Nonbelievers say America’s Christians are doing a poor job of representing Jesus Christ, a new survey sponsored by the Episcopal Church revealed Tuesday.
The survey, which the church conducted with research firm Ipsos, found 84% of Americans said Jesus was an important spiritual figure, but only 76% believed in Christ’s historical existence.
Overall, 88% of American Christians said Jesus “is an important figure” in their lives, but more evangelicals, 98%, affirmed this than did non-evangelicals, who came in at 83%.
The Episcopal Church, along with six other established American denominations, is considered a “mainline” Protestant faith as opposed to evangelical groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention.
Significant numbers of non-Christians said they don’t believe the Christians they know represent Jesus’ teachings: 18% of those who identified as non-Christians said this and 29% of those who said they were nonreligious agreed. But even larger numbers, 36% of those in other religions and 29% of the nonreligious, said they “don’t know” if that is the case.
Other results reported Christians describing themselves as being giving (57%), compassionate (56%), loving (55%), respectful (50%) and friendly (49%). Non-Christians said they associated Christians with characteristics such as hypocrisy (50%), being judgmental (49%), self-righteous (46%) and arrogant (32%).
The Episcopal Church’s top cleric saw cause for optimism and concern in the results.
“We are encouraged that the research shows Americans still find Jesus compelling, but we also see that the behavior of many of his followers is a problem, and it’s not just certain Christians: it’s all Christians,” the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, said in a statement.
“We are refocusing our efforts on being a church that looks and acts like Jesus and models its behavior on his teachings,” he added. “In this process, we hope to ignite a revival of love that encourages all Americans to do a better job of loving their neighbors.”
Organizers said the survey was conducted using the probability-based Ipsos KnowledgePanel. A total of 3,119 Americans, ages 18 and older, across a range of religions (Christian, non-Christian, atheist, and agnostic) participated in the study between Nov. 22, 2021, and Dec. 2, 2021, and interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. They said the study has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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