Book review: Bradley Wright's Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media
Brad Wright's new book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (July 1, 2010) calmly and clearly sorts through statistics about Christians in America today.
Wright is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Sociologists Rodney Stark and Christian Smith blurb the book positively as does Scot McKnight. Ed Stetzer writes the foreword. Scot has been blogging about the book as has John Ortberg. Wright blogs at http://brewright.blogspot.com/ In the book, he wisely points out the many reasons statistics can get garbled and exaggerated. You may remember Wright as the sympathetic Willow Creek Association church attending sociologist who pointed out that Willow Creek's Reveal study does not reveal much. In this book, many hyperbolic reports of the demise of Christians and evangelicals from a variety of sources are exposed as faulty. Wright is generally gentle in his criticisms and his sense of humor pops up throughout the book.
The conclusion includes this summary judgment, "You know, I'm kind of enjoying this oversimplification, so let's take it a step further. That's right, after about a year of reading the scholarly literature and analyzing scores of data sets, I am distilling my evaluation of Evangelical Christianity to a single grade. I give American Evangelical Christianity a B" (213). To a large extent, he finds evangelicals are doing quite well. He is most concerned about the tendency of white evangelicals to be suspicious of people of other races. But even this area has a bright spot as the trend appears to be improving.
What is perhaps most refreshing about Wright's book is his encouragement for regular people to have a healthy skepticism toward statistics. "If nothing else, I hope you realize the need to be more skeptical when it comes to statistics about Christianity" (218). The sloppy use of statistics is a stain on both secular journalists and Christian authors. Wright's book is a significant dose of truth and sanity among the cacophony of shrill pronouncements. Get it and become a voice of reason in your sphere of influence.
I have delved into many of these issues myself: church attendance, church growth stats, the use of statistics by pastors, Willow Creek's Reveal, etc. at my Sociology category.