“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians.” That biting quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi seems to sum up results of the latest survey in the Barna Group’s “Spiritually Open” series.
The Barna research, conducted in partnership with Gloo and He Gets Us, found that although 71% of American teens and adults have a positive opinion of Jesus, only 36% of non-Christians have a positive opinion of Christianity.
“Hypocrisy of religious people” is the top reason people give for not embracing Christian teachings. In other survey findings, respondents express fairly low opinions of megachurches, celebrity pastors, well-known worship bands, and evangelicals.
Barna Research: Millennials Express High Commitment to Jesus
The Barna research, conducted online last December, found that Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) claim the highest level of commitment to Jesus, at 70%. The overall percentage of Americans who express commitment to Jesus has seen negligible declines during the past two decades, researchers pointed out.
Most survey respondents say they have positive views about Jesus (71%), spirituality (65%), the Bible (63%), and Christianity (57%). Among Christians, responses are at least 10 percentage points higher in each of those categories.
Views toward other aspects associated with Christianity are much less positive, however. “People of no faith are neutral or leaning negative—and for celebrity, mega- or famous reps of the faith, opinions are decidedly negative,” according to researchers.
Only 16% of Christians (and 17% of non-Christians) express a positive view of megachurches. Only 19% of Christians and non-Christians view celebrity pastors in a positive light. And only 26% of total respondents indicate positive associations with high-profile worship bands.
Regarding churches in their local communities, 58% of Christians and 47% of overall respondents express a positive view.
Survey Results Show Hurdles, Opportunities
Most people tend to perceive present-day Christianity as “respected, principled, loving, friendly, generous, and so on,” researchers said. Yet only 15% of people without faith label Christianity as a faith they respect. Instead, those non-believers are much more likely than Christians to label Christianity as judgmental (48%) and hypocritical (49%).
These “glaring disparities,” said researchers, “represent the hurdles the Church needs to overcome, especially if sharing faith or welcoming people into churches is the goal.”