In the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity: And Why It Matters, Kinnaman and Lyons, with research from the Barna group, highlight the ways Christians are viewed in a negative light, especially among Americans aged 16 to 29. The authors present research indicating that Christians are best known for the things they are against, rather than the things they are for. Six broad themes represent the most common negative perceptions found in their study. These include the views that Christians are hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. Many of those interviewed in the study were quick to agree that “Christianity is no longer as Jesus intended.”
We decided to get your feedback on the validity of such perceptions and asked you, in the fourth of this series, are Christians sheltered?
Next we’ll take a look at Christians being “too political.” Write to us and share your own thoughts, opinions and experiences regarding how Christian are, aren’t or might be “too political” at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Most Christians are sheltered after they reach a certain age. They only hang out with people who think like them and act like them. When you are young and a Christian, you are much more open but I believe over time your mind becomes closed and you become more defensive because people who are different become a threat to your reality. So Christians tend to baptize everything so they don’t have to deal with reality. That is why there is a Christian version of everything: Christian book store, Christian cruise, Christian clothing, Christian skateboarding, etc. I think the reason is because in 1 John 2:15 it says ‘Love not the world’ and most Christians interpret that as do not love anything outside Christian culture but John was talking about sensual desires, materialism, and self-glorification. This is where I think most of us get it wrong.” –Ramon
“Whether or not Christians are sheltered is dependent on the context of where they are serving. I think that the stickers that proclaim ‘Not of this world’ point out that a person may be sheltering themselves within Christian community. I think a better version of it would be ‘Not of this world, but in it kingdom building.’ We are called as Christians into the great commission of spreading the good news of Salvation through Jesus Christ. John 17: 14-19 (NKJV) says, ‘I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.’” –Matthew
“I think that Christians in my neighborhood tend to be sheltered. I don’t think the conservative Protestant church has done a good job teaching the flock how to integrate and be aware of our current culture without being caught up in it. There seems to be a great divide between those Christians
that are completely wrapped up in the culture and barely recognizable as Christians at all, and those that practically shut themselves away, resisting all technology, and the opinions of anyone outside the Christian family. I haven’t found too many Christians that know how to be both fervent in their faith, and truly valuable to the society they function in.” –Tom
“I don’t believe that Christians are sheltered. That perception, to me, comes from non-believers who have no idea what true love for Jesus is. When you are trying to right yourself with God and live a holy-filled life, you distance yourself from things that are not sanctified. What may have been okay in the past, drinking, partying, cursing, etc., does not fit in with where you are now trying to go in God. Many Christians, myself included, have turned ourselves over to God to keep away from worldly temptations like these that lead to nothing but regret and broken spirits. In the Bible Jesus states, ‘But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ (Matthew 7:14, NIV). Truly, the answer lies in the text. Christians are not sheltered, we are simply kept on the straight and narrow.” –Kelli
“’As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.’ (1 Peter 1:14, NIV) As we seek God, often we lose ourselves in a mindset of chasing purity: what can improve us, how to purify us, what will make us holier? Deathly terrified of conformity which includes culture, music, television, and various secular entertainments, some have huddled themselves in a ‘members only’ group. A group that is similar to the early Christian Monks who hid in the woods, away from societal changes and humanity. However, it is also too often though that we dissect verses into separate pieces, rather than reading the whole context or other verses surrounding it. Noting before verse 14, Peter says, ‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ (1 Peter 1:13, NIV) and encourages us to ‘prepare your minds for action;’ in other translations, it is expressed as ‘gird up your loins.’ To those unfamiliar with the term ‘gird up your loins,’ this was referred to the Roman era in which men wore knee-length tunics. ‘Gird up your loins’ was a readily task of tucking the long fabric into their belts to prepare for battle or some sort of physical activity. Therefore, we must ‘gird our loins’ for the reason that Christ has transformed us, to become a catalyst as we change lives.” –Jeanne
“Being sheltered or not depends on the Christian really. I know plenty of Christians who live in worlds where their work, friends, social activities are all Christian. They don’t interact with non-Christians and are scared of anything that isn’t ‘okayed’ by their church. On the other side of the spectrum are the Christians who realize that the only way to reach the world is to be in the world. They’re the ones who know what life is really like for the single mom, the drug addict, the recently retrenched. If you want to be a sheltered Christian it’s easy, but you need to remember it’s a choice you make, not something Jesus calls you to.” –Wendy
“Yes, Christians are all kind of sheltered in a sense. I believe there are two categories to the majority of Christians: The Sheltered and the Prodigal. The Prodigal group are the Christians that have no background in the church, have grown in a home with no parents that instilled Christ into their life, but they are the group that live life through their own experience, flaws and mistakes. This group finds Christ in their life outside of a church, through a friend or acquaintance or random stranger they meet. They find Christ through seeking truth after changing from their worldly ways. On the other hand you have the Sheltered group of Christians, many being incapable of reaching a dying world because they’ve never been in the world and seen the depth of despair. Most of the people in this group unknowingly stick to the church clique furthering their naivete of how to reach the real world. They believe that by condemning others for not being like the church crowd that others will throw up a white flag and join the crowd. Many are sheltered by not being relevant or real to the outside looking in. Most of all, this group of Christians are sheltered and remain sheltered because they believe that to not be ‘of’ the world, they truly remove themselves from it. Rather, Christ told us to be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ it. This generation has somehow gotten it twisted and believe that to stay pure, they simply hang around only other Christians, they stay in their church walls, and really all they’re doing is putting up their own walls against reaching a society in which they’re called to bring truth. They are sheltered by their own bubbles and ideas of what they have to do to live in the light, but by no means has it ever meant to literally ‘take shelter’ apart from the rest of the world.” –Nicholas
“I would say yes and no. Without going to the debate of what defines a Christian, there are ways that some Christians tend to separate themselves from the general public. First, there is the nomenclature that is often used. Being ‘Saved,’ a non-believer would answer saved from what exactly? ‘Born Again,’ those who sincerely believe in this concept need to explain what it means to start your life anew as opposed to the life you were born with. I could even see a retort of what was wrong with the life God gave me in the first place. Other words that are thrown around such as ‘Lord’ were applicable when the King James was assembled, but most of our readers live in the United States, not Feudal Europe.
Another way is the way that Christian Consumer Sub-Culture has expanded in recent years. Walk into any Christian bookstore, and in addition to Bibles packaged to every demographic, you will see the ‘Christian’ version of nearly any type of pop culture you can think of, from rap music to children’s animation. I don’t necessarily have a problem with any of these products, but I would say a steady diet of one perspective would contribute to the condition of being sheltered. In fact, in recent years there has been an interesting movement by outsiders from this particular evangelical culture, to submerse themselves in this environment to understand it better. Such titles as The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs and The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose are good examples.
A third way is in the church. It is no secret that the majority of the church services are composed of mostly one skin color. There are many examples of new post modern churches that have successful integrations of all backgrounds, but more often than not the most segregated time in America is on Sunday morning. And having outreach ministries are vital to the health of any congregation but too often it requires people coming to these events on the church’s terms not the seeker’s.” –Matthew H.
“I think it depends on the person. However, in general, I believe many people have forgotten that ignorance and innocence are two different things. Innocence is not ignorant of sin. In our fallen world, Christians will be exposed to the depravity of men outside the church doors. However, our goal is not to familiarize ourselves with that depravity or become comfortable with it, but rather bring God’s light into it. Once upon a time, perhaps Christians were sheltered. But in modern, American society, I think too many have shed their innocence in order to fit in more comfortably with those around them. We are called to be in the world, not of it and there is a fine balance we must walk. If we are ridiculed for not fitting in with the crowd, more often than not its because as Christians we will (or should) be different. But just because our standards our different, doesn’t mean we are sheltered.” –Chelsea