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26 February 2016

Evangelicals: ethical consumers and environmentalists

The results are in. The Evangelical Alliance recently surveyed 1,461 evangelical Christians about the decisions we all make as consumers. The results are encouraging, but there's more we all can do. 

It was encouraging to find evangelical Christians seem to be aware that they have a responsibility to look after the earth and it resources. A high percentage of those surveyed, 96 per cent, agreed that human beings have a God-given responsibility to take better care of creation and the environment. In terms of transport, 73 per cent had often or sometimes avoided using their car over the last 12 months. The motivation for many respondents was specifically because it was environmentally friendly – 77 per cent are somewhat concerned or taking action against carbon emissions and global warming.

Of the evangelicals surveyed, 91 per cent agreed the Bible teaches us to pray and struggle for economic and social justice. Social and economic justice features at many different points in the Bible. Deuteronomy sets out the order given by God, the letter of James describes God as one who defends the rights of those under social and economic pressures, and Jesus' teachings speak of our responsibility to protect the widow and the orphan. In that same vein, 99 per cent of those surveyed are concerned or campaigning against slavery and trafficking. A further 89 per cent are concerned or campaigning against UK trade with oppressive regimes.

Moving onto material possessions and advertising, a high percentage – 81 per cent – agreed that greed for material possessions is one of the greatest sins of our time. However, somewhat conversely, 84 per cent agreed that there is nothing wrong with enjoying material things God has provided for us.

Advertising can affect our identity and make us feel inadequate when we don't have the latest TV, car or clothes, for example. There was an awareness in respondents that consumerism can require the truth to be bent in order to sell things, and while only seven per cent of those survey agreed that they were deeply influenced by TV advertising, 44 per cent did agree that the volume of advertising in our culture is making us unhappy. It seems from the survey that evangelicals recognise the effect advertising is having on them, but what are we doing to avoid it?

An article from Psychology Today* says: "The fact that we can make judgments about other people's identities based on what they consume shows products have meaning… those meanings are learned from marketing and advertising, and since we all see the same marketing and advertising messages we can often accurately infer someone's identity from that person's possessions."

Emarket.com claims that $600 billion will be spent worldwide on advertising in a year. As Christians, can we make a stand against that way of thinking? Our identity in God is worth so much more than that. Thankfully, the results show that Christians recognised the negative effect advertising has on us, with 82 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that they tried to resist the advertising messages they encounter. 

We hope that the results from this survey will encourage Christians to continue in their efforts to preserve the world that God has given us and also make a stand against the consumerism that seems so rife in our world today. We hope that these results will encourage conversations in your churches, families and friendship groups. 


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