This one has been sitting in my reading pile for far too long. While only brief, I think it is one of the more important Christian books to be written in the last few years, and one that I would actually like all Christian leaders (actually, make that all Christians) to read and think about.

Quite simply, this book documents the results of a variety of surveys conducted on 16-29 year-olds in the United States to understand their attitudes towards Christianity. It was quite extensive, and covered both non-Christians and Christians. Dave Kinnaman is clearly a lover of statistics, and has done a great job, I think, of letting the results of the survey speak for themselves, rather than just putting in his opinions. Which is just as well, because the results that came back were pretty unflattering to Christians. I’d recommend reading the book to get into the details of it, but the summary of their findings were that most non-Christians aged  between 16-29 though that Christians were:

Hypocritical – always telling people what they should and shouldn’t do, but then living however they wanted.

Only Focused on Seeing Non-Christians “Saved” – keen to see non-Christians get “saved”, come down the front, pray a prayer, or whatever form it might take; but not actually interested in them as people.

Antihomosexual – Christians don’t just teach against homosexuality (which this book wasn’t disagreeing with), but many Christians have used that as an excuse to treat gay people as second-class citizens (or worse).

Sheltered – Christians hide in a bubble and have no real proper interaction with the world.

Too Political – Christians are too focused on taking over America via Republican politics.

Judgmental – Christians are more interested in criticising everyone’s actions, rather than helping people, and display very little grace.

The interesting thing about most of these statistics was that a lot of young Christians would agree with the above as well. I would too. As the book goes into, it’s not saying that Christians should completely compromise on their doctrines or never get involved in politics, etc. But they are suggesting that the way we’ve treated people and the fact that we’re more known for who and what we don’t like rather than any positive contribution to society, should give us pause.

The authors have lots of helpful suggestions along the way for how we can reverse this image problem, without compromising, and I think if many of their suggestions were taken on board by Christians, we’d have a lot less negative press than we do. While I don’t believe that people are suddenly going to flock to church if all Christians start treating them nicely, I do believe that we’d be getting closer to what the Bible talks about in the book of 1 Peter, where Peter says that we should live such good lives among non-Christians that even if they don’t particularly like what we stand for, they will notice a difference and want to know more about God.

If it’s ideas are taken on board, I think it will become one of the most important books for the next generation of Christians.

4 1/2 out of 5.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: unChristian (David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons)

  1. I’m not so sure about the “too sheltered” point, but I think they’re right on everything else. And I guess it’s a perception thing isn’t it – for example, I wouldn’t say that all Christians are hypocrites, but when (not if) we stumble, it’s easy to seize on that moment and paint a person’s whole life that way because of it.

    That does lead to a tangent question (linked to the politics one as well) – where do you draw the line between telling people what to do/not do and advocating a way of living that we know is better than what they’ve got at the moment?

  2. Aarghh . . . just managed to turn my wi-fi off on the laptop, and lost this post. Anyway, my short reply was:

    The book’s main beef was not so much with Christians in politics as the fact that in America, it’s very hard to work out where Christianity ends and Republican politics begins. In fact, they were saying in a lot of cases, a Christian in America was more likely to get along with a non-Christian who was a fellow Republican than to get along with another Christian who was a Democrat.

    With regards to telling people how or how not to live – I think the author’s point is fairly telling – when we see how Jesus and the disciples operated, most of their rebuking was directed at Christians. That’s not to say that they didn’t care what non-Christians did, but the aim was more to reach out and love non-Christians and introduce them to Jesus Christ rather than condemning them. Perhaps this kind of reading is a post-modern look at the Bible, but all I know is the father ran to hug the prodigal son, not to rip into him for all the things he’d been doing.

  3. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’d find it easier to get on with an unbeliever who shared my political views than a believer who held strongly different views.

    Tim Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” makes some similar points about reaching out rather than condeming – he points out that most Christians/church-goers are the older son, and the older son is just as much in need of the Father’s loving embrace as the younger son.

    I certainly wasn’t suggesting that Christians need to be out there dictating how others live, and not showing the love of Christ to everyone – that just leads to theocracy or dictatorship. But I would suggest that there is a place for encouraging others that “hey, it might not be politically correct but XYZ is actually better for you than ABC. Do you really want to legislate ABC?” Of course if this is left in isolation and not supported by Christians loving people for who they are, you just end up with Victorian England or the 1950s stereotype – a very moral society (superficially at least), but not necessarily any more Christians.

    That said, it’s a lot easier (for me anyway) to rail against the government about this decision or that proposal and get all self-righteous about it than it is to come alongside someone and build a relationship that shows the love of Christ in a way that reaches their heart.

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