Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does Christianity only attract a certain type of person?

When I was at Greenbelt this summer I decided to go along to the free speed dating evening run by a Christian dating website. When I got home I received emails inviting me to join their website. I did join for the free trial, but didn't pay to become a member.

At the speed dating and on the website I didn't come across anyone I was remotely interested in. One of the reasons for this is that I found all those folks just too.... Christian.

And now I have to explore what I mean by that. I suppose I really mean Evangelical Christian. But it's still worth exploring what I mean a bit more.

It's difficult to express it, but a lot of Evangelicals seem to me to have a certain sort of personality. It's difficult to say without sounding insulting, but I find Evangelicals (in general) to be somehow simplistic, naive, timid and without a sense of humour.

This could sound just like prejudice, and it's quite possible I can see the splinter in my neighbour's eye more than I can see the log in my own, but I am convinced I'm on to something.

What else convinces me is missionary-type work that I do. Whenever I have a chat with non-church-goers I find their attitude and personality to be very different to church-people, and not in a way that reflects well on church-people. Sometimes non-Christians to me seem much more self-confident, self-assured, honest, blunt people, and I find that refreshing to be honest.

Is it possible that the type of evangelism that the church engages in in the west says something like this - "if you're feeling overwhelmed with guilt, or fear, or confusion, then come to Jesus who can help ya'll with all that stuff." And so people who do feel consumed by guilt or fear do come to Christianity and get something from it. But what about all those people who don't feel overwhelmed with guilt and fear, who are more confident in their own abilities and life. The way Christianity is presented to them, they don't see the need for it for themselves.

Is the whole theology of Christian evangelism in the west geared only towards a certain personality-type? If so, what theology needs re-thinking to engage with all types of people?

I'm not sure how the liberal church fits in with this. Again, I think it's easier for me to see this working in a tradition that's not mine. Perhaps those people who go into the liberal church are very individualistic idiosyncratic types who nevertheless somehow want to join communities. Still, I think we're only attracting certain types too.

There's a lot of talk in mission about adapting to different cultures, but what about adapting to different personality-types? What does mission look like when we try to do that?


Blogger PeaceBang said...

I know, I know... I hear you! Even from across the pond and a whole different Christian population in the dating scene, I get it. Thanks for this post.

3:45 am  
Anonymous Mike Killingworth said...

I think this is a relevant subject in terms of our (supposed) commitment to growth.

One question which is always considered bad form in Unitarian circles is whether we would rather the next person through the church porch were a Christian or an agnostic. Yet I think it does matter in terms of how we set our stall out.

The agnostic is probably looking for help with the realisation that materialism isn't enough, and wonders whether we can offer a form of spiritual practice that might work for them. They are likely to have sensitive antennae for any form of charlatanry, and will want to be re-assured that our offer is fully compatible with secular approaches such as psychology. Our focus on this life as opposed to whatever might happen after death will strike them as plain common sense, as will our view that religion isn't about belief.

The Christian isn't likely to be bothered by any of that, and as you say, low self-esteem is endemic in this group. In some cases, they may even have been using religion to exacerbate rather than to heal their personality troubles. Liberal religion may well seem stranger to them than downright secularism (and in many ways so it should). At their best, Christians can make better Unitarians than agnostics - at their worst, far more problematic ones.

8:51 pm  
Blogger Glen Marshall said...

OK so what you saying about me?

9:20 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

You're the exception Glen, but you're still not my type ;-)

4:14 pm  
Blogger Glen Marshall said...

Always said you'd no taste.

3:31 pm  
Blogger Unitalian said...

I'd probably have more in common with a convinced atheist-humanist than your average born-again, which is probably how it should be because, IMHO, it's about how you actually ARE more than what you happen to believe in. Which is why I'm Unitarian!

11:09 pm  
Blogger Glen Marshall said...

Unitalian's comment makes no sense. A convinced atheist-humanist believes there is no God, your average born-again believes there is. Neither of these beliefs in themselves necessarily makes a difference to how you are.

1:35 pm  
Blogger Unitalian said...

"Neither of these beliefs in themselves necessarily makes a difference to how you are."

I suppose my point was that as a Unitarian, Christian belief is not a priority over character. Therefore I would be more likely to date an atheist with humanistic leanings than a born-again.

9:36 pm  
Anonymous plonkee said...

There are Christians, and there are Christians. The ones that use their faith as their primary label tend not to be my type, either as friends or anything else.

On the other hand, interesting people who happen to be Christian are often cool. But they wouldn't (in my experience) use a Christian dating service.

I'd like to meet more people who were committed to trying to be better people without relying on religious beliefs that I can't take seriously. So far, I've met almost nobody in this category. I'm starting to think that they don't really exist.

12:43 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Plonkee, you open up an interesting point about the need for a "Christian" dating site. I'm reminded of the fact that there's a Christian version of wikipedia, and a Christian version of YouTube; and of course there's also Christian music (just change the word "baby" to "Jesus" in most pop songs).

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but there's something worth thinking about there.

5:39 pm  
Anonymous Mel said...

Um, there are plenty of Christian dating sites. I have some (now married) friends who met through one.

7:34 pm  

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