Former Atheist Aims to Reverse Negative Christian Stereotypes

Concerns about the face of Christianity have led a former atheist to form a non-profit to address the perceived hypocrisy of the church.

The Texas-based non-profit Changing the Face of Christianity Inc. is a direct response to non-believers who believe all Christians are intolerant, judgmental, hypocritical and homophobic, explained founder R. Brad White.

White said when he speaks to non-believers, skeptics and agnostics, they constantly label Christians with one of those four words. And those four labels are preventing backsliders from returning to the church, he added.

"Where if 75 percent of people were coming back in the past, 35 percent of people are coming back now," he pointed out.

With this, White created Changing the Face of Christianity to be a resource to reform those spreading the negative stereotype and to educate younger Christians from following in their footsteps.

White's insights are not new. Dan Kimball opines in the beginning of his book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, that the emerging generation is spiritually open to talk about Jesus but are very disinterested in joining or being associated with church.

Kimball argues that pastors and ministers have lost touch with the younger generation by shutting out all other viewpoints and opinions but those of fellow Christians.

White has taken the argument a step further and states that church members and leaders have blatantly turned them off by "hating the sin and the sinner." He said this is most evident with homosexuality. Church leaders have mixed the Bible with politics to condemn homosexuals for their lifestyles, he lamented.

Though the sentiment may be based on the Bible, he noted, "The things we say and the way we say them turn them off."

According to a 2008 survey by LifeWay Research, 72 percent of unchurched Americans believe the church is full of hypocrites. An earlier LifeWay survey also revealed that 17 percent of those who formerly attended church left because they felt church members "seemed hypocritical" and "were judgmental of others."

White believes Christianity is under attack from the inside with many believers paying little more than lip service to worship or living the Christian life.

"Defectors," he said, "see superficial name-tag-only Christians who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Non-Christians don't take them seriously, because they often don't follow their own teaching and preaching, which endangers the effectiveness of Christian evangelism efforts."

Non-believers despise Christianity for all the wrong reasons, he lamented. "If non-believers hated us for truly living our faith and for being the best lovers of people the world has ever known, then our campaign would end. We would joyfully accept the criticism."

Changing the Face of Christianity is focused on launching an awareness and education campaign to help Christians reverse the negative stereotypes. The nonprofit is designed to "save the Christian religion from self-destruction, by helping Christians become more like Jesus Christ."

Currently, the organization has a Bible study series that addresses topics such as "being judgmental," "being too political" and "having superficial faith" over a period of seven to eight weeks.

"Our approach is to teach what the Bible says about how to relate to non-believers," explained White.

Each lesson starts with a definition explaining why each title trait is negative and quotes material from atheists and other non-believers. There are several passages from the Bible meant to express God and/or Jesus' view and discussion questions.

Several churches in the Dallas area have begun using the study with young adults and have given the curriculum positive marks, according to White.

In four to five months, White hopes to expand the non-profit's efforts to include open discussions where Christian college students can come with their non-believing friends to talk openly about the faith.

He also wants to hold a retreat-like boot camp to delve deeper into issues that repel non-believers from the church.

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