Evangelicals criticize Christians in new study

A recent Barna study reveals Americans’ positive and negative views of Christians’ contributions to society.

Emily Arnold, Writer

According to a Barna Group study released last month, the majority of Americans think Christianity’s most notable contribution to society is helping those in need, but evangelicals were the most likely to list negative contributions.

Evangelicals and liberals most likely to criticize Christians

The study posed open-ended questions on Christians’ contributions to society to a random sample of American adults. The study revealed that, ultimately, many believe that Christians have a positive imprint upon society, but many negative opinions still exist.

According to the study, a large majority of evangelicals listed violence, hatred and intolerance as negative Christian contributions, and were the least likely to say that they could not come up with any negative contributions. According to the study, the most critical subgroups were the evangelicals and liberals.

Biola professor responds to study results

“[The results of the study are] a sign of evangelicals expecting Christians to shape their life by Christian virtues and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit,” biblical studies professor Jason Oakes said. “Many who check the box that says ‘Christian’ have no intention of glorifying God in their life. The Bible tells us that God judges the world, and we should expect fellow Christians to take biblical commands seriously.”

The study also found that 11 percent of adults surveyed said that American Christians have made no positive impact on the United States. The majority of those who gave negative responses were self-named skeptics or held to a faith other than Christianity. One in every four people — mostly skeptics, unchurched adults, and independent voters — could not think of any positive Christian contributions made in recent years, and several of them noted violent acts in history committed in the name of Jesus.

Christian position on gay marriage drew comment in study

Christian opposition to homosexual marriage came up as the largest negative contribution –– those under 25 mentioned it twice as much as others. Six percent of adults listed Christian contributions related to marriage, and five percent noted Christian efforts to halt abortion.

“We are often seen as starting wars because we use God as a reason to start them,” freshman Joshua Suaverdez said. “But I would love for Americans to see Jesus as the ultimate peacemaker.”

While most skeptics brought up Christian intolerance as a negative, only two percent of the rest surveyed mentioned negatives such as bigotry and hypocrisy.

Biola community reflects Christian efforts to serve society

Positive contributions found their place in the results of the study, however. One out of every five adults stated that Christians have helped to better the lives of underprivileged people.

Focusing on helping underprivileged people is something Biola has set as a goal. Biola helps the community through various activities such as Serve Days, in which students assist with multiple community projects.

“Serve Days are a great way for you to make God known in your own backyard and to bless the community by being the hands of Christ,” said AS president senior Lizzie Neely.

Study reveals Christians’ heavy emphasis on evangelism

In the Barna study, evangelistic efforts came in second to service. One in six people said the first thing that came to mind was a Christian effort to spread belief in Jesus Christ.

In an effort to spread the Gospel, Biola’s Student Missionary Union puts on the annual Missions Conference, which sends out teams every summer and interterm. Currently, 26 staff members of Biola and hundreds of volunteers are “committed to joining with God in the gathering of his beloved by the power of the cross of Christ, that he may be worshiped by every tribe, tongue, and nation,” according to the SMU website.

Study reveals some positive Christian contributions

Barna’s survey also found that another positive Christian contribution people often think of is an effort to establish and maintain the nation’s morals and values. One in seven adults mentioned this in their responses.

“The positives show that Christians are doing what they are supposed to be by serving others,” said sophomore Stacey Park. “It’s kind of discouraging to see that as a positive when it should just be a given.”

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