Are Christians "Good" People?

There seems to be a growing number of people who advocate for people to reject Christianity because it is a negative influence in our culture. However, that charge seems to be contradicted by empirical evidence. A few years ago, Professor Arthur C. Brooks wrote a book entitled Who Really Cares? His research reveals some interesting facts about the “religious” and “secular” communities in our own country. Brooks’ study of American giving patterns, found that people who attend church are more generous than those who don’t. In an interview, Brooks said, “Religious people, are more personally charitable in every measurable way than secularists.” He found this to be true at every income level and across the political spectrum. Religious liberals tend to be just as generous as religious conservatives, though conservatives significantly outnumber liberals among those who regularly attend church. Religious people not only give to churches and religious causes, but also give more money to “secular” charities (e.g. Cancer Society, Heart Association) than folks who are not religious. Secularists are less likely than religious people to volunteer, donate blood, or give money to family and friends. Brooks also observes, “If a cashier accidentally gives a churchgoer too much change, 60% of the time that change will be returned. That will happen only 40% of the time if the person receiving too much change is a secularist.”

Friends, Dr. Brooks’ research has some important implications that we should all consider:

1) Though someone who is not religious may be very generous and honest, in general those qualities are more likely to be found in someone who attends church. Since 40% of religious people do not return extra change (while 40% of secularists do) it would be foolish to think that Dr. Brooks’ study says anything about any particular individual. His research does say something, however, about the impact of religion on our culture. Religion’s impact is good one.

2) Christianity has a positive impact on our society. Though Brooks’ usually states his conclusions in terms of “religious people” and “churchgoers,” over 95% of these individuals consider themselves Christians. Yes, many believe Christianity is a negative force in our
country. Opposition by Christians to abortion, same-sex marriage, teaching Darwinian evolution, etc., causes some to label Christianity as “divisive.” The claim that salvation is found only through Jesus Christ is seen as very arrogant and intolerant by many. A growing number of people say they would not want an evangelical Christian as a next door neighbor. Dr. Brooks’ research, however, confirms what other studies have shown. Christians who regularly attend church tend to be generous, honest, and happy individuals. I think that means they tend to make very good neighbors. Though it would be wrong to conclude that Christianity is true simply because of its social benefits, it would be extremely foolish to reject Christianity because of the false accusations being made against it.

3) As Christians, we do not claim to be perfect. We cling to the fact that we have been forgiven for our sin and imperfection by God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, it is troubling that when given too much change, churchgoers choose not to
return it 40% of the time. Those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ need to make sure we live that way. By God’s grace, we should strive to be more generous, more honest, and happier. This is one way that we can “let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11)

Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church

Dan Erickson