Sometimes newspapers publish stories that are so unsurprising that they hardly pass for news. One such story was published by the USA Today on their religion page entitled Study: Youth see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay. The article begins:
Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
Yeah? And this is news because . . . ?
The idea that Christianity is "judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay" is not news. These allegations are really rather old. The idea that Christians are judgmental goes with the territory: most Christians accept the orthodox view that there is such a thing as truth -- "true truth" as Francis Schaeffer labelled it -- and that people can be wrong about issues of spirituality. Christians take a position that the only path to God is through the forgiveness that has been offered as a free gift from God through the death of his beloved Son (and second person of the Trinity), Jesus Christ. We don't believe that other religions offer alternative paths to God, and therefore people who follow these other religions are heading towards just condemnation for their own sins. That's been spun as "judgmental" and that's simply part-and-parcel of Christian belief.
The idea that Christians are hypocritical is also old news: Christians have been called hypocritical almost from the start because we believe that God calls on us to become better people. He calls on us to try to be a morally pure. As such, we speak out against such things as drunkenness, sexual immorality and other sins which many people want to indulge in. In fact, many Christians who honestly try to live pure lives are also tempted to indulge in these things, too. Christians don't always successfully practice what they preach -- in fact, one might say that we rarely successfully practice what we preach and there would be a good argument that such a claim would be right -- and due to our natural human desire not to be shamed we cover up our own failings making the failings even worse when they come to light. But that doesn't make the goal wrong; it simply means that we don't always (some might say, rarely) practice what we preach. Technically, if we are arguing that "while we have failed to live according to our own moral standards, but that doesn't mean that others shouldn't try to live by those standards", such a position doesn't make Christians hypocrites. However, because of the way the world sees hypocrisy today, in the world's view Christians are seen as hypocrites.
The idea that Christians are anti-gay is also old news. While there is debate within Christianity on this issue and my viewpoint is certainly not the viewpoint of everyone who would identify themselves as Christian, I think that the Bible takes a clear stand that acting out homosexual behavior is a sin. Unfortunately, some people who also take the name of Christian have taken this teaching as a license to abuse or otherwise mistreat gays. Such actions are wrong and should rightfully be condemned both inside and outside the church. However, taking the words of Paul and the book of Leviticus (as well as other mentions in the Bible) at their face value, many Christians believe they must take a stand that gay behavior is sinful. That is, of course, seen as "anti-gay" by today's if-it-feels-good-do-it society. To the Christian, telling someone else that they are sinning when they think that what they are doing is "beautiful and natural" is the most loving thing one can do.
All this article tells me is that Christians are losing the public relations war among the youth. The Christian positions aren't wrong, but the world is twisting the meanings, emphasizing the church's failings and otherwise convincing people (mostly through rhetorical devices) that darkness really is light. But then, that's the church's fault. The church as a whole has not done an effective job of telling the people the truth because we are afraid to engage culture on the truth. We haven't been as effective in reducing our message down to bumper-sticker-sized sound bites that people can relate to or paste on the back of their cars (after all, that seems to be where most people get their theology today). We haven't educated our youth on the reasons to believe that the Bible is truthful and relevant; preferring instead to tell kids "just have faith" when that's no reason to believe one thing is true over another.
Christians simply need to do better, and we should be praying that God uses each one of us to reach others because, without the power of the Holy Spirit, all of our efforts will be for naught.