book. But it is definitely written for the lay person, not the sociologist or statistician. I read it on Kindle and some of the graphs on Kindle were a little small, but still readable.
One of the significant areas of disappointment in the numbers was that Evangelicals have a higher rate of distrust of people outside their racial group than average, or the non-Christian. Almost twice as high as the average non-Christian. But even in this area of disappointment, there are two points of good news. One, regular attenders have lower rates of distrust than occasional attenders. And two, the rate of distrust is dropping and it is dropping quickly.
Another area of disappointment is that Christians, especially Evangelicals, seem to distrust non-Christians and non-Evangelicals at a much higher rate than those non-Christians and non-Evangelicals distrust us. So those of us, who have been charged by our savior to reach out are actually more afraid of the other, than the other is afraid of us. This is an area of concern. But it has been, at least partially, an protection method. The stronger "the enemy" the closer the bond to one another. So Evangelicals have tight bonds to the church and to other Evangelicals (which is good) because they distrust outsiders (which is bad.)
What should we be doing? Wright tries to stay out of advice giving mode. He veers off a little into advice, but mostly just does his job of "presenting the facts." This review is already too long, but my take away from this book is "present it positively." It may take longer, you make not rile people up as quickly. But if you present it positively, based on what you think, not on fear, you will make a longer term impact. If you want people to give, don't show them the starving child or the stat about how little people are giving. Show them what can be done when God is glorified through positive giving. If you want people to pay attention to youth and volunteer in your youth program, don't tell them this may be the last generation of the church or that all the kids may be sleeping around, tell them that you have the chance to be Christ to a group of youth that really are interested in what older Christians want to say to them.
While the author is not afraid to identify areas where the church is falling short (e.g. Racism ) he also shows that some of the factoids we have accepted and quoted (e.g. Churchgoers have a higher divorce rate than non churchgoers) are simply false.
The area I found the most touching had to do with tolerance. Statistics are not a good tool to measure love, yet even so they reveal that we have a long way to go in terms of learning what it would really look like to hate the sin but love the sinner. Who would have thought that a book on statistics would spur me to examine my own heart and make sure I'm treating my neighbors with love, regardless of whether we agree.