A recent poll conducted by the Episcopal church, entitled Jesus in America, revealed a startling gap between how believers perceive themselves and how non-believers look at Christians.
During the poll conducted by Ipsos in November/December 2021, 3,119 American adults were asked several questions related to Christianity.
Those surveyed included evangelical and mainline Christians and as well members of other religious groups and those who considered themselves as nonreligious.
One question asked what characteristics people associated with Christians.
This list included 19 characteristics, some that were positive such as humility, honesty, and compassion, and others that were negative such as arrogance, and self-righteousness.
The top four positive characteristics that Evangelical Christians applied to themselves:
- 72% said Christians were loving;
- 71% said they were compassionate;
- 71% said giving; and
- 62% said Christians were respectful.
And when it came to the negative characteristics, those with no religious affiliation described Christians this way:
- 55% said Christians were hypocritical;
- 54% said they were judgmental; and
- 50% said they were self-righteous
The survey also revealed the significant disconnect between how Christians perceived themselves and how others looked upon them, for example:
- 55% of Americans with no religious affiliation said Christians were hypocritical, while only 20% of Christians felt the same way.
- While significant majorities of Evangelical Christians (71%) and mainline protestants (59%) considered themselves as compassionate, only 15% of members of other religious groups and 12% of the non-religious considered Christians in the same way.
- 60% of Evangelicals considered themselves as honest, meanwhile only 7% of non-religious and 11% of the other religions thought Christians were honest.
Certainly, part of this discrepancy is due to the influence that the media and social media have on our culture, as increasingly people are defining Christianity by the failures of its superstars, such as mega pastors and TV evangelists.
Because of their prominence, stories about these high profile individuals are often headline news, and usually, only show up when the news is negative.
And it is this negative reporting that is increasingly defining Christianity.
It is fundamentally a perception problem. Though a few mega pastors are committing adultery, divorcing, or abusing their power, this isn’t true for the vast majority of pastors and Christians.
The survey asked several other questions, a couple that I found interesting included one where 30% of believers said they had cut back their church involvement due to the pandemic.
And when asked what they thought about Jesus, 84% stated that He was an important spiritual figure, and this even included 50% of those with no religious affiliation.
READ: Episcopal Bishop Curry says ‘more to do’ as poll shows Christians viewed as hypocrites AND Survey shows disconnect between believers and non-believers attitudes towards Christianity AND Jesus in America (Episcopal survey) AND Episcopal Church releases ‘Jesus in America’ study; polling data shows wide-ranging faith views