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CULTURE DIGEST: More youth have negative views of Christianity, Barna study says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Only 16 percent of non-Christians in their late teens and 20s say they have a good impression of Christianity, and one of the most frequent criticisms is that the church has made homosexuality a bigger sin than anything else, according to a recent study by The Barna Group.

A “growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment” has caused 16- to 29-year-olds to “exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life,” Barna said. In fact, the research indicated the age group is “more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.”

Common negative perceptions that today’s youth have, Barna said, are that Christianity is judgmental (87 percent), hypocritical (85 percent), old-fashioned (78 percent) and too involved in politics (75 percent).

“Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is ‘anti-homosexual,'” Barna said in a Sept. 24 news release. “Overall, 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians.

“One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a ‘bigger sin’ than anything else,” the news release said. “Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.”

Barna found that youth who hold such opinions of Christians actually are more connected to Christianity than some might think. The typical non-Christians in the survey said they have five friends who are Christians, more than four out of five have attended a Christian church for at least six months in the past, and half have considered becoming a Christian.

Pastors backed up Barna’s findings about the declining image of the nation’s most popular religion as half of those asked said “ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity.”

MAJORITY THINKS U.S. IS CHRISTIAN NATION — Despite the report of a growing hostility toward Christianity, a poll conducted by the First Amendment Center found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

The survey — conducted annually by the non-partisan educational group — measures attitudes toward freedom of religion, speech and the press. It found that three out of four people who identify themselves as evangelical or Republican believe the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, and about half of Democrats and independents agree.

The results reported by USA Today indicate that 58 percent of Americans believe teachers in public schools should be allowed to lead prayers, representing an increase from 2005 when 52 percent supported such prayers.

Furthermore, 43 percent of respondents said public schools should be allowed to re-enact Nativity scenes with Christian music, compared to 36 percent in 2005, USA Today said.

Half of the 1,003 Americans surveyed in August agree that teachers should be allowed to use the Bible as a factual text in history class, down from 56 percent in 2000, and 80 percent said it’s OK to use the Bible as literature in English class, the survey found.

9th CIRCUIT ORDERS CROSS REMOVED — The debate over whether cross monuments can be displayed on public property continues as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled in September that an 8-foot cross honoring veterans must be removed from the vast Mojave National Preserve.

The cross was built in 1934 by a group of World War I veterans, and in 1994 Congress created the national preserve and put the land under jurisdiction of the National Park Service, the Associated Press recounted. Repeated attacks by the American Civil Liberties Union have landed the cross in the appeals court three times.

Congress, in a defense appropriations bill, had transferred government ownership of an acre of land to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in order to stop complaints that the government was sponsoring a religious symbol on public land. But the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision, essentially overturning the land transfer.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the court’s decision could jeopardize other symbols, such as the Mount Soledad Cross in San Diego.

“The court’s actions bear an eerie resemblance to the Taliban in 2001, when militants set out to bomb two colossal Buddhist statues that had stood untouched in Afghanistan for more than a thousand years,” Perkins wrote in his Washington Update Sept. 7. “From Sri Lanka to Germany, the global community condemned the actions as religious barbarism.”

Likewise, Perkins noted, the Mojave cross and another long-contested cross at Mt. Soledad in San Diego “are monuments to America’s cultural history, a symbol of our Christian heritage and a tribute to brave Americans who laid down their lives in our nation’s cause. Their memories should not be besmirched.”

‘EVANGELICAL PRESIDENT’ EXAMINES BUSH — In his newest book “The Evangelical President,” author Bill Sammon seeks to reveal the role President Bush’s faith plays in the decisions he makes.

While a liberal mainstream media accuses the president of “viewing himself as some sort of messianic figure who was personally anointed by God to avenge the deaths of the victims of 9/11,” as Sammon says, Bush actually takes a more humble view of his convictions.

The book examines not only Bush’s evangelical Christian faith but his passion for spreading freedom worldwide, hence the subtitle “George Bush’s Struggle to Spread a Moral Democracy Throughout the World.”

Sammon, a longtime White House correspondent and reporter for the Washington Examiner, was the keynote speaker at the Baptist Press Collegiate Journalism Conference awards banquet in 2005.

Among the topics the book addresses are how the president reacts to low approval ratings and how he endures a hostile press corps. Bush told Sammon, “There are a lot of studies that show that most of the people who actually write or report the news would not support me for president.”

“I think it says something about his character that he tries to elevate the discourse and won’t get down into the gutter with some of the ridiculous journalists who cover him,” Sammon told Focus on the Family’s Gary Schneeberger.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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