1. Rise of "militant" atheism and atheist apologetics
2. The 2008 U.S. Presidential race
5. Creationism vs. evolution
6. Deaths of Jerry Falwell, Ruth Graham (Billy Graham's wife), D. James Kennedy, Rex Hubbard
7. Global efforts toward Muslim/Christian unity
8. Growing negative perception of the Church
9. Government attention given to the "prosperity gospel"
10. Christian missionaries held hostage by Taliban in Afghanistan
This massive (11-page!) article offers a page of expansion on each topic. I thought I'd provide some excerpts from the "homosexuality" and "negative perception" topics.
As always, homosexuality was a large issue this year and fueled a number of persistent debates within and outside the Church.The Christian Post article proceeded to discuss the controversial Jones and Yarhouse study of ex-gay ministry participants:
One of the most heated debates this year was over gay-to-straight conversions.
The American Psychological Association (APA), which is currently reviewing its 10-year-old policy on counseling homosexuals, commenced discussion in July on whether therapists should be allowed to offer counseling to persons wanting to rid their same-sex desires.
According to researchers of a study released in September, change for homosexuals is difficult, but still possible.On negative public perception of Christians:
The study, conducted by longtime Wheaton College professor of psychology and provost Stanton L. Jones and Regent University professor Mark Yarhouse, followed about 100 people entering ex-gay programs under the umbrella of Exodus International – the nation's largest Christian organization dealing with homosexuality issues – for over four years.
Results showed that 15 percent of the sample claimed to have successfully changed their sexual orientation, reporting substantial reduction in homosexual desire and addition of heterosexual attraction.
Researchers did not hasten to conclude that anyone can change their sexual orientation or that no one has ever been harmed from the attempt to change. But Jones said the study results suggested that "the forceful way in which the secular mental-health community is saying change is impossible and harmful is just not well-advised."
Only 16 percent of non-Christians aged 16 to 29 years old said they have a "good impression" of Christianity, according to a report released in September by The Barna Group. A decade ago, the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity's role in society.Hmm.
Criticism, furthermore, was not limited to young people outside the Christian faith. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical and too political. Also, one-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.
Among other common impressions, 23 percent of young non-Christians said "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today's society no longer looks like Jesus." Young born-again Christians were just as likely to say the same (22 percent).
Young Christians largely criticized the church, saying it has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else and that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.
I appreciated much about this article. But something stood out to me that I haven't ever really thought about before. The language used by the Christian Post often struck me as paranoid, sensationalist, and unaware of reality. Take for example the first two sentences of the article:
The year 2007 was a year in which Christians had to up their guard amid increasingly frequent and vehement challenges. Whether it was defending against atheism, Mormonism, negative stereotypes, or liberal agendas, believers across the nation found themselves needing more to stand up for what they believe.I read these sentences and thought "huh? Who is this pathetic, weak, battered group they're talking about? Surely they aren't speaking about the powerful religious and political bloc that makes up the lion's share of the Republican Party... are they?"
This got me thinking about my days as an evangelical, when I used to move in circles where language like the above was used all the time. Perhaps I've never given description to the common tone of voice I was so familiar to hearing, but now I think I have words for it: martyrdom and fear.
I'm puzzled by this. Why has the language of the evangelical community evolved into this tone of voice? I think it is inaccurate to think they are truly an oppressed or threatened group. Maybe this tone of voice contribute to follow-the-leader mentality and group cohesion? Perhaps to keep a group together one must identify an enemy and paint the enemy as an imminent threat.
But... what if that caricature is inaccurate? Are evangelicals being deceived on a regular basis--at services once or twice a week and even in casual conversations with friends? Is this group a victim of paranoia or of manipulation? Or is there some other mechanism at work here?
I'm curious to know my readers' thoughts, if you have any.
Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch