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How Are American Christians Living Their Faith? Part III

How Are American Christians Living Their Faith? Part III

by George H. Gallup Jr.

Last of a three-part series examining modern Christianity in the United States

Gallup recently conducted a study with The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania*, examining the following question: How and to what degree do Christians in the United States today follow Christ's Great Commandment from Luke 10:27, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself? This study, which measured both Christians' "love of God" and Christians' "love of neighbor," reveals some of the ways a deep faith in God may impact the daily lives of Christians in America.

A fundamental question for all Christians is: How and to what extent does one's love of God relate to love of neighbor? A "fully developing disciple of Christ" is described by Randy Frazee, senior pastor of Pantego Bible Church in Dallas/Fort Worth, as one who is growing both in love of God and love of neighbor.

Survey respondents were presented with a list of 15 items regarding depth of feeling related to "love of God" and asked to rate them on a scale of 0 to 5 (for a complete description of this scale, "How Are American Christians Living Their Faith?" in Related Items). Respondents were also presented with 15 "love of neighbor" items and asked to rate them on the same scale (see "How Are American Christians Living Their Faith? Part II" in Related Items). Christians with a deep love of God (those who give scores of "4" or "5" on each of the "love of God" items) tend to score more highly than Christians overall on several of the "love of neighbor" items.

Those with a deep love of God are, for example, far more likely than other Christians to say they agree with the statement, "I am known as a person who speaks words of kindness to those in need of encouragement," and that "I believe that a Christian should live a sacrificial life, not driven by pursuit of material things." Those with a deep commitment to God are also more likely than their counterparts to highly rate the statement, "I give my time to serve and help others in my community."

On the personal side, Christians with a strong love of God are more inclined than the overall group to agree with the statements, "I keep my composure even when people or circumstances irritate me," and "I am known for not raising my voice."

Bottom Line

These findings suggest a connection between a deep love of God and the way people lead their lives. The survey percentages, which translate into millions of Americans, also point to the huge potential social impact that clergy, religious educators, and others can have if they are able to move people toward deeper levels of commitment to God.

*These findings are from a broader study conducted for The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania by The Gallup Organization and the George H. Gallup International Institute. All persons in this study who said they consider themselves to be part of the Christian tradition (80% of the total sample) were asked to reply to 15 questions relating to "love of God" and 15 related to "love of neighbor." A total of 1,509 adults, 18 and older, were interviewed by telephone in June 2002. Of the total, 1,207 placed themselves in the Christian tradition.

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