Friday, April 29, 2016

How unchristian! A Book Review





By  David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

“Christianity has an image problem.” (p. 11).

The book, UNChristian, summarizes Kinnaman and Lyon's research into the views of Christians and non-Christians about many social issues. And they find that young Christians hold some negative attitudes toward Christianity—Christians are anti-gay and judgmental, to name two. This is one of the books I read as I was writing about beliefs and values in A House Divided.

A telling statistic is the finding that only 20% of “outsiders” strongly agree with an important characteristic of Christians:
“Christian churches accept and love people unconditionally, regardless of how people look or what they do.” (p. 185)
Although this book was written a few years ago, the contemporary situation in the United States suggests that Christians are fiercely divided over several social issues. Perhaps a major catalyst to the increased divisiveness is the 2015 decision of the U. S. Supreme Court affirming same-sex marriage.
“It strikes me as unChristian that we often have more charitable attitudes toward ideological allies than we do toward brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we disagree on matters of politics.”
Since 2015, Christians have been fiercely divided over birth control-- especially the kind that can end a pregnancy, same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage, freedom of people to refuse services to people who identify as LGBT, public restroom use by transpersons, and so forth.

Christians and secularists interested in social trends may find UNChristian a good place to begin additional research. My full review has been published and can be downloaded at no charge (see links to Academia and ResearchGate below). 

You can read a sample of UNChristian on AMAZON.

Some quotes I like (from Goodreads)

“Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today. In this culture of abundance, one of the only ways Satan can keep Christians neutralized is to wrap us up in pride. Conceit slips in like drafts of cold air in the winter. We don't see it, but outsiders can sense it.”

“Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported saints, I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.”


Sutton, G. W. (2016). A house divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. Amazon

 Sutton, G. W. (2012). [Review of the book: Unchristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity…and why it matters by D. Kinnaman & G. Lyons]. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 31, 84-85.   Academia Link  ResearchGate Link


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FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

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Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)

For a related but different focus on morality and Christian cultures see A House Divided.

Also, A House Divided Website

You may also be interested in Christian Morality

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sacred Causes --of war - A Book Review

Can a look back help predict the future of religious influence?


The Clash of Religion and Politics 
from the Great War to the
War on Terror

By Michael Burleigh

Reviewed by
Geoffrey W. Sutton


News of the recent church-state skirmishes rippling across the Southern Christian U.S. States reminded me of Burleigh’s work, which I reviewed a few years ago. Additionally, the brutality of the identified Islamic state ripping heads from bodies, destroying women and children, exploding ancient sites, and pushing vulnerable noncombatants into the Mediterranean makes the author’s analysis even more worthy of a second look.

What I find useful to the present church and state issues is Burleigh’s consideration of the role of the church in the various conflicts beginning with World War I and extending into the 21st Century. During the past hundred years, the primary European church was of course the Church of Rome—still claiming the largest percentage of the world’s largest religion. Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant branches of Christianity fared unevenly under communist and fascist regimes. Clearly, limitations on religious freedom curbed influence. But there was some influence.

It’s how the church might influence state politics under restrictions of religious freedom that seems relevant today. On the one hand, the western democracies struggle to deal with aggressive tribes who link their violence to Islam—mostly in the Middle East and Europe. Because the Islamist warriors target Christians along with secularists, semi-Christianized nations are in a quasi-religious war. Western states are coping unevenly with warriors committed to a religiously informed purpose-driven death.

On the other hand, secular forces within the western democracies are pushing back against the influence of the church on religiously-informed laws and regulations. Not only are secular forces removing Christian faith-linked laws governing marriage and constraints on ending pregnancies but new laws and court decisions compel Christians to violate their religiously informed conscience. Exemptions have been granted as evident in the "Hobby Lobby" case of 2015 and the special considerations for religious groups objecting to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (though aspects of the ACA are still contentious).

For those interested in the link between religious belief and behavior as well as the shifting balance of influence between churches and states, Burleigh offers an interesting perspective.

A free copy of my academic review can be found at Academia and ResearchGate.

Cite this blog post

Sutton, G. W. (2016, April 24. Sacred causes of war. [Web log post]. Retrieved from 

The book

Burleigh, M. (2007). Sacred causes: The clash of religion and politics, from the great war to the war on terror. New York: Harper Collins


Twitter  @GeoffWSutton 

For a related but different focus on morality and Christian cultures see A House Divided.

Also, A House Divided Website

For additional free book reviews and articles