Friday, October 05, 2007

Christianity increasingly seen as divisive

by shamanic

Andrew Sullivan links to an interesting study that finds, "a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is 'anti-homosexual.' Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% 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."

It also points to declining youth identification as Christian, which is not a big deal per se because it could mean that people are choosing different faith paths, but troublingly, it also says that hostility to Christianity is growing.

My faith is probably best described as eclectic. I absolutely believe in God, and moreover, I believe in all of them. One of the greatest and most beautiful parts of the story of humanity is our universal and never ending pursuit of the divine. We have literally been obsessed with God at every stage of our occupation of this little planet, and this obsession has led to some of the most glorious understandings of ourselves and the world that we have.

Our quest for God is a quest for our very best selves, and I find it shocking and heart breaking that so many of the custodians of that impulse have twisted it around to make it hateful toward so many.

That part isn't new. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins would gleefully point to the numerous wars driven by fanatical armies of the faithful, and they aren't wrong. But here we are, in an era where all contemporary faiths are available to each of us and our understanding of many ancient faiths is pretty good. We should be able to look at the big picture and see that for millennia, we have been building images of ourselves as powerful, loving, engaged in the world, making statements with our lives that are righteous and productive, and living well in turbulent times. At the heart of it, that's what faith is about. If the agents of intolerance in American Christianity break their faith with coming generations to make faith the sole province of those who can hate the most, they do a disservice to people. Because people can always use a little more beauty, wonder, and imagination in their lives.

For the record, the study and accompanying book were produced by a Christian group.

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