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Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . and other lies" (Bradley Wright)

TITLE: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media
AUTHOR: Bradley R.E. Wright
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010, (256 pages)

Christianity in the West are going through some of the most negative reviews in this modern era. So much so that being called a 'Christian' or an 'evangelical' is a liability in some circles. Generally, the press and the media at large are more poised to report bad stuff about Christians. As the Church and the evangelical movement continues to receive bad press, Bradley Wright offers this illuminating work to dispel the smoke of false information. A sociologist himself, he gathers up facts and statistics to support his findings. He tests the negative perceptions with cold hard data, eventually lifting up an optimistic view of Christianity at large. One of the reasons why the public perceives Christians negatively is because people has been fed with 'incomplete, inaccurate' and downright 'negative' news about Christians. The result: Non-Christians are dismissive of evangelicals in general, even in the light of a gross lack of supporting data. The author's conviction is that, at least Christians need to know the real statistics. Otherwise there will be a high cost in negative statistics.

The central message about this book is this: There is good news about 'bad' news, simply because the 'bad news' are not as true as it seems.

A) Debunking 7 Key Myths

Firstly, "Is American Christianity on the Brink of Extinction?" Wright points out that the 'good-old-days' thinking is erroneous. Modern religious adherents are actually higher than in the 18th Century. It is not the decline of new believers. It is actually a wrong perception of how 'high' the religious adherents were in the old days. Thus, numerically and percentage wise, there are more Christians now then before.

Secondly, the concern about "Are we losing our young people? What will happen in the future?" Dire predictions about church dying out are myths. In fact, every generation worries about their youths. The challenges in our generation is thus NOT unique. In fact, the perceptions of older people being more religious are similar in every generation. The young who leaves the church now, eventually returns as older people.

The third question deals with gender, race and social class, and that migration patterns are constantly changing. Thus it is too simplistic to generalize.

Fourthly, there is the myths that Christians do not think or do what they profess.  By examining beliefs, practices, commitment, and experiences, the author finds that in many churches, there are many devoted and pious believers. The myths are not supported by consistent data.

Fifthly, statistics about divorces and wild claims about Christians are inaccurate. The opposite is true. Christians in general are more well-behaved.

"Essentially, people who associate themselves with Christianity, as compared to the religiously unaffiliated, are more likely to have faithful marriages, commit less crime, interact honestly with others, and not get into as much trouble with drugs or alcohol. What's more, the more committed Christians are to their faith, as measured by church attendance, the greater the impact the church's teachings seem to have on their lives." (152)

Sixthly, do Christians love others? Again, compared with the rest of society, Christians generally do very well. While they are good in terms of giving, forgiving, and caring for the poor, they are not as good with regards to their feelings about the minority, both racial and sexual. The positive thing is that Christians are improving in terms of their attitudes.

Seventhly, there is an image problem. The author even takes issues with some of the findings from the popular book 'UnChristian.'

B) Closing Thoughts

The take-away for this book is not to believe data too readily or too quickly. Sometimes, information presented to us are inaccurate, or not representative. Beware of media looking to bash the Church. Beware of uncritical acceptance of negative statements. Learn to ask for the assumptions and the evidence behind each accusation. It is a good discipline to ask ourselves what is true, rather than to be swept away by perceptions that are false. The four things that Wright identifies as need to improve upon are:

  1. Greater gender equality in leadership circles
  2. Poorer level of giving
  3. Improve on loving behaviours
  4. Improve on our attitudes toward non-Christians.
The best part of the book is the 'Caveat Lector.' It shows us the 5 questions we need to ask when people try to shove anything down our throats.

  1. 'Question whether it's accurate.'
  2. 'Question the motives of the person writing'
  3. Disagree with the conclusions
  4. Judge the statistic in the light of your own experiences
  5. Not believe it for any reason, including just being in a cranky mood.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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