Influence

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Christians Keep Faith to Themselves to Avoid Conflict

Barna reveals the reasons people dodge spiritual discussions

An aversion to conflict is the top reason Christians cite for not discussing their faith more, according to a recent report from Barna Group.

About 3 in 10 U.S. adults who identify as Christian admit they are reluctant to talk more about their beliefs because religious conversations “always seem to create tension or arguments.” Among respondents as a whole, about the same percentage say they avoid spiritual discussions for this reason.

Meanwhile, a majority of people with no faith point to apathy as a reason for not talking more about religious matters, with 55 percent saying they simply “don’t care about these kinds of topics.”

Other reasons respondents as a whole — both religious and nonreligious — offered for not talking more about faith include the following:

  • A sense of unease at the way religion today is politicized (17 percent)
  • Feeling ill-equipped to talk about spiritual topics (17 percent)
  • Wanting to avoid a personal religious image (7 percent)
  • A fear of sounding weird (6 percent)
  • A fear of looking like a “fanatic or extremist” (6 percent)
  • Embarrassment about the way pop culture portrays religion (5 percent)
  • Past hurts arising from religious conversations (4 percent)
  • A feeling that religious language and jargon are “cheesy and outdated” (4 percent)
A majority of people with no faith avoid spiritual discussions because of apathy.

Practicing Christians — those who have attended services in the past month and say faith is very important in their lives — are more disposed than other groups to cite past hurts as a reason for avoiding spiritual talk, with 13 percent saying this keeps them from speaking up more about their beliefs. This would indicate that these churchgoers have at least attempted faith conversations previously.

Millennials, who grew up hearing about the value of tolerance, are more likely than older generations to steer clear of religious talk for fear of people thinking they are fanatics (10 percent of millennials, compared to 4 percent of boomers, 3 percent of Gen X, and 1 percent of those born before 1946).

These figures highlight the importance of discipling believers and equipping them to take the good news of Jesus to all creation. We must increase biblical literacy and teach good apologetics so people will feel more comfortable discussing their beliefs and answering questions about Christianity. And we need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to give us power and boldness to witness, even when it’s painful or uncomfortable.

After all, while 55 percent of the unaffiliated say they don’t care to talk about faith, nearly half may still be open to hearing about the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

Starting spiritual conversations isn’t always easy. But Scripture reminds us that eternity hangs in the balance: “For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’ But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:13-14, NLT).

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