Poll: Evangelicals Admit Negative Contributions of Christians to Society

A new poll reveals that though many Americans are quick to identify negative contributions Christians have made to society, evangelicals are even more likely to acknowledge the faults of believers.

The Barna Group released a survey Monday that shows a quarter of Americans listed violence, hatred, bigotry, intolerance and a lack of love for others as the largest negative contributions of Christians. Among evangelicals, 48 percent listed the same items.

When broken down, one out of five Americans said violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ was a negative contribution. This was the most frequent response to an open-ended question asked by the Ventura, Calif.-based research group.

Not surprisingly, those associated with non-Christian faiths (35 percent) were most likely to list that. But evangelicals were right behind them, with 31 percent listing the same thing.

The Barna Group conducted telephone interviews Aug. 16-22 with a random sample of 1,000 adults in the United States. The group did not list any possibilities of positive and negative contributions by Christianity when conducting the survey but asked respondents to provide their own answers.

One of the most frequently listed positive contributions of Christians was their aiding of the poor or underprivileged people. Nineteen percent mentioned the activity. Interestingly, adults under the age of 25 were more likely to cite such service (34 percent) along with self-identified liberals (29 percent). Only 11 percent of evangelicals said the same.

Evangelicals were instead more likely to list efforts related to evangelism or advancing belief in God or Jesus Christ as Christians' positive contribution to society. While a quarter of evangelicals listed evangelism, only 16 percent of Americans overall said the same.

Only 14 percent of Americans overall listed shaping or protecting the values and morals of the nation as a positive contribution made by Christians.

Meanwhile, 11 percent of adults said Christianity had not made any positive contributions to U.S. society.

Notably, 25 percent said they could not recall any positive contribution made by Christians in recent years.

Among the listed negative contributions, 13 percent of adults said the opposition to gay marriage was a major negative and 12 percent cited churches being too involved in politics.

Overall, 12 percent said they could not think of any negative contributions of Christians. But evangelicals (6 percent) were among the subgroups that were least likely to say they were unable to identify any negative contributions by Christians. The Barna Group thus concluded that they were "the single, most critical subgroup of all" and statistically tied with the 7 percent of liberals who gave that reply.

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