Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype: Excerpt 4

Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published.

 

In 2010’, my organization created a “Christianity Quiz” which can be taken at www.ChristianityQuiz.com. It’s a 10 question self-assessment which intends to gauge how well a given Christian lives the teaching of Jesus Christ.

It’s not like a biblical trivia quiz where you will score well based on memorization of key names or events in Christian history. Instead, you are presented with real-world scenarios that test how you typically think or respond. Spiritually mature Christians would respond one way, while worldly Christians might respond a different way.

A representative question on the quiz would be something like: if you discovered a co-worker stole money from you, would you:

a)      Look for an opportunity to get back at them, or possibly sue them in an attempt to make them pay severely for their crime

b)      Tell them you forgive them, but continue to tell others about what they did to you because you are still angry

c)      Forgive them in your heart, but be less trusting of others in the future

d)      Truly forgive them, and pray that God will forgive them and YOU for your own transgressions.

The principle here is that Jesus teaches us to forgive others, not harbor bitterness against our fellow men and women, pray for the welfare of others (especially those that have done you wrong), and accept God’s forgiveness of their and your own transgressions.

A spiritually mature Christian will do all those things. Someone not truly following Jesus’ teachings would be more likely to angrily make them pay for their crime and hate the person.

And so through questions like this, a picture takes form of the type of Christian life you are living. Are you following God’s teaching, not following God’s teaching, or are you somewhere firmly in between? That’s what our quiz is trying to help you realize.

We understand it’s not a perfect science and we aren’t trying to suggest who is or isn’t a Christian (ie. Who is saved or not saved).  No quiz, whether long or brief can do that. Whether you are or are not a Christian is ultimately between you and God alone.

Over 30% or roughly 1 in every 3 “Christians”, admit they rarely live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The results however are compelling. Since 2010, we have had over 5,000 self-professed Christians take the quiz. Over 30% or roughly 1 in every 3 “Christians”, admit they rarely live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

So, much of what non-Christians say about Christians is unfortunately true. To oversimplify the results, it’s like saying 1 in 3 Christians act just like the rest of the world, 1 in 3 Christians are trying with some success and yet frequently fall short of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and 1 in 3 Christians truly and consistently practice what we preach.

It’s easy to see how we have created a reputation for preaching, but not a reputation for practicing what we preach. Very few of us consistently carry out the commands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I’m personally less concerned about striving for some unattainable level of perfection. And again, I’m not suggesting that even coming close to such perfect practice of our faith is somehow a guarantee of our salvation. I am a proponent of salvation by grace through faith, not through works.

But Jesus didn’t say “hey, believe in me and forget about putting what I say into practice.” He said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

The plain fact of the matter is that a large percentage of self-professed Christians don’t think as Christ tells us to think and don’t act like Christ calls us to act. That’s why we are often labeled “unChristian”

.So, beyond the question of salvation, Jesus expects Christians to DO what he commands, and to obey his teachings. The plain fact of the matter is that a large percentage of self-professed Christians don’t think as Christ tells us to think and don’t act like Christ calls us to act. That’s why we are often labeled “unChristian”.

Key Points to Remember:

  1. There is a positive Christian stereotype to balance against the negative one. This should give us hope and encouragement.
  2. The negative Christian stereotype includes: intolerant, judgmental, hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too political, and superficial.
  3. The Christianity Quiz shows that 1 in 3 self-professed Christians rarely live the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  4. The primary cause of the negative stereotype is that Christians often don’t act very Christ-like.

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!


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Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype – Excerpt 3

 

Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype

 

 

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published.

 

 

In a previous book excerpt I listed some words that my last Christian audience shouted out in response to the word “Christian”. Here are some of the other words that have come up when polling people of all faiths and nationalities about the Christian stereotype:

 

  • Fake
  • Clueless
  • Sincere
  • Insincere
  • Prideful
  • Humble
  • Generous
  • Deceitful
  • Gossips
  • Helpful
  • Spiritual
  • Backwards
  • Grace-filled 

Other words have come up in my research and some words come up more frequently than others. There is a very consistent trend, and that trend is the basis for this book. 

Not surprisingly, the recurring stereotypical images that we have discerned are corroborated by others. 

The Barna Group is a very well respected research organization focusing on faith-based and religious studies. A few years ago they conducted a study of people’s perceptions of Christianity. This research led to the publishing of a book titled “unChristian” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. 

The research found that non-Christians believe Christians are in fact not very Christian

The research found that non-Christians believe Christians are in fact not very Christian; thus the book title unChristian was perfect. The words used to describe Christian attitudes and behaviors included:

  • Intolerant
  • Judgmental
  • Hypocritical
  • Anti-Homosexual (homophobic)
  • Too Political
  • Superficial 

The case for the current negative Christian stereotype is pretty solid. But a list of words isn’t enough to capture the real story. Allow me to paint a clearer picture of the problem by sharing some additional evidence. 

There is an online dictionary called urbandictionary.com. This is NOT your grandmother’s dictionary. It’s not like your Oxford English Dictionary or your Webster’s Dictionary. UrbanDictionary.com is a “crowd sourced” dictionary. 

That means that people like you and me can visit this site, look up definitions, and contribute your own definitions. The “crowd” then votes particular definitions up or votes particular definitions down. The best definitions rise to the top of the list. 

And so, I visited urbandictionary.com and looked up the definition of Christianity. The results were sobering and very depressing. Brace yourself. Here are two of the highest rated definitions of “Christianity”:

  • “A religion that would have made sense had it not been for the nature and character of its followers.”
  • “A religion; practitioners trying to exhibit Christ-like characteristics. Sadly, many of them do not exhibit Christ-like characteristics, but rather the opposite. They sin knowingly and then criticize the rest of the world for not being Christian.” 

When I read these definitions, I visualize a knife getting shoved into my belly and starting to turn. These words HURT. My heart weeps that we Christians have tarnished the image of our faith by behaving in such un-Christian ways.

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!


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Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype – Excerpt 1

Chapter 03: Introduction to the Current Christian Stereotype

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published. 

When I talk with various groups about Christianity and reversing negative Christian stereotypes, I always begin by listening. I like to learn what my audience thinks. 

In other words, before telling people what I’ve discovered about the Christian stereotype, I’m very interested in finding out what their perceptions are of Christianity. 

As I mentioned earlier, everyone has their own view. So even my own personal views of Christianity don’t paint a perfect picture of what we’re like. You also have an image in your mind about Christians. 

So I ask the question, “What do you think of when you hear the word Christian?” In my most recent talk to a Christian audience, here are some of the responses:

 

  • Intolerant
  • Judgmental
  • Giving
  • Hypocritical
  • Compassionate
  • Superficial
  • Loving

These were Christians commenting about Christians. You would reasonably expect a heavily positive bias. But every time I’ve asked this question, I have received a mixture of positive and negative perceptions. I find that fascinating! 

What it tells me is that as Christians, we ARE willing to look ourselves in the mirror and tell the truth. We aren’t completely blind to the “ugly” side of our faith. We aren’t so biased that we only focus on the happy, positive, “glass half full” image. And this is so encouraging because we can’t change what we aren’t willing to first acknowledge.

[…this chapter will be continued in the next post…]   

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Chapter 02: How Are Stereotypes Changed? – Excerpt 6

Chapter 02: How are Stereotypes Changed?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published. 

Let’s end this chapter 2 book excerpt with this crucial reminder. Stereotypes CAN be changed, through one-on-one personal experiences when those experiences defy the stereotype.

Even the most extremely deep-rooted stereotypes are malleable over time. We simply must keep our minds open, think for ourselves, seek out broader experiences, and allow what we are taught to be tempered by our personal experiences.

Key Points to Remember:

1)      Althouh a stereotype is an attempt to label a group of people into a nice little box, a stereotype itself isn’t something you can precisely define in a dictionary or put in a box.

2)      Stereotypes are impacted daily by people who reinforce the stereotype or who often unconsciously work to shape it in a different direction.

3)      Everyone you meet either reinforces the stereotype or slowly works to change it.

4)      When what you’ve been taught agrees with your own personal experience, that stereotype is almost impossible to change.

5)      When your experience is different than what you’ve been taught, the stereotype is already in the process of changing.

6)      Stereotypes are changed one person at a time, through direct personal experience, when that experience is different than the stereotype you are familiar with.

Stay tuned for chapter 3, where we will provide an introduction to the current negative Christian stereotype.

 

 

Chapter 02: How Are Stereotypes Changed? – Excerpt 5

Chapter 02: How are Stereotypes Changed?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published. 

I mentioned in Chapter 1 about the experience I had driving through a black neighborhood with my grandmother. This is a perfect case in point. I was informally taught through family and culture that “blacks” weren’t to be trusted. They had a negative stereotype.

Thankfully, I was a typical kid who didn’t listen much to his parents or grandparents. I hadn’t become a teenager yet, but I already knew everything there was to know about life and other people. Not!

What I was being taught however, did influence me. I remember a regrettable situation in 7th grade. I went to a school that was predominantly white with only a few African Americans. I was a pretty scrawny kid, and there was a black girl in the class that probably could have drop-kicked me across the room. She was nice enough, but for some reason we just didn’t get along.

I was being a jerky class clown and I remember writing a note to a friend at a desk nearby that said something like, “I know why she’s black. It’s because she doesn’t take baths.” The teacher saw me passing the note and let’s just say I got in BIG trouble with both my parents, the school, and the girl. She threatened me to a fight after school. You know…“bike racks, 3:30. Be there unless you’re a chicken!” And being only barely smart enough to know better, I chickened out and ran home as fast as I could. She would have pummeled me!

What I said was horrible right? I humbly confess. It was an awful thing to think, say, write down, and pass around. Thankfully, I’ve fully recovered from those early signs of bigotry and hate toward African Americans. I’m ashamed to even admit it in this book. I only do so to express how stereotypes that we have been taught DO make an impact on our thoughts and behaviors. That’s how the negative stereotype of black people had been passed down from one generation to the next.

I only do so to express how stereotypes that we have been taught DO make an impact on our thoughts and behaviors. That’s how the negative stereotype of black people had been passed down from one generation to the next.

Thankfully, my parents never expressed the same views as my grandmother. Some of the force behind the stereotype was obviously lessened through more open-minded and loving parents.

But then as I got older and started driving, I had an opportunity to work at Middlekauff Ford in Plano, Texas as a “car shagger”. It was a pretty difficult job. After someone dropped off their car for service it was my job to go park it. After the car was serviced, I occasionally got to help wash and dry the car to make it look nice and pretty for the customer. When they came back to get their car, it was my job to drive it from the back to the front. Very strenuous and mentally challenging work indeed! It was a perfect 1st job for an up and coming teen.

Anyway, I didn’t work alone. I worked with a young, 20-something black guy who used to call me “home slice”. I still don’t know what that means, but I don’t think it was meant to be particularly flattering.

But he was great. He taught me how to do my job. He covered my butt when I was caught driving the cars too fast in the parking lot. He really acted like a big brother to me; a mentor and a friend.

We hung out sometimes after work and I even visited his house a few times. Guess where he lived? In the same predominantly black neighborhood my grandmother had “protected” me from earlier in my childhood.

I learned a lot of things from him. But the biggest lesson I learned was that the image that had been branded in my head was wrong. Or at a minimum, it wasn’t entirely accurate. The negative stereotype had started loosening its grip on me. I was suddenly free to start using my own brain and be open minded enough to experience something different than I had been taught.That one incredibly positive experience made a profound impact on my attitudes toward black people. It shaped me. Ever since that time, I have personally encountered more black people than I can count and with very few exception, they were all as nice, friendly, and unthreatening as my friend at the dealership.

I was suddenly free to start using my own brain and be open minded enough to experience something different than I had been taught.

For me, the stereotype has changed. I now view the “dangerous” or “criminal” black person as the exception. When I meet a new African American for the first time, it’s completely natural for me to think only the best of them. I trust them. I love them.

When I find myself in a predominantly black neighborhood, I’m not scared. I don’t roll up my windows or lock my doors. And I sure as heck am not passing on such unwarranted fears and negative stereotypes to my children. I’ve broken the chain of bigotry and hate, all because of my positive personal experiences. My children will grow up being taught to love ALL people regardless of race, color, religion, or sexual orientation.

Such experiences have also shaped my views of stereotypes and how they are changed. If I had experienced the same thing that I had been taught, I would no doubt be a bigot to this day. But my experience laid waste the stereotype I had been taught. And I trust that in a similar situation you would rely on your experience more than what culture has taught you.

 […this chapter will be continued in the next post…]   

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!


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Chapter 02: How Are Stereotypes Changed? – Excerpt 4

Chapter 02: How are Stereotypes Changed?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published.

I’m going to repeat something I mentioned earlier. Stereotypes CAN change over time. Stereotypes are impacted daily by people who reinforce the stereotype or who often unconsciously work to shape it in a different direction.

So, here is what I believe about stereotypes and the nature of their changeability.

When culture, what you’ve been taught, and what you have learned indirectly, agrees with your own personal experience with a group, that stereotype will be like an unmovable glacier in the middle of an ice age.

No one could convince you to change your mind about a group. You might hear reports of people who are different, but you will dismiss such reports as urban legend. You might even report such exceptions to snopes.com for investigation.

But, take the case where everything you have been taught does NOT match up with your direct, personal experience. Which side wins? I will testify here that you will always trust your own experience over what you’ve been taught.

But, take the case where everything you have been taught does NOT match up with your direct, personal experience. Which side wins? I will testify here that you will always trust your own experience over what you’ve been taught.

You may second guess yourself. You might not have firm convictions yet. But, if your personal experience consistently defies the stereotype you have been taught, you will shake up and erase your former stereotypical image like an Etch A Sketch, and replace it with your own evolving picture. And for those of you in a younger generation, it’s like editing a picture with a drawing app where you tap the erase button to start over.

When your experience is different than what you’ve been taught, instead of a glacier in the middle of an ice age, the stereotypical image in your mind will melt away like mountain snow at the beginning of spring.

 […this chapter will be continued in the next post…]   

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!


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Chapter 02: How Are Stereotypes Changed? – Excerpt 3

Chapter 02: How are Stereotypes Changed?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published.

Stereotypes are changed one person at a time, through direct personal experience, when that experience is different than the stereotype you are familiar with.

When you meet someone within a particular group, you subconsciously compare them to the image you have. Everyone you meet either reinforces the stereotype or slowly works to change it.

When you meet someone within a particular group, you subconsciously compare them to the image you have. Everyone you meet either reinforces the stereotype or slowly works to change it.

For example, let’s revisit the car salesperson stereotype. Let’s assume you currently think all car salespeople are slimy, pushy, and dishonest.
And here you are in need of a used car for your son or daughter that just turned 16. Or maybe your budget is tight, and current car repair bills are starting to add up. So, you are in the market for a slightly used car in good condition.

So, you head to the used car lot, expecting the worst. You’ve got your guard up and you are dreading the fast-talking guy that is sure to swarm all over you. You are expecting them to do most of the talking while you mostly listen to them dribble on and on and pressure you about the sale that ends that day.

And instead of what you expect, you see a young, attractive women approach. She is warm and friendly. She is nothing but helpful and patiently listens while you explain your situation.

Or an older gentleman walks up, says hello, and asks how they can help you. You mention you are on a budget and just need a reliable car to get from A to B. Instead of immediately talking to you about the car they want to sell you, he keeps asking questions.

Do you want a small car or a bigger car? Is gas mileage important? How long do you plan to keep the car? Etc. After zeroing in on exactly what you need, they lead you to the one car that should meet your needs perfectly. It’s a “no haggle” lot and so the price is the price. They don’t go into the “we aren’t making any money on this car” type lines. They are straightforward and honest.

And as you are taking the test drive, they continue to ask about your experience with the car. Does it drive like you want? Is it roomy enough for you? Do you like the car? And then they hit you with something you don’t expect. The salesperson says that while they only have one such model on their lot, they’ve got a friend at the dealer down the street that has several more to choose from that you might want to take a look at before you buy.

You end up buying from them anyway, because you have acquired an incredible trust with them during your short visit. You leave the lot with your used car and you’ve had an incredibly positive experience.

Then, something even more bizarre happens. A week later, you get a personal note in the mail thanking you for the opportunity to help you find the perfect car.

A few weeks later, the salesperson calls and asks how you are enjoying the car. You mention a few flaws you hadn’t noticed during the test drive and walk-around, and they offer to get them fixed for free. You are completely blown away with the service and respect you have received from this unassuming man.

Now, what do you think about used car salespeople? Do you still believe they are all swindlers?  Or has your view changed slightly?

I believe I’m a very practical person; a realist. I know even from the above experience that you aren’t going to suddenly go tell the world how wonderful car salespeople are. You may not even be close to believing that yourself. But your view has changed; even if just a little.

The next time you encounter a used car salesperson, you won’t be quite as quick to judge. You will be a little more open to discovering if they fit the traditional mold or if they are somehow different like the person in your last car buying experience.

The next time you encounter a used car salesperson, you won’t be quite as quick to judge. You will be a little more open to discovering if they fit the traditional mold or if they are somehow different like the person in your last car buying experience.

And just imagine for a moment if you had the opportunity to run into more people within that group and your experience was again positive. Over time, you would have to start thinking that the awful image of a car salesperson must be an exception rather than the rule. Or said another way, you would likely start to think that a few bad apples have tarnished the image of the majority.
The bad ones get the press and satirist attention. The bad ones are the ones you hear about. But if your real life experience paints a different picture of them, then the stereotype is already in the process of being changed.

I’ll talk more about this in my next book excerpt. But in the meantime, ponder on how this stereotype changing process might apply to the current negative Christian stereotype.

 […this chapter will be continued in the next post…]   

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!


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