Public opinion suggests traditional Christian views on a growing list of contentious issues and beliefs are irrelevant and extreme, according to a social researcher who recently addressed an audience composed primarily of young Christians and church leaders.
“Literally millions of millennials are experiencing frustration, a sense of disconnection, with faith and religion,” reported Barna Group President David Kinnaman, speaking on American societal views about religious faith. Kinnaman revealed that about 59 percent of the people who grow up in Christianity end up walking away from their faith or from the church at some point in their lives. “This is just one indicator of the irrelevance of faith in our culture today.”
Kinnaman spoke March 3 during Q Commons, an evangelical conference series telecast to several dozen sites across the United States and overseas. Begun a decade ago as a project of Evangelical author Gabe Lyons, Q is frequently compared to TED Talks with a format of short, timed presentations and a focus on cultural engagement.
Kinnaman’s talk was followed with a presentation by author Andy Crouch. Each of the brief talks was intended to touch on a recent development that has consequences for the Christian church.
The Irrelevance of Faith
According to Kinnaman, an increasing number of people believe that all of the good that is happening in our culture would happen without people of faith or religious institutions, and that more than half believe there would be good charitable work without people of faith doing so.
The Good Faith author insisted that this popular perception was untrue, and that much of the good happening in communities was taking place due to Christian organizations and individuals serving the common good in their areas.
“Christianity has become in the background for many people, and they become indifferent to it,” Kinnaman determined. The researcher also revealed that a near-majority (46 percent) of respondents believe that people of faith are part of the problem in American culture today.
Kinnaman reported several things now widely viewed as extremist: 60 percent believe that attempting to convert someone to your faith is extreme, 52 percent believe that those espousing a traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman are now extremist, 42 percent believe that if you leave a good paying job to serve as a missionary in a foreign culture, that is extremist.
“What this idea of extremism tells us is that people believe religion is part of the problem and needs to be removed from public life,” Kinnaman interpreted. “This is increasing in intensity over the past decade as people are wondering how we build shared societies in a pluralistic context.”
“We don’t have to like these trends, but we do have to deal with them,” Kinnaman declared. Suggesting how Christians might respond, Kinnaman noted that 1 in 4 millennials believe they will be famous or well-known by age 25.
“We can say this is a narcissistic generation” Kinnaman noted, but suggested that Christian scriptures such as the book of Ecclesiastes offered relevant, counter-cultural teachings.
“Our beliefs matter,” Kinnaman stated. “Being considered extreme for these beliefs is a good thing, when they are expressed in love for the people around us.”
Kinnaman also suggested approaching the skepticism of culture with the words of Hebrews Chapter 10: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another with acts of good faith.”
“How can we be people of encouragement to love and accept and find that our beliefs actually matter in this skeptical age?” Kinnaman asked. “I think that Christians can be defined by the good that they do in the world and that this incredible moment of skepticism is a huge opportunity for the Christian faith today.”
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