Title

Finding Points of Communication Contact With Secular Culture: Attitudes Toward and Perceptions of Christianity and Its Followers

Date of Award

2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Mazharul Haque

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

This qualitative study was designed to answer the questions involved with how so-called "non-Christians" perceived the average, stereotypical Christian person, and how they reacted to the Christian gospel message. In an effort to more empathetically approach the mindset of the recipient in this communication process, this research has interpretatively measured the attitudes, opinions, and stereotypes of professing non-Christians toward professing Christian people and the message which they supposedly represented. Interviews were conducted among a sample of over 600 undergraduate college students representing two universities in the United States, namely, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of California at Los Angeles, irrespective of age, gender, race, or religion. Students from a cross-section of departments and courses were administered an open-ended questionnaire from which data were interpreted regarding the thoughts and attitudes toward Christians and the gospel message. In the responses to the questionnaire, the most frequently used word regarding student opinion toward Christianity and its followers was the word "hypocrisy" in various forms. Results indicated that students within this sample did not clearly understand the integral components of the Christian message. However, though quick to criticize the religion and its adherents in most cases, a majority of those who identified themselves as professing non-Christians were unable to state the message they rejected. Data revealed that a significant number (nearly 50%) of professing Christian students were unable to state the Christian gospel message, especially in a form which could be clearly and concisely re-communicated to others. Therefore, it was concluded that mis- pre sentations and mis-repre sentations by Christian people in many cases actually created climates of threat which fostered communication environments conducive to dissonance. This led to the discovered link between inherent stereotypes of and against this group, which then triggered defensive communication tactics by the recipient.