tothesource provides a timely precis of a new book from church-going sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . And Other Lies You've Been Told.
In sum, Wright finds that many of the common horror stories about contemporary American Christianity don't hold up to rigorous analysis. This conclusion applies not just to the horror stories told by those who oppose the faith but also--maybe especially--to the scare tactics in some of the most widely referenced statistical surveys offered as a service to churches.
That's the Barna Group, if our reference is opaque.
Yes, the folks whose aim is to inform church leaders about present reality so that they can respond to it have, in Wright's view, done the Chicken Little thing in declaring that American Christianity presently trends in a way that suggests it is realistically a generation away from extinction.
To Wright's clear-eyed corrective SWNID offers a hearty "hear, hear!" We have had enough of pandering to the fears of Christians as a means of motivating them, especially when what they fear is not the wrath of God but the loss of their comfortable lifestyle in the next generation.
Why would anyone wanting to serve the cause of the church offer flawed statistical analysis? We think that the Barna Group understands that its product is not accurate statistics so much as useful ones, and "useful" here means rhetorically useful for shaking complacent Christians out of their doldrums and into action. Studies showing that Christianity in America is largely static, changing at the margins in light of very broad, slow cultural moves--such would be impossible to sell (except as a corrective, as Wright offers, and with a juicy title to boot).
To be sure, Christians still have plenty to get busy with. Wright's analysis doesn't invite Christian complacency. But America's church leaders will need to stir up the flock to love and good works on some basis other than the fear that America is on the brink of Total Secularization.
Maybe we could try the vision of God's kingdom, a.k.a. "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."