In my last post I asked the question: Are you currently living closer to Jerusalem or Babylon? You can see that first post here.
I created a short survey with the intention of getting people to think about where they might be living. Before reading any further, if you haven’t taken the survey, I’d love for you to take the survey here.
I’ve had at this point about 150 people who have taken the survey. The results were interesting. I’ve listed all of the questions below. The first option in each of the questions is the Jerusalem option. The second option is the Babylon option. If you assign a point value of (1) to the Jerusalem options and (2) to the Babylon options, you can arrive at a cumulative score.
I’ve created a scale that I call the “Exile Scale” to measure the extent to which you feel like an exile in your culture. I considered calling this the “Katy Scale” as a tribute to Katy Perry who used to be known as Katy Hudson when she was an evangelical musician. (If you don’t know who Katy Perry is, you are definitely living in Jerusalem.)
I decided not to call it this however because that implies that living in Babylon requires cultural assimilation or compromise which is most definitely not the case. Living in Babylon has different challenges than living in Jerusalem – challenges that require faithfulness and courage, but living in Babylon should not be understood as living in compromise anymore than we should understand living in Jerusalem as living in faithfulness.
My “Exile Scale” looks like this.
31-41 —– Jerusalem.
42-52 —– Under siege.
53-62 —– Exile.
Before I talk about the results of the survey so far, let me offer a brief explanation of the difference between living in Jerusalem and living in Babylon.
In regards to the Church. People in Jerusalem tend to see the Church as a cultural institution. America may have its flaws and weaknesses, but it is still safe to say that it is a “Christian” nation and the Church is critical to the infrastructure of our communities. In Jerusalem, denominational differences matter as does “going to church” and being suitably religious. Preaching and evangelism in the church is bold and direct. Some amount of biblical language and knowledge is largely assumed. The Church’s job is to be a moral compass for the culture – confronting sin and godlessness with the authoritative voice of scripture. We must not concede the culture, but must fight the good fight.
By contrast, people in Babylon see the Church not as an institution but as a tight-knit community, a family in the midst of a culture that has largely ceased being Christian in any meaningful sense of the term. People in Babylon don’t particularly care about denominational differences or being religious. What is important is being spiritual and authentic in the midst of a godless culture. In such a context, the Church is best to collaborate with other, non-Christian groups. Preaching and evangelism don’t assume that most or even many people will appreciate biblical authority or recognize biblical language. Instead, preaching is indirect and reflective while evangelism adopts the form of an authentic life rather than an explanation of the “Roman Road.” The church in Babylon must learn to stop being judgmental and instead live at peace with everyone.
Individuals in Jerusalem tend to be more culturally isolated and traditional. Most relationships in Jerusalem are somewhat homogeneous. Friendships are largely among fellow-church people and religion is a multi-generational legacy. In Jerusalem, the individual call is to holiness and personal obligation. In Jerusalem, faith is very much in the public eye. And certain behaviors are assumed either in their practice (like tithing) or their prohibition (like drinking alcohol) in Jerusalem. Jerusalem lives by the Law.
By contrast, individuals in Babylon are more culturally engaged in both consumption (movies, music, television, etc.) and in relationships (especially through social media). Those in Babylon tend to be more progressive in nature (dispositionally, not necessarily politically). People living in Babylon are very much aware of their cultural minority status. They know more pagans than Christians. They are “in the know” culturally, but they also feel more alienated because of this knowledge. Faith is not necessarily public and bold. In fact, the average Babylon-dweller feels uncomfortable with such a religious expression. The personal call in Babylon is survival and faithfulness. Babylon lives by the prophets (especially the weird ones). Certain behaviors are no longer assumed by those living in Babylon. If a person in Babylon chooses not to drink or to give a tithe it is the by-product of personal conviction and not obligation.
So, with all of that in mind, some results from my outrageously non-scientific survey:
The overall average score was a 44 (the lowest was a 33 and the highest was a 54). The average in terms of percent was 51.1% in favor of Jerusalem. There wasn’t a huge difference between male and females although females scored a little lower. There also wasn’t a noticeable difference in education level although the more education you’ve had the higher your score seemed to go. Geography didn’t seem to make a huge difference either – partly because most of the people in my social circle are from the Midwest. I will say that the handful from the Northeast were significantly higher in their scores. (The Midwest and Southwest had the lowest scores.) It’d be interesting to see the difference between those who live in rural areas and those who live in cities. The biggest differences were seen in the different age groups. Those who are over 50 scored an average around 39. Those between 35 and 50 scored an average around 43. Those between 18 and 35 scored slightly over a 45. A lot of these results are biased based on who follows me on various social media platforms and who is even on social media in the first place, but these results do reflect what we might assume. The younger generations tend to have more of a sense of being in exile than those who would teach them or parent them. With all of that being said however, it should also be pointed out that at least in my limited sample size things are not seriously grave. The ones surveyed generally have a sense of being under siege, but the feeling of exile and alienation doesn’t seem to be the norm even with younger people.
I’ve put the results for each question below if you’re interested, but I plan on keeping the survey open so that I can keep adding to these numbers. Pass it along to your friends.
I’d also love to hear back from you. What do you think about this? Do you think it’s accurate? Where do you agree? Where do you disagree with this assessment?
- Which is more true?
- God’s people must be holy. (35.6)
- God’s people must be faithful. (64.4)
- Agree or disagree: America is a Christian nation.
- Agree (11.4)
- Disagree (88.6)
- How many personal relationships do you have with gay or gender non-conforming individuals?
- One or less (48.9)
- More than one (51.1)
- How many personal relationships do you have with individuals who practice non-Christian religions?
- One or less (33.1)
- More than one (66.9)
- Which statement best summarizes your social media activity?
- Occasional or non-existent (39.4)
- Very much engaged on multiple platforms (60.6)
- Agree or disagree: Most of my closest friends and family go to church regularly.
- Agree (88.6)
- Disagree (11.4)
- Which word best describes your values?
- Traditional (76.5)
- Progressive (23.5)
- Which statement best describes scripture?
- Scripture is authoritative (94)
- Scripture is personally meaningful (6)
- Which style of preaching do you most appreciate?
- Direct and bold (75.2)
- Indirect and reflective (24.8)
- What is most wrong with the world?
- Personal sin (70)
- Institutional/structural sin (30)
- The Church should be more…
- Confrontational (38.3)
- Collaborative (61.7)
- What is the best description of evangelism?
- Using your words to declare the truth of Jesus. (30.9)
- Using your actions to declare the truth of Jesus. (69.1)
- My faith affects the way that I vote…
- A lot (92.4)
- Only a little (7.6)
- Agree or disagree: I very regularly will see the latest “blockbuster” movie.
- Disagree (44.4)
- Agree (55.6)
- Which is more true?
- I listen to Christian music quite a bit. (51.9)
- I hardly listen to Christian music at all. (48.1)
- Agree or disagree: My preacher is the most important spiritual voice in my life.
- Agree (14.3)
- Disagree (85.7)
- When people say “happy holidays” at Christmas…
- It actually kind of bothers me. (24.8)
- I couldn’t care less. (75.2)
- Tithing is…
- A responsibility (71.4)
- A personal decision (28.6)
- Agree or disagree: Healthy churches are essential to the health of my community.
- Agree (94.7)
- Disagree (5.3)
- Agree or disagree: I assume that most people in my neighborhood are Christians.
- Agree (23.3)
- Disagree (76.7)
- Agree or disagree: As a Christian, I regularly feel “out of place” in my community.
- Disagree (60.9)
- Agree (39.1)
- The problem with Christians is that…
- They are non-committal (57.9)
- They are judgmental (42.1)
- Agree or disagree: It is problematic for a Christian to drink alcohol.
- Agree (15.8)
- Disagree (84.2)
- I see the church mostly as…
- An institution (10.5)
- A family (89.5)
- In conversations about popular culture, I am most typically
- Lost (28.6)
- “In the know” (71.4)
- Agree or disagree: My commitment to Jesus is multi-generational.
- Agree (91)
- Disagree (9)
- Talking about my faith at work…
- Might ruffle some feathers, but would be generally acceptable. (96.9)
- Talk about my faith at work? Are you kidding? (3.1)
- Agree or disagree: A time of prayer should be brought back to our public schools.
- Agree (38.3)
- Disagree (61.7)
- About the “culture war”
- Christians living in culture have a responsibility to “fight the good fight.” (68.5)
- The culture war is over and we lost. It is better for us to “live at peace.” (31.5)
- What is more important?
- Being religious (36)
- Being spiritual (64)
- I care about denominational differences…
- Quite a bit (20.4)
- Not very much at all (79.6)