In the last issue we covered the first perception mentioned in the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity: And Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (2007), that details nonbelievers’ view of Christians. In the book, 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 second of this series, are Christians too focused on getting converts?
Next we’ll take a look at Christians being “anti-homosexual.” Write to us and share your thoughts, opinions and experiences regarding the Christian “anti-homosexual” perception at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Personally I don’t think they’re too aggressive. Of the handful of born-again Christians that I know, none of them try to push their beliefs on me. They just tell me, ‘this is what I believe.’ The same with Christians that were raised in the faith, they express what they believe but respect what my beliefs are.” – Robert Sanchez
“In my experience, yes they are pretty aggressive. The born-again Christians that I have met have always tried to convert me. With Christians who grew up in the faith, I haven’t had that experience. I used to date a guy whose dad was a pastor and his family was very relaxed about it.” – Joana Gutierrez
“I think that it depends on the person, but on the whole, I’ve never felt too uncomfortably hassled. In the past I’ve had a couple people make comments that relate to how they feel personally. Someone will say something like, ‘Just don’t get pregnant before you are married.’ Or maybe I’ll get a strange look because I’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain. But mostly it’s a non-issue. Because I’m a singer, I’ve worked in many churches, and for the last four years I’ve cantored at Corpus Christi Catholic Church. Despite the fact that I’m not Catholic, I’ve been accepted into the community and am a respected and honored part of the church. No one asks if I’m Catholic. No one pressures me into taking communion. Mutual love and understanding on both sides makes everybody happy.” – Savitri Labesart
“It is my belief that the way many modern Christians have gone about the process of converting non-believers to Christianity, is unfortunately backwards. Throughout my youth I was exposed to various different religious, spiritual and philosophical perspectives. If you had asked me what I thought about attending a Bible study group or a ‘Christian youth group’ I might have made a comment about ‘Bible thumpers.’ There is a reason for this and there is a reason why I now consider myself ‘religious’ instead of ‘spiritual.’
“’Spiritual’ has become the trendy term for knowing that you believe in a higher power but you don’t want to deal with the pressure, guilt and all that comes with actually belonging to a church and Christian community. It’s fashionable to be spiritual, and not to be religious. There are unfortunately a misguided few in the world who have gone out and through a hell, fire and brimstone approach have frightened off many who still consider themselves to be Christian; but who aren’t practicing Christians, or those who like myself once, considered themselves to be spiritual. These are the folks I would refer to as ‘Bible thumpers.’
“I don’t care what denomination you belong to, I’m convinced the way one converts a non-religious individual to Christianity is through kindness, compassion and service. I decided to become Catholic because I was ‘converted’ in one of the sneakiest ways possible. I was told that I was needed! The most wonderful woman I know happens to be the chapel choir director at the University of Portland, a Catholic school in Portland, Oregon. She, knowing I was a singer in the music department at the university, asked me to come and help out in the choir because they needed a strong women’s section for the Easter service. Time after time, she would run into me, give me the hugest hug, and tell me they needed me in the choir. The thing about singing in the choir at church is that…you have to be at church service to do it! After graduation, I started to reflect upon what was missing from my life, that I was no longer doing, but that had made me feel complete while I was a student. It was going to Mass! I started going again, and immediately began feeling fulfilled again. I decided at that point, it was time for me to really commit. I joined the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at the University and was baptized and confirmed the following Easter.
“I firmly believe the way to convert others is through the true Christian way, by helping others, and being an ambassador to our faith. One should never be made to feel that they need to defend their beliefs, or lack thereof, but be given opportunities to explore Christianity in a more profound way; to be able to ask questions, debate and become involved without the pressure of conversion.” – Lara McGee-Williams