Something to file away for when we do the book study on Reclaiming the ”E” Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity after Easter at Peace Lutheran —
A recent Ipsos survey commissioned by the Episcopal Church shows the “popularity of Jesus’ teachings and the ways Christians are often perceived as failing to live up to them,” according to an Episcopal News Service press release picked up by Christian Century.
In a nutshell, the survey suggests Christ’s teachings are widely accepted and admired — especially “love your neighbor” and “do not judge” — but Christians are just as widely seen as hypocritical, arrogant and judgmental.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church said the church, in its broadest sense of all Christianity, has its work cut out for it (quoting from the press release):
“We are encouraged that the research shows Americans still find Jesus compelling, but we also see that the behavior of many of his followers is a problem, and it’s not just certain Christians: it’s all Christians,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a press release announcing the study.
“This is a wake-up call for us, and based on what we have learned, we are refocusing our efforts on being a church that looks and acts like Jesus and models its behavior on his teachings. In this process, we hope to ignite a revival of love that encourages all Americans to do a better job of loving their neighbors.”
A couple of snippets:
- One question asked respondents what they thought was Jesus’ most important teaching. More than a third said “love your neighbor,” including nearly a fourth of respondents who reported no religion. About 20 percent of all respondents answered with “not judging others, without first judging yourself,” and those with no religion gave that answer at about the same rate.
- Another question asked what characteristics respondents associate with Christians. The words most chosen by the Christian respondents were “giving,” “compassionate,” “loving,” and “respectful,” while non-Christians associated Christians most with “hypocritical,” “judgmental,” “self-righteous,” and “arrogant.”
And the likely consequence:
That disconnect underscores a central reason the church commissioned the study. Episcopal leaders hope that by better understanding public perceptions of Christianity, the church can more effectively spread its message of Jesus’ love and compassion in contrast to what they see as distortions of the faith by others.
Another snippet suggests that the political activities of right-wing white evangelical Protestants are one source of the disconnect:
For the Jesus in America study, pollsters asked: “Do you think the events at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6th are associated with organized religion?” Overall, 11 percent said yes, with wide variation among respondent groups. The study found 24 percent of nonreligious respondents answered that way.
When the 11 percent of respondents who said yes were asked a follow-up question, 63 percent said they associated the attack more specifically with evangelical or Protestant Christians.
[Published April 8, 2022]