Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Perceptions of Christianity

I ran across two items in my early morning surfing today that struck me as having something in common. One of the items was on one of my favorite blogs, Father Jake Stops the World. The other is on AfterElton.com.

Father Jake wrote an article about some recent information about how young people view Christian churches.

My friend has echoed some of my own thoughts, which have been generated by a book I'm reading; unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity by David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, and Gabe Lyons, founder of the Fermi Project. Their research project involved interviewing "outsiders" (those who are outside the Christian faith) and young Christians, focusing on the 16 - 29 age group (identified as older "Mosaics" and younger "Busters"). The perception that they discovered of how younger generations view "Christians" is a real eye opener. Here's a few of the top descriptions from the "outsider" group:

Question: Here are some words or phrases that could be used to describe a religious faith. Please indicate if you think each of these phrases describes Christianity.

91% - Antihomosexual

87% - Judgmental

85% - Hypocritical

75% - Too involved in politics

Here's some of the responses to the same question from young adults who are church members:

80% - Antihomosexual

52% - Judgmental

47% - Hypocritical

50% - Too involved in politics

Father Jake ends his article with the following.

May our witness to the healing power of God's radically inclusive love continue to be a beacon of hope for those seeking a safe place where they will be embraced by grace. It is only in such settings, where our human inclinations to judge and condemn are set aside, that we all, "outsiders" and "insiders" together, can anticipate an encounter with the living God.

And then I came across a terrific article on AfterElton.com, Sketch Comedy's Greatest Gay Hits.

Sketch comedy shows have long mined current social issues for inspiration. In the 60s, Laugh-In and That Was The Week That Was regularly brought hippie culture and anti-establishment attitudes – progressive concepts for the time – directly into the living rooms of Middle America. When the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” debuted on Saturday Night Live in 1975, they continued that tradition and carried it through the next three decades, spawning a host of imitators. At its best, sketch comedy became mainstream television’s “town crier,” using humor to defuse otherwise controversial contemporary themes.

As gay issues became increasingly prominent in social discourse, sketch comedy shows began dealing with gay people and themes more frequently. In 1985, Saturday Night Live added its first openly gay cast member, Terry Sweeney, who spent a season impersonating female celebrities and playing the occasional gay character. When the Fox network debuted its Sunday night lineup with The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, one of Ullman’s recurring characters was Francesca, a teen being raised by her gay father and his boyfriend. Shortly after its debut in 1990, In Living Color introduced the flamboyant hosts of the “Men on…” skits, whose stereotyped characters generated laughter as well as debate as to their relative offensiveness.

Gay topics and characters are even more frequently seen today and, thanks to the popularity of Internet video, some of the more notable examples are readily available for viewing. Here we take a look at some of the highs and lows for gay visibility in sketch comedy, and examine whether, when it comes to the handling of gay themes, mainstream television comedy is laughing with us … or at us.

The article contains a number of videos. After reading Father Jake's article, one in particular struck me as perhaps the other side of Jake's coin. This is how gay people feel when attempting to dialogue with Christians, (of course with the exception of Father Jake and the good people who comment on his blog.)