David Kinnaman. Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, October 1st, 2007. 255 pp.
When I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure what the direction of the book would be. Was this going to be another book from a Millennial who was going to compromise the Christian faith while it talks about statistics that demonstrate that Christianity has a PR problem today? Was this going to be written from the perspective of being man-centerd in which the author was going to address problems with some kind of pragmatic gimmick instead of a solution that was biblically driven? I must say that I was glad to see that the author lived up to being an Evangelical and even said in the book that one cannot compromise clear biblical conviction. I would also say that at times the solutions he proposes is very good and something I resonate strongly with especially his discussion about the need to genuinely love the non-Christian and homosexuals and also for Christians to start living like Christians in light of God’s grace. Even at times when I disagree with him as to what is the main problem I do think his exhortation is edifying.
What the author has found in his studies and surveys is disturbing and some of it cannot be brushed aside. What stood out strongly for me was his analysis of surveys from Christians themselves and how it reveal that Christians can be just like the World and at times be hypocritical. I expect non-Christians to get Christians and Christianity wrong. But to see some of the sad state of affairs from studies directly surveying Christians really made things sobering.
I want to re-iterate again that this book stood out to me as being different than some of the literatures out there (book and non-book forms) which would use such data to call for Christians to forsake biblical truths, with the familiar theological liberal mantra “the Church must change from it’s biblical ways, or die from being no longer relevant.” I think even if you disagree with the book there is lots to learn from it and I don’t want to take away from this even as I share some of my disagreements with the book in this review.
The author argues that part of the Christian public perceptions problem is that Christians today are too political, anti-homosexual and judgmental. Often these three complaints come together as a package when it comes to Christians being conservative on social issues. It’s not that the book argues these aren’t important but the book expressed that Christians have become too focused upon these issues. The author believes that this bad public perception of Christianity would end up hurting Evangelicalism in the long run and ultimately turn people away from Christianity. However is this the case? While the book was published in 2007 there have been other studies and newer studies since that puts some holes to the authors’ thesis.
First off studies have revealed that Conservative Christians are not concerned with only single issues or merely political social issues. Christians actually give more money and time for other causes more than they do to the social issues that are politically divisive. Arthur C. Brooks argues that studies have revealed how the factor of being more conservative, religious, and less reliant on the government result in higher rates of giving time and money to both religious and secular cause in his book “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” In fact, in a May 2015 commentary titled “On conservative religious activism, the numbers speak for themselves” Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan presents presuasive evidence that Evangelical Conservative Christians has done more for the poor and the needy in proportion to social conservative issues. The good works of Biblical Christians in the areas that non-Christians can agree with is still a strong testimony in light of these findings!
Secondly studies reveal the opposite direction of trajectory than the ones the author predicted concerning Conservative Evangelicals. According to the book one shouldn’t expect Conservative Evangelicals to make any gains while the more liberal mainline denominations would in light of their stance on social issues. We see instead the opposite according to a much publicize Pew Forum report in May 2015. To quote the study directly, “The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching.”
While the book is not without it’s problem I do think it is still helpful to critically read it.