The Church is lumping people into different groups and judging those groups, according to a well-known pollster.
Most Americans have heard of the "wall of separation" between church and state described by Thomas Jefferson – not in the Constitution, but in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist association in Connecticut. Pollster George Barna with the American Culture & Faith Institute says that while legal and civil rights groups strive to make sure that church and the state don't mix, no one seems to care that church and politics seem to be dancing the tango right under their noses.
The Church, he says, is guilty of "identity politics" – which he defines as "the practice of organizing a distinct social or political constituency around a cause, a sense of threatened existence, the perceived loss of opportunities or influence, or a set of ideals."
Based on recent events, another less-formal description might be: placing people in different groups – based on such things as skin color, income, or sexuality – and setting one group up against the others by appealing to their "victimhood." Barna says his recent survey shows that worldview has seeped into the pew.
"There are certainly some strong feelings on the part of different Christian groups about other groups," he begins. "Evangelicals have very positive feelings about Jews, but by the same token conservative Christians of various types have relatively negative feelings towards Muslims and scientologists and even Mormons."
The pollster contends that part of the prejudice comes from Christians keeping to themselves and not getting to know people of other faiths. And while he says it's a natural tendency, it's quite the opposite of how the Bible says Christians should be.
"As Christians, we need to be going back to the scriptures and taking that first of all in terms of how does God tell us to think about other people," he suggests.
Barna says it's those "other people" – those outside Christians' typical comfort zone – who most need to hear about the saving love of Christ for the world (John 3:16).
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