Thom S. Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, claims to have interviewed “thousands of unchurched non-Christians.” I would think that includes people like us, atheists who have plenty of opinions about Jesus, religion, and church culture.
Rainer asked those thousands of people what they thought about Christians and then ranked their responses by popularity. Some of what he heard, however, may surprise you since I doubt you’ve ever had those thoughts in your life.
At least he starts out well:
1. Christians are against more things than they are for.
“It just seems to me Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other. They are so negative, they seem unhappy. I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”
I wouldn’t say they’re unhappy. But I would agree we often define evangelical Christians by what they’re against — they’re anti-gay, anti-women, anti-sex education, anti-science, etc.
What else did Rainer hear?
2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian.
“I’m really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs. I wish I could find a Christian who would be willing to spend some time with me.”
Who says that…? Most of us are already friends with Christians — in part because it’s inevitable, in part because we like talking to them, and in part because they paint targets on our backs in order to convert us. I honestly don’t know any atheists who don’t already have a Christian in their lives.
3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian.
“The Bible really fascinates me, but I don’t want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it. I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks.”
Are you shitting me? Which atheists ever say this? If anything, Christians should be asking us for Bible lessons since we’re the ones more likely to have read the damn book in the first place.
Skipping down the list…
5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband/wife/dad/mom, etc., from a Christian.
“My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time. My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together. I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me.”
Once again, this doesn’t happen. There are people in good relationships and bad ones, and religion has little to do with it. If you’re having marital problems, you want advice from someone who knows how to get through the tough times, but Jesus isn’t a necessary ingredient in that mix.
The response also suggests that non-Christians alone get divorced while Christians are always in happy marriages. That’s obviously not the case.
7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church.
“I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself. What is weird is that I am 32 years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”
Riiiiight. We all just sit around, waiting for a Jesus-lover to convert us…
Look: Nothing is stopping us from attending church, and we don’t need someone explaining the service to us as it’s happening.
This isn’t a list of what “unchurched” people say — it’s a list of what Christians think unchurched people say.
I know these results came from a study, but the article never goes into how they found their subjects or whether they were representative of the non-Christian population. At least in my experience, it doesn’t match any cross section of atheists at all. If Rainer thinks these items are “what non-Christians really think about Christians,” he and his team are in for a very rude awakening.