EVANGELICALS in Britain believe that their freedom of speech is being eroded, and that attempts by the Government to tackle extremism are making it harder for them to share their faith, a new poll suggests.
In a survey carried out by the Evangelical Alliance, three-quarters of those who responded and described themselves as Evangelical Christians said that freedom of speech needed greater protection in Britain.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said that the results were “alarming, as it shows Evangelicals — usually the most confident and positive of Christians — feeling the pressure”.
The survey was carried out as part of research into British values, in the wake of the Government’s five-year plan to tackle extremism by promoting “traditional” values.
The research is published today in the latest issue of the Evangelical Alliance’s magazine Idea. The results show that Evangelicals are broadly supportive of the Government’s plans to define and promote British values as a means of tackling extremism, but, although they consider it a reasonable response to extremism, there is widespread concern about its unintended consequences.
The director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, Dr Dave Landrum, said: “Our fundamental freedoms are being threatened by the Government overreacting 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.”
Although those surveyed believed that Christian values had strongly shaped British values in the past, only a third believed that they still shaped those values today. And only 18 per cent felt that Britain could still be described as a Christian country — the vast majority said that Britain now had a “strongly secular” culture.
Respondents also identified greed as the top “deadly sin” among British people today; and consumerism and obsession with celebrity were listed as the most noticeable negative traits.
“It is clearly the case that Christian values have profoundly shaped our nation in the past,” Lord Carey said.
“Attempts by some to put British values on one side, and Christian and church values on the other, are laughable at best, and plainly incomprehensible at worst. We are becoming a nation without direction, and leaving young people with nothing but the ‘good life’ — narrated in terms of wealth and possessions — as the only goal.
“What should we do? It is a time to reaffirm the heart of the faith in terms of re-engaging with our society with an intelligible faith, sound learning, and a robust spirituality.”
Dr Landrum said: “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.”
The Evangelical Alliance surveyed 1700 Christians, the majority of whom identified themselves as white British.
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were aged between 55 and 75.