Friday, October 29, 2010

U.S. Poll On Christian Contribution To Society

1 in 4 Americans can't think of recent positive contribution by Christians
By Electa Draper, The Denver Post

One in four Americans said they couldn't think of a single positive societal contribution made by Christians in recent years, according to a nationwide survey released Monday.

Also, one in 10 adults said they couldn't think of a recent positive contribution because Christians hadn't made one, the Barna Group reported.

On the positive side, almost one in five mentioned how U.S. Christians help poor and underprivileged people. Those under the age of 25 were most likely to reference such service.

Among other findings, researchers noted that Evangelical Christians over age 25 and those who said they are "mostly conservative" on socio- political matters were least likely to list serving the poor as an important contribution.

"Young Christians are avoiding alignment with politics and power and getting back to basics: love and service," said Gabe Lyons, author of "The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America."

Barna researchers asked two open-ended questions: What were Christians' recent positive contributions and what were the negative ones?

"Overall," researchers noted, "there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society."

At the top of the negatives list: One in five Americans, or 20 percent, said Christians have incited violence or hatred in the name of Jesus Christ. Of the non-Christians surveyed, 35 percent gave this response.

Thirteen percent of adults said church opposition to same-sex marriage was a negative. People under age 25 were twice as likely as other Americans to mention this as a problem.

"Young Christians are more empathetic to gay friends, neighbors and the other people in their lives," Lyons said. "It doesn't make sense to them to be 'anti-their friend.' " Lyons said they feel just as strongly about protecting life and opposing abortion.

Twelve percent of those surveyed said churches were too involved in political matters.

Another 12 percent cited the sexual- abuse scandals involving Catholic priests as most negative.

Among the most-mentioned positive contributions: Sixteen percent said Christians' efforts to advance belief in God or Jesus Christ were beneficial, and 14 percent said Christians help shape and protect the values and morals of the country.

Twelve percent said they couldn't think of any negative contributions.

The nonpartisan, for-profit research group conducted the phone survey, taking a random sample of 1,000 adults 18 and older Aug. 16-22. The maximum margin of sampling error given is plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.