Words Mean Things — Including the Word 'Christian'
I imagine that any doctor will agree that patients who self-diagnose can be a nightmare.
Qualified not by years in medical school, but by a few minutes on Google, they have searched on their symptoms, constructed a diagnosis, and settled on a course of treatment. Doctors may have to penetrate a hard shell of stubborn ignorance before they can help ailing folks.
The situation spiritually can be very similar. Last time, we exposed the tragedy of deluded folks whose lives bear no mark of Jesus’ presence, who nonetheless imagine that they “made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to their life today.” Barna accepted them as “loving Jesus” because of a few truth statements they affirm –though their priorities and choices fly in the face of Jesus’s own definition of what it means to love Him. Their self-diagnosis was eliminated by the facts of their own choices.
Now we come to the other side of that same coin. The BBC reports the results of a survey which found that “a quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.” What is more, “Three in ten Christians surveyed (31%) said they did not believe in life after death.” In a sort of echo of Barna, “Almost two in five Christians surveyed say that they never attend religious services (37%).”
Both the Barna and the BBC polls reveal the under-discussed rotten core of polling. Polling treats opinions as if they had weight. It is as if the very fact that someone holds an opinion means the opinion is significant and must be respected. This absurd idea is the bastard lust-child of postmodernism and humanism.
We are seldom given any data that would help us weigh polls. For all we know, if someone told the BBC pollster he was a Christian (“describe themselves as Christian”), he was simply taken at his word. But suppose a survey reported, “Of the scientists polled, 83% believe the moon is made of green cheese, 47% believe that flies spontaneously generate from corpses, and 62% believe that disease is spread by ‘humors in the air.’” Wouldn’t everyone immediately challenge the survey’s definition of “scientists”?
In this case, it’s more significant, simpler, and worse. A parody tweet in response from Matt Smethurst highlights the problem:
“That’s ridiculous,” you chuckle. Yes, as ridiculous as a tweet saying “One out of every four Muslims name BLT their fave sandwich,” or “25% of lesbians love only men.” A definitional issue instantly stands out.
The same is true of this survey finding, and its use of the word Christian.