"...They took a poll here in my area of Seattle and found that 95 percent of the nonchurched have a favorable view of Jesus, so Jesus is not the problem. It is the church they dislike, because they do not readily see the church living out his teachings." Karen Ward, taken from a quote in the book "Emerging Churches" by Gibbs and Bolger, p. 48.
This reminds me of the oft-used quote by Gandhi, or that is at least often attributed to him, which was something like "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are so little like your Christ". An interesting statement, to be sure. I simply point out the parallel for the moment, I do not say whether Gandhi had just cause or not for such thinking.
Ward's statistic, however, I do wonder about. I trust neither the stat nor her conclusion that "Jesus is not the problem".
For one thing, the stat is isolated. We have only that one bit of data, with little context. Outside of having been taken in a part of Seattle, the book gives no further information about this poll,--what questions were asked, how many people, what their own beliefs were, what did they like about Jesus, what does the church do that they do not like, and so forth.
In other words, simply from the one stat that 95 percent of the people polled in one area said that they have a favorable view of Jesus, there is not enough support for the contention that "Jesus is not the problem", and it is certainly not right to go further and say that the church is not living out Christ's teachings simplp because some people do not readily see it.
I can have fun with that statistic, too. I can consider that, first off, the poll was taken in Seattle, a place that is about as left as the left coast gets. I can further consider that if the people polled are to the left socially and politically, then why not theologically also?
Considering that, what would they think Jesus taught? Let me give some more of Ward's quote, "The cultural view 'gets' that Jesus was for the marginalized and the oppressed". I could take that part of the quote, and come to the conclusion that when 95% of the people polled say they view Jesus favorably, they are thinking of a Jesus who in essence agrees with their own agendas.
So, considering that, why would they not see the church as doing Christ work? Would these people be the sorts who would see churches and Christians trying to save the lives of the unborn by standing against abortion, and think that these are backwards people who hate women and women's right? Would they see Christians sharing their faith trying to convert people as example of religious intolerance? Would they think of preachers who stands for biblical morality as spewers of hate and bigotry? Would they see Christians in uniform and those who support the military as warmongers who go against some kind of biblical teaching of pacifism?
See, funfunfunfunfun!! Of course my conclusions are speculations, but no more then Ward's, which is the point.
I can remember when I was young listening to a preacher say that if we wanted to know how a Christian should live, we should ask a lost person. The really funny thing is that this was in a very conservative, fundamentalist, independent, KJV-only church. It actually does make some sense, but only up to a point. Especially now, it seems that if nonchristian people were asked such a question, the asking Christian would be surely torn between the nonchristian's statements and what is stated in the Bible.
Another memory is from my time in missions, and listening to a speaker tell of how missionaries in India discovered that teaching the Gospel to the people there would be difficult, because when they learned about Jesus, they would simply add Him to their already numerous pantheon of gods, instead of naming Him as the one true God. I suppose it could be said that those people had no problems with Jesus either, at least until they fully understood His claim to exclusive faith and worship to Himself only.
Let me attempt to give a balance--there are people who have had bad experiences with churches, so I'm not completely discounting that some of those people polled may really love Christ even as their experiences color their views against the church.
But when a stat like Ward's comes up, I start to smell a rat. I think that only a few days before HIs death, He entered Jerusalem to a celebration, and if that city could have been polled, His approval rating would probably have been about the same as Ward's stat. I remember His words to His disciples, to beware when all men speak well of you, that as they hate Me they will also hate you, that you will be hated by all peoples for My name's sake.
And I think that if 95 percent of the people polled think so highly of Jesus, then perhaps they have been taught a wrong view of Jesus, or they simply don't understand Him truly. I can't help but think that if they understood the real Jesus, that rating would be much less.