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New survey asks: What is a 'good' Christian?

Researchers say think 'practicing'

Researchers at Boston University want to know just what characteristics make a person a "good" Christian.

To find out, they've done what most people do -- they've turned to the Internet.

Earlier this year, researchers from the Boston University School of Theology launched an Internet-based survey that asked participants to rate the importance of 59 characteristics related to being a "good" Christian.

According to lead researcher Martha Cutting, the word "good" can be used interchangeably with "practicing." The survey, she said in an earlier interview, does not seek to place a value judgment such as "good" or "bad" on Christianity or Christian values. Instead, it seeks to determine the importance of each of the characteristics in the lives of individual Christians.

"We are hoping to use the results of the survey to learn what a broad cross section of people see as the ideals, concepts, beliefs, and actions of a 'good' Christian," Cutting said.

According to the survey's introduction, the one-page questionnaire takes no more than 30 minutes to complete.

The survey begins with a few demographic questions -- age, gender, ethnicity -- then jumps right into rating the characteristics.

The rating portion of the survey starts with the phrase, "A good Christian …" and is followed by a list of the 59 characteristics.

The survey asks participants to rate each characteristic on a scale of one to six. A rating of one means the characteristic is not important at all, while a six means it is "absolutely essential."

Some of the characteristics the survey attempts to measure the importance of include: reading the Bible, volunteering at nonprofit organizations, opposing abortion, not drinking, opposing the death penalty, regular participation at church, not having sex outside of marriage, the belief that Jesus is the only savior, respect for other religions, and the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God.

After participants complete the rating portion of the survey, they are asked to list the five most important characteristics from the list, then five more that they consider as very important, and finally the five that they think of as the least important.

Survey participants are not asked to give personal identification information in order to take the survey.

Cutting said the survey will likely be ongoing as long as responses are being received. "We would like to get a lot of responses so as long as people are answering, we will leave it up," she said.

The group will probably compile preliminary results in the fall, she said. Publication of final results could take a year or more, she said.

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