Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting Stuck In

New research from the Evangelical Alliance reveals a startling level of community engagement from Christians, compared to the general population. "Does Belief Touch Society" is part of an ongoing research project into the beliefs and practices of evangelical Christians in the UK.

The research is based on a survey of 1151 people around Easter last year, and covers social involvement as well as spiritual practices. Some of the headline figures:
25% are trustees of a charity (10 times the national figure)
9% are school governors (0.7% is the national average)
81% do some kind of voluntary work at least once a month
91% had voted or were intending to vote in local elections (the turnout was 42%)
4% are members of political parties (1.3% is the national average).

there were a cluster of questions around Easter: 41% had taken part in some kind of outreach, 57% had done something with another church (hooray!), and 65% had attended something on Good Friday - mainly older folks (which could be work pressures). We've ended up with 2 Good Friday events, a family-friendly workshop afternoon, and a churchy meditation thing, which between them seem to cover all the bases.

There's a section on social attitudes: 80% are opposed to same sex marriage, and there is a mixed picture on military action in Afghanistan and Libya. And there's also a section on beliefs, which deals mainly with the atonement: it's a shame it's quite narrow, but I guess they couldn't cover everything.

1. It's great to see that, for lots of Christians, their faith inspires them to serve their communities, and to be involved in politics and social issues. I would hate us to become like US conservatives, where there's a cultural identification between evangelical Christianity and particular political viewpoints. At the same time, is there any kind of consensus or common mind on a Christian approach to politics (with committed Christians in all 3 major parties) or social issues?

2. Nick Cleggs speech yesterday focused a lot on liberal values, and the core message was that you act true to your values, rather than true to your paymasters or public opinion ('not easy, but right'). It was a reminder to the LibDems what they stood for, what motivated them, and what battles they should be prepared to fight. It was the first time I'd even got remotely stirred by the phrase 'Social Mobility', which is a massive injustice lurking underneath an insipid label.

Clegg gets it: values drive behaviour. If you don't value others, the planet, the future, your community, yourself, then that's a toxic combination. Christian faith provides a framework for all of this, and the research backs this up by showing the fruit of that, but I sense these values are being eroded in many other places. Big Society behaviour needs more than just a slogan, it needs a foundation of values and morality. 

3. I would like to see the link between the questions the EA thought important to ask (about how the Cross works) and the involvement of people in their communities. How are churches joining the dots? And how is this reflected in the workplace? The voluntary sector is a natural place to serve and bless, but are we helping people to live differently in secular workplaces too?

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