28 August 2015
Evangelism threatened by counter-extremism measures
Four out of five evangelicals think government policies to tackle extremism may make it harder for them to share their faith.
Two thirds of respondents to the Alliance’s survey of more than 1,700 evangelicals felt that the current attempt to define values was a reflection of the country’s identity crisis and three quarters agreed that freedom of speech needs greater protection.
The research into British values is published in the latest issue of the Evangelical Alliance’s idea magazine. Evangelicals are broadly supportive of the government’s plans to define and promote British values (71 per cent), and although they consider it a reasonable response to extremism (57 per cent), there is widespread concern about its unintended consequences.
The Evangelical Alliance has strongly advocated for freedom of religious belief and freedom of speech over many years, which includes standing alongside other faith groups and secular campaigners to defend the right to say things that others may not agree with.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, commented: “Our fundamental freedoms are being threatened by the government over-reacting to security threats to those very freedoms. We may be in danger of destroying the foundations while trying to protect the house we have built on them.”
According to evangelicals, the Christian faith has played a key role in providing values to British society throughout its history, but this legacy is swiftly eroding. The survey showed that the vast majority of respondents (93 per cent) agreed Christianity had strongly shaped historic British values, but less than a third (31 per cent) felt they still shaped values today. Fewer than one in five (18 per cent) agreed that Britain is a Christian country.
Dr Landrum went on to say: “Many people value the legacy that our country is built on, yet it seems that today we’re trying to build our social values on nothing but fresh air and good intentions. We value Christianity when it suits us, and we dispense with it when it’s inconvenient. But it’s the central truths of Christianity that led to the very freedoms we now rely on. If we want to restore values to the heart of British society we need to remember where they came from. If we want to continue to enjoy the fruits of our freedoms, we need to acknowledge the roots.”
Further findings in the survey include:
- Half of evangelicals think greed is the top ‘deadly sin’ among the British population, followed by 15 per cent who chose lust.
- Consumerism is the most commonly observed negative trait (picked by 65 per cent), followed by obsession with celebrity (58 per cent).
- Charity is the top ‘heavenly virtue’ in the British population, chosen by 34 per cent. Not a single person thought the virtue of chastity was most widespread among Britons.
- Evangelicals are much more likely than the national population to believe ‘respecting Britain’s political institutions and laws’ and sharing ‘Britain’s customs and traditions’ were important aspects to being truly British. For the first measure 96 to 85 per cent, and on the second 84 to 50 per cent.
- Far fewer evangelicals think an important characteristic of being British is being born in Britain (43 per cent compared to 74 per cent of the national population), having lived there most of one’s life (49 per cent compared to 77 per cent) and having British ancestry (35 per cent compared to 51 per cent).
- 43 per cent of evangelicals think being a Christian is important to be truly British, compared to 24 per cent of the British population.
Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
1. The Evangelical Alliance surveyed 1,730 evangelicals in May 2015 on a range of issues relating to British values and the government’s plans to define and promote them.
2. The research findings are published in the September/October 2015 issue of idea magazine which will be available to the public from 28 August.
3. The seven deadly sins are: greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath, envy and gluttony.
4. The seven heavenly virtues are: charity, diligence, temperance, patience, kindness, humility and chastity.
5. National comparisons on what people consider important to be truly British refer to 2013 British Social Attitudes survey: http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/latest-report/british-social-attitudes-31/national-identity/defining-british-identity.aspx
6. One example of the Alliance working with a wide range of organisations and faith groups to defend freedom of speech was the Reform Section 5 campaign: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/alliance-backs-campaign-to-reform-public-order-act.cfm
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.