Evangelicals drop in esteem among the young

The Barna Group that does periodic surveys of the state of Christianity says that the reputation of Christianity is declining among the younger generation between the ages of and 29. (This survey was done in 2007.)

While many have acknowledged that mainstream churches in the US are hurting, there has been the impression that evangelicals have been holding their own, even growing. But younger people are having an increasingly negative view of evangelicals too, and since the views of younger people are an indicator of things to come, this does not portend well for evangelicals in the future.

One of the groups hit hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture. However, those negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. The new study shows that only 3% of 16 – to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are eight times less likely to experience positive associations toward evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25%).

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

Negative attitudes towards homosexuality is really hurting Christianity.


  1. says

    There’d be a lot more than homophobia hurting conservative Christianity, if only more people had the guts to talk about it in public. Like maybe their total mindless contempt, not only for gays and lesbians, but for liberals, environmentalists, and just about everyone else who thinks people have an obligation to treat other people decently. Have you noticed how quick that lot are to ridicule “good works?” Ridiculing “good works” is about as important to that lot as accepting Jesus by name. The more we hear them blather about “good works,” the more quickly we realize their entire religion is a carefully crafted excuse to feel smug about how right they are, without lifting a finger to do anything that’s actually right. America’s prevalent strain of Christianity is an even more blatant scam than any of the older strains.

  2. ericcollier says

    As abhorrent as homophobia (or any kind of bigotry) is, I find it quite worrisome that this failing is the only one that shows on the poll-radar as a turn-off for 16-29’s about evangelicalism. What about its general intolerance, mythologism, duplicity, political power-tripping, ignorance and anti-scientism? Do 16-29’s simply have no problem with all that?

  3. Mano Singham says

    Like the rest of us, young people are likely more influenced by things that directly impact their own lives. Young people know a lot of gay people and some of them are their friends.

  4. smrnda says

    Any religion that preaches ‘love your neighbor’ along with ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ is going to eventually self-destruct because those two points are in conflict and cannot be reconciled.

  5. cottonnero says

    True. Look at what a dog’s breakfast “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is. I suppose it kind of works if you don’t think too hard about it.

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