Thinking Anglicans

Religious people more likely to be leftwing says Demos thinktank

The Observer reports today on a new research report from Demos under the headline Religious people are more likely to be leftwing, says thinktank Demos . Research undermines commonly held view that faith group members are more conservative.

The report itself titled Faithful Citizens can be found on the Demos website as a PDF file. Demos itself summarises the report thus:

Religiosity has always been closely associated with conservatism: the Church of England is sometimes described as ‘the Conservative party at prayer’. In the United States, the Republican party and the religious right have become increasingly interdependent, but a similar trend has not occurred on this side of the Atlantic. This report, based on original analysis of the Citizenship Survey and the European Values Survey, investigates the different relationship between religion and politics in the UK and Europe.

The report presents two key findings. First, religious people are more active citizens – they volunteer more, donate more to charity and are more likely to campaign on political issues. Second, and more counter-intuitively, religious people are more likely to be politically progressive. They put a greater value on equality than the non-religious, are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours and when asked are more likely to put themselves on the left of the political spectrum.

Based on this, Faithful Citizens recommends that progressive politicians should work with faith groups on issues which they are particularly engaged, including immigration, women’s rights, international development, the environment and youth work. Faith group members, the report argues, will be key to any future, election-winning, progressive coalition.

Mary Reid has already blogged about this report here.

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MarkBrunsonDavid ShepherdjohnErika BakerCounterlight Recent comment authors
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Counterlight
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Counterlight

Christianity is so automatically associated with right wing politics in the USA that it is practically the Republican Party at prayer. When people here are asked what Christianity is all about, they are likely to answer opposition to abortion, opposition to gay rights, and opposition to women’s rights. It’s about nothing positive. Love, resurrection, incarnation don’t even show up on the radar. “Love” is looked on as a sad joke with so much hatred and vilification spewing from pulpits here. “Resurrection” and “incarnation” are met with blank incomprehension, and occasionally with ridicule. A lot of people here keep Ayn Rand’s… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

It is well documented in the N.T. Scriptures that Jesus’ main opposition was from the institutional religious professionals. The Pharisees and Scribes were, seemingly, the ‘right wing’ of the Church of their day.

Why should we be surprised that those who embrace the costly liberation of Christ should be more socially active in the cause of opening up the closets of the Church and the delights of the redemption of Christ to ALL believers (and none).

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I’m not sure it’s helpful to try to read ‘right’ and ‘left’ back into the scriptures, Ron – and it’s always so easy to see ourselves as the successors of the ‘good guys’, whoever they happen to be in our scheme of things.

Father David
Guest
Father David

No surprise there – for surely – anyone who reads the gospels with any seriousness will see clearly that Jesus, like Rowan, was a “hairy leftie”.

David Shepherd
Guest

Surprisingly, Christ didn’t sign up with the zealots of his day who sought to overthrow Roman authority. He extended love to not only the poor and underprivileged, but also centurions, and the despised tax collectors who had sought to profit from the Roman occupation.

He also rebuked two of His disciples who implored Him to invoke the vengeance of heaven upon those they considered to be an obstacle to His gospel.

So, perhaps, Christ’s political persuasion is a little more nuanced than some would have us believe.

baber
Guest

It would be fascinating to see why things are so different in the US–and why that difference only emerged in the 1970s, before which there was no difference in political stance between religiously active and secular Americans. Several things seem to be going on: (1) Though religiously active Americans are more socially involved, do more volunteer work, etc. their take is social service and social improvement should be strictly the business of voluntary organizations, in particular churches–not government. (2) Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” which ultimately brought the white working class into the Republican Party. (3) The decline of the white working… Read more »

c.r.seitz
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c.r.seitz

Yes, those terrible Sanhedrin type Christians. They’re so obviously not like ‘us’. We are on Jesus’s side.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

(of ‘most Americans’): “they see religion concerned solely with issues of “personal morality.”
-baber –

And that may be the biggest barrier to spiritual enlightenment – that religion is seen solely as the agency of personal morality, rather than the ethos of God’s loving purpose for all humanity.

MarkBrunson
Guest

I would say that people who *actually believe in the object of their religion* are more likely to be leftwing.

There are many good Christians who, when you get down to it, don’t believe in God as a living, present Reality.

rjb
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rjb

Leaving aside the difficulty of working out exactly what ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ mean anymore (and I’m quite sure they mean very different things in an American context from a British one), I think the point most of us can accept is that the Church ought to pose a challenge to the culture in which it finds itself. Over the last decade or so, events have been such that I think it has become easier for British Christians from a wide range of backgrounds to identify the aspects of our secular culture that are are challenged by the Gospel: greed, materialism,… Read more »

John
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John

David,

I don’t think you are reading the NT rightly.

If you look at the big ‘inaugurated eschatology’ passages (e.g. the Magnificat) you will see that they are radically ‘leftist’, as are the Beatitudes. Of course, Jesus helps/converts people such as centurions and tax-collectors, but they are supposed to change, that is, accept the inaugurated eschatological perspective. E.g. a centurion now realises that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar, and acts accordingly, as far as he can within the day job. The ideal economy is clearly spelled out in Acts and it is communist.

David Shepherd
Guest

John: If NT eschatology really is just a dichotomy of reaction (right) vs. revolution (left), why did Christians pay anything towards the very authorities who furthered the tyranny of Rome and the Herods. Is it really revolutionary for John the Baptist to tell the publicans, ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to’, or ‘Honour the king’, when what is needed is root-and-branch destruction of the cancer, that was Roman imperialism. Acts is neither communist, nor capitalist. The alleviation of poverty was not via the imposed redistribution of wealth, that is a hallmark of communism. The voluntary nature of… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

Perhaps some people have no problem with this, but despite the loud and insistent piety of the right, I find it hard to reconcile their rhetoric and their policies with Matthew 25: 31-46, or with Acts 4: 32-35, or with Isaiah 40:5 among many other passages in Scripture. Indeed, I’m used to being called “Counter-the-Light,” “heretic,” and lots worse things than Simon would allow on his blog by all those Good Christians Who Know Better. Here’s an excellent example of what I’m talking about, not a sermon, but the Rev. Dennis Terry introducing Rick Santorum, a candidate for President of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I think saying that the NT clearly recommends a communist economy is overstating the case. The defining theoretical characteristics of all communist economies ever tried were that a group of people took it upon itself to decide what everyone else needed and then worked out logistics of how to produce it. Everyone was then paid roughly the same. The actual attempts at shaping societies in this way have always been dictatorial and have resulted in a desultory workforce and severe material shortages. Jesus is never interested in a top down process. His ideal society is one where people will… Read more »

John
Guest
John

David, I’m afraid I don’t think you understand the theory or the practice of ‘inaugurated eschatology’. And you crudely misrepresent it (or my understanding of it) by glossing it in terms of ‘reaction’ vs ‘revolution’, because, as the NT makes clear again and again, armed revolution is out. it remains the case that the ultimate programme, which will happen, and to which all – including you – must aspire, is revolutionary, and clearly means curtains for the Roman empire and all empires. Erika, instead of generalising like that, please actually read Acts 2.43-45 and 4.32. It’s communist. I use the… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Actually, I’m with John, on the communist thing. That *is* what’s commended, quite literally. The common mistake is confusing Marxism, or, worse, Stalinism with communism. In principal, regardless of the reasons for the mutuality, communism is a state of mutuality. There is a leadership of this communist community in the NT, as well. The disciples choose deacons who decide distribution, though in the limited case of widows and orphans. Still, though, the story of Ananias and Sapphira demonstrates the property being put in the hands of the disciples. There is nothing inherently bad, still less un-Christian in actual communism; even… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I don’t like the word communism in this context because whether the NT actually means “communal” is beside the point. What matters is what we mean by the word today. And as so many right wing Christians see this as a communist vs free market debate in which Jesus never really said much about the poor other than that they will always be with us, I think it is vitally important to point out that what Jesus was interested in was that each single one of us should be motivated to give as much as possible to the common good.… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

John: Theological buzz-words aside and although it is curtains for worldly empires, it’s also curtains for material wants, since the resurrected body (although capable of physical manifestation) has none. In the interim, we are called to exercise voluntary redistribution. Yet, you highlight a claimed ideal of communism, only to ignore what’s needed to implement it. I suspect that Erika knows more people who’ve experienced the grim realities of communism than any of us. Of course, that doesn’t make capitalism innocent either. What you call a crude gloss of contrasting reaction with revolution highlights all the more how gross a distortion… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

I can appreciate that, but we’re talking amongst educated people, here, and explaining our meanings. It also doesn’t help to simply hand over a word’s meaning to ignorance and fear – it actually doesn’t *mean* anything different nowadays, it simply connotes strongly toward a particular political bias. The misuse of a word should be corrected. It is bottom up, but the fact remains that it was given into a central “committee,” so to speak. It wasn’t anarchy, nor the sort of laissez faire libertarianism so often espoused. It is also important to notice that giving isn’t to be halfway –… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika,

I was using the word in its literal sense. That’s a good way to use words. It helps to focus on what texts actually mean – as opposed to what people assume or want them to mean.

Mark,

I wish you well (especially in view of something you said recently on another thread).

john
Guest
john

David,

I was using the word in its literal sense (etc.).

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I’m not sure about literal meanings that extend beyond what people understand by a concept. Language changes and so do the definitions of terms. While a change is occurring it is often possible to talk about a “literal and true” meaning of a term and a corrupted or slightly changed one. But there comes a time when the new meaning is so embedded in everyone’s psyche that, if you want to be understood, you have to explain what you mean. The standard definition of communism is: ‘Communism (Lat. communis – common, universal) is a revolutionary socialist movement to create… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Erika,

Very laborious. The basic point I was making, which was pretty obvious – and I stick with it 100% – is that the NT is anti-riches, pro the poor and pro equality. Obviously – and it is blindingly obvious – I was not remotely arguing that it commended ‘revolutionary’ communism. Nor is it much interested in ‘the means of production’.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John,
in that case, I have one quibble.

It fascinates me that we tear the church apart over just over a handful of opaque comments about homosexuality, yet there are well over 700 very clear references to money, wealth and how they are to be used in the Bible.
It’s the most discussed social topic.
And yet – it barely seems to register.

john
Guest
john

Now my Erika (and I’m not being sexist), I entirely agree with you. The disproportion is shocking and disgusting. ‘Liberals’ (the term is very elastic) can legitimately choose where they wish to orientate themselves in relation to the bible, because it is Jesus who is the word (and whose interpretation is flexible and on-going). Evangelicals (at some point in the scale) can’t, and yet they obsess over genitals and their use and downplay the much clearer social and economic messages. I’m not personally attacking David, whom I do take to be an honourable person and who obviously wishes to ‘maintain… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Actually, Merriam-Webster has: “Definition of COMMUNISM 1 a : a theory advocating elimination of private property b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed” So, Acts describes communism. “For instance, Paul encourages the Corinthian converts to ‘On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.’ (1 Cor. 16:2). Income? That still allows for personal accumulation, rather than centralised redistribution. The means… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

The Merriam-Webster definition is not all-encompassing and so does not preclude the refinement in Erika’s standard definition, that of a society ‘structured upon common ownership of the means of production’.

Very laborious.

MarkBrunson
Guest

David Shepherd,

Our conversation will not be continued here – it is not on topic, and you have continually drawn it into the personal sphere.

I invite you, and anyone else who is tired of this rigmarole to go to:

http://eamaa.blogspot.com/2012/04/david-shepherd-this-is-actually-not.html