Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Borg on the Perception of Christianity in University

In his work "The Heart of Christianity", Marcus Borg, writes:

Those of my university students who have grown up outside of the church (about half of them) have a very negative stereotypical view of Christianity. When I ask them to write a short essay on their impression of Christianity, they consistently use five adjectives: Christians are literalistic, anti-intellectual, self-righteous, judgmental, and bigoted. The reason for their perception: they are familiar primarily with the most publicly visible form of Christianity in the United States, namely, the kinds that one encounters in much of Christian radio and television, the kind they hear about from classmates who are trying to convert them to a conservative form of college Christianity, and the kind they see in Christian participation in the political right.

Even though some of these descriptors clearly refer to the American Christian scene, it would not surprise me if university students in Australia would make a similar response if asked the same question. It is a very harsh assessment and one which I suspect would provoke an instant response in most readers. While these responses are no doubt simplify, I think there would be four main responses to this assessment:

(1) "Of course they view Christianity in that way - their eyes are blinded and they are not open to the truth. This is because they are not comfortable with the gospel message."

(2) "They're describing [Fundamentalists/Pentacostals/Catholics/Evangelicals/Liberals] which really isn't Christianity anyway - thank God that our church isn't like that."

(3) "It's really sad that these people have had a few really negative experiences with Christians - I wish they were able to experience the Christians from our church."

(4) "This is probably indicative of the fact that all Christians fail to live up to the task of emulating Christ. All Christians, including myself, need to pick up their game."

What I'd be interesting in knowing, is which category my readers fall into, if any. If you wish, you can choose to remain anonymous.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I use to hold the same views as those university students. Now I realise that those views were not based on first-hand evidence (actually spending time with Christians in person, attending Church, reading views of Christians with an open mind) rather they were founded on stereotypes and half-truths that I picked up from friends, family and the media. I used to see Christians as hypocrites, and I still do! The difference now is that I am more consistent in applying my standards.

If I have to pick a number though, I'd pick (4). We fail to love one another (enough) and therefore people don't see us Jesus' disciples (John 13:35).