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unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters Hardcover – October 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Kinnaman, president of the Barna Institute, was inspired to write this book when Lyons (of the Fermi Project) commissioned him to do extensive research on what young Americans think about Christianity. Lyons had a gut-level sense that something was desperately wrong, and three years of research paints exactly that picture. Mosaics and Busters (the generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered. Rather than simply try to do a PR face-lift, Kinnaman looks at ways in which churches' activities actually may have been unchristian and encourages a return to a more biblical Christianity, a faith that not only focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it. It would be possible to get lost in the numbers, but the authors use numerous illustrations from their research and life experiences and include insights at the end of every chapter from Christian leaders like Charles Colson, John Stott, Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis. This is a wonderful, thoughtful book that conveys difficult truths in a spirit of humility. Every Christian should read this, and it will likely influence churches for years to come. (Oct.)
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"This is a wonderful, thoughtful book that conveys difficult truths in a spirit of humility. Every Christian should read this, and it will likely influence the church for years to come."--Publisher's Weekly --Publisher's Weekly, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
ISBN: 978-0-8010-1300-3 ISBN-10: 0-8010-1300-3
unChristian is not your typical Christian book. It did not need to be. Neither should one expect it to be.
unChristian is unSettling.
unChristian will either humble or anger the Christian reader.
Research has shown that Busters and Mosaics (Terms that are used to specify young people aged 16-29) do not have a good opinion of Christians.
That should not really be surprising. I'm a pastor and I know that I don't have a good opinion of Christians in general. Oh, people are nice to me and I enjoy the ministry. I pastor a group of people who treat me as family. My experience has shown me, however, that Christians can be very unChristian. This book tells us that people on the outside of the church see us that way, too. Having read the book, I don't have a very good opinion of myself. I have a long way to go in learning to show grace, mercy, and compassion.
Many of those who were interviewed were not always on the outside of the church. Their experiences on the inside drove them out, however. It is commonly known that the Christian church is the army that shoots its wounded.
As a pastor I have battled legalism. I am all for grace. I did not realize how much legalism was still in me, however. In seeking to stand for righteousness I have been less than gracious and accepting of people who sin. We Christians are unChristian because we are a self-righteous, arrogant group of people who do not listen because we are convinced that we (though we say that the Bible does, we act as if we do) have all the answers. We give advice where it is not requested. We condemn when we should be helping. We complain about the state of the world, but do little to change it. We say that we hate the sin, but love the sinner. Our actions declare that we hate both.
We are unChristian in our attitudes because we are often obnoxious and rude to those who don't believe or live as we do. The unChristian church is characterized by what they are against instead of what they are for. We are negative and hostile to those who don't fit our mold.
While telling us all of these things the authors maintain a very gracious attitude toward the church (after all, they are part of the church), and do not call for moral and theological compromise. They do call for us to seek to understand people. They call for us to seek to empathize and sympathize. They call for us to recognize the fact that all sexual sin is sin; not just homosexual sin. They remind us of the fact that kindness and compassion will do much to help those who commit these sins, but that picketing their funerals and their parades will do little to help them. The research of the authors demonstrates to us the need to hold to traditional Christian beliefs, but to let go of or unChristian attitudes and methodologies. After all, we are not ministering well as we are.
The book is well written, I must say. To me it is gripping. I intended to read it at at leisurely pace and not tie myself to it. I did not do so. I read it every opportunity that I had. I could hardly put it down. The personal anecdotes from those interviewed give authenticity and authority to the message of the book. The message of the book is this: we are behaving in an unChristian manner; we must get over our Pharisaic ways and begin to minister as Jesus Christ did. After all, He was kind and compassionate to the outcasts and sinners. He did not call them names. He loved them.
Now, please excuse me while I go and repent.
I believe I wasted my time. There are too many who want to hold onto what has always been, instead of seeing it for what it has become. I wish I had simply done all the things I felt I should be doing--helping the poor, the HIV-infected, and knowing Jesus as a lifestyle, not just on Sunday mornings. "unChristian" is one of the most precise books I've come across, for its unflinching stare into the mirror. It deals with most of the critical observations that "outsiders" have, but these are really the same observations of any honest Christian. In fact, by working for the past fifteen years outside of the "ministry," I could've identified almost to a T every criticism outlined in this book. Simply step out of the ivory tower and you'll see and hear all these issues raised.
While "unChristian" can come across somewhat dry and prosaic in its dispensing of information, it is a valuable and necessary dissertation on the ills of our current form of Christianity. It's also a sincere and noble call back to those things that we should be about. The authors don't pull punches, but they do write with grace and love for the church of Christ's followers, regardless of denomination or style. This should be a book for every Christian to consider somberly and prayerfully.
Christians might object, rather defensively, that it's unfair to draw sweeping conclusions based upon the report of one person. If you think that way, you'd be right in your logic but wrong in your conclusion. A new book called unChristian (2007) by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group presents objective research that supports Borg's subjective anecdote. Kinnaman's three-year study documents how an overwhelming percentage of sixteen to twenty-nine year olds view Christians with hostility, resentment and disdain.
These broadly and deeply negative views of Christians aren't just superficial stereotypes with no basis in reality, says Kinnaman. Nor are the critics people who've had no contact with churches or Christians. It would be a tragic mistake, he argues, for believers to protest that outsider outrage at Christians is a misperception. Rather, it's based upon their real experiences with today's Christians. In addition to their statistical research, the book includes anecdotes from people who were interviewed, follow-on comments at the end of each chapter by some 30 Christian leaders, and reflections about why we've come to such a place and how we might make it better.
According to Kinnaman's Barna study, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:
* antihomosexual 91%
* judgmental 87%
* hypocritical 85%
* old-fashioned 78%
* too political 75%
* out of touch with reality 72%
* insensitive to others 70%
* boring 68%
It would be hard to overestimate, says Kinnaman, "how firmly people reject-- and feel rejected by-- Christians" (19). Or think about it this way, he suggests: "When you introduce yourself as a Christian to a friend, neighbor, or business associate who is an outsider, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: antihomosexual, gay-hater, homophobic. I doubt you think of yourself in these terms, but that's what outsiders think of you" (93).
Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project who commissioned the Barna research remembers his first look at the data. "I'll never forget sitting in Starbucks, poring through the research results on my laptop. As I soaked it in, I glanced at the people around me and was overwhelmed with the thought that this is what they think of me. It was a sobering thought to know that if I had stood up and announced myself as a 'Christian' to the customers assembled in Starbucks that day, they would have associated me with every one of the negative perceptions described in this book" (222, his italics). Sad to say, Marcus Borg was even more right than he knew.