U.S. Christians: Where’s the Love?

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Jimmy Stewart

Jesus prayed in John 17 that the world would know His followers by
their love. Yet nearly half of evangelicals recently polled in
America cite a lack of love as one of the primary contributions U.S.
Christians have made to society.

Some 48 percent listed a lack of love for others, as well as
violence, hatred, bigotry and intolerance as Christians’ greatest
negative contributions, according to a nationwide survey of American
adults released Monday by The Barna Group. By comparison, only about
25 percent of the nation listed those same items as the most

The difference reflected the survey’s findings that evangelicals
are even more likely than many other Americans to acknowledge the
faults of believers. They were “the single, most critical
subgroup of all,” according to the report, and least likely of
all respondents to say they were unable to identify any negative
contributions by Christians.

Still, among all Americans, one in five identified violence or
hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ as negative contributions
Christians have made to American society in recent years. These were
most likely to be mentioned by people associated with non-Christian
faiths (35 percent), yet evangelicals cited them too, following
closely at 31 percent.

The opposition of Christians to gay marriage was more important
among adults age 25 or younger, who were twice as likely as other
Americans to say it was the largest negative contribution.

The belief that Christianity has not made any positive
contributions to U.S. society whatsoever was noted by 11 percent of
adults, and 25 percent said they could not recall any positive
contribution made by Christians in recent years.

Yet, as a whole, Americans’ view of Christianity is not altogether
bleak. Many still believe the Christian faith has made positive
contributions to U.S. society during the past few years. One of the
most frequently listed was aiding the poor or underprivileged people,
mentioned by 19 percent of those surveyed. Adults under age 25 were
more likely to cite such service (34 percent).

By comparison, only 11 percent of evangelicals said the same and
were instead more likely to list efforts related to evangelism or
advancing belief in God or Jesus Christ as positive contributions. A
quarter of evangelicals cited evangelism, but only 16 percent of
Americans overall agreed.

Shaping or protecting the values and morals of the nation was
listed by only 14 percent of Americans as a positive contribution
Christians have made.

The Ventura, Calif.-based Barna Group asked respondents to provide
their own answers to an open-ended question—meaning the 1,000
adults surveyed were not prompted with a list of possibilities but
were asked to provide answers off the top of their head.

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