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Is Christianity in crisis? Our survey reveals 9 out of 10 ordinary Christians feel marginalised

Sun 16 Jul 2017
By Alex Williams

Premier Christian Communications has revealed what it really means to be a practicing Christian in Britain.

The State of the Faith survey

- Nearly 12,000 took part
- Ninety-three per cent think Christianity is being marginalised in society
- Four in five believe Christianity isn't given the same respect as other faiths

To date, nearly 12,000 people have taken part in our State of Faith survey. Of those, 93 per cent said they felt their faith was being marginalized by society.

The full results can be found at www.ordinarychristian.org.uk

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern - which offers legal support to Christians who say they have been unfairly treated - said the results resonate "very much" for their experiences over the years.

He said: "People try and say that our cases are the exception and extraordinary cases.

"I think what [Premier's] research shows is that it's the tip of the iceberg and actually underlying this there is a very strong ground swell of feeling and experience of prejudice or marginalisation."

  

We also found

- Half of respondents have personally experience prejudice against their faith
- Sixty-seven per cent think it's considered unacceptable for Christians to share their faith
- Sixty-seven per cent feel unable to be open about their faith at work or equivalent setting

Nola Leach, Chief Executive of Care - a Christian group which lobbies politicians - agreed that there are "worrying signs" Christian viewpoints are being side-lined.

She said: "Partly because of illiteracy [and] partly because of those who have a very different agenda, we may be moving into a period when debate is shutdown - where you can't have an honest debate and agree to differ."

The stark results also show nearly half of respondents say they have personally experienced prejudice as a result of their faith.

More than a quarter said they feel unable to be open about their beliefs in the work place.

Premier CEO Peter Kerridge (pictured below) said: "It's clear that we are not the liberal accepting society we think we are if we don't tolerate and accept everyone, including Christians.

 

"People of faith, from all religions should be allowed to live and work in freedom. They should be encouraged to hold to their faith not just in their homes and churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, but also in their jobs and hobbies and in the public square.

"This survey clearly indicates how it feels to be an ordinary Christian today. I suspect that other faith groups may have similar stories to tell."

The survey was intended to give insight into the everyday experiences of Christians up and down the country.

Gary Streeter

 

Concern over so-called Christian illiteracy was a sentiment shared by Gary Streeter (above), a Christian and the Conservative MP for South West Devon.

He said: "Many decision-makers in their 40s and 50s have what you might call religious illiteracy but, at the same time, I believe there's actually more opportunity now for Christians to serve and share than at any other time in my adult life."

Alex Cunningham (below), a Christian and Labour politician, said that more than nine in ten participants feeling their faith is marginalised was a "frightening statistic".

 

The MP for Stockton North said efforts by believers to challenge negative perceptions among non-believers could help lead to fewer Christians feeling marginalised.

He said: "We can all talk about them [Christian values] but actually doing the practical things - I think those are the things that change [that] perception."

Premier's research comes following a month that saw church halls and Mosques in North Kensington responding as one to the horrific disaster at Grenfell Tower, and Tim Farron, ironically a leading liberal, stepping down from his post saying he couldn't do his job because of the hostility to his faith.

 

In response, Lord Bourne (above), the Minister for Faith and Integration, said: "The Christian faith contributes a huge amount to our communities and allows other faith groups to flourish.

"We've been clear that people need to be able to feel strong in their religious identities and are making sure that the voices of people of faith are heard in Government."

Four in five respondents said they did not believe Christian is given the same respect in society as other worldviews and religions.

London pastor and CEO of the Peace Alliance, Nims Obunge said: "No matter how much it looks as if we're living in liberal society, that liberal society has spiritual opposition. So, I think we have to go to our knees in prayer."

 

Of respondents to the survey, 67 per cent said it is not considered acceptable in society for Christians to share their faith with others.

Theologian, Andrew Graystone argued that Christians in this country sometimes like to believe their being "squeezed out", suggesting life for UK believers isn't always as bad as they may think.

He said: "Christians have got enormous freedom to operate and to act. Nobody stops Christians from meeting together.

"Nobody stops Christians from standing for parliament. Nobody stops Christians from talking about their faith."

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Premier Christian Communication's Peter Kerridge went on to say: "This is not the clergy talking, or academics theorising, or politicians making a case. These are ordinary Christians who feel overwhelmingly that their Christian beliefs are being marginalised and that as a result it is becoming far more difficult to live as a person of faith in the UK..."

The statistics also suggest a generational gap in views on Christian marginalisation. Asked whether Christianity is being marginalised in society, 94 per cent of pensioners agreed compared to only 77 per cent of 15-19 year olds.

Paradoxically, 70 per cent of 15-19 year olds said they had experienced prejudice because of their faith - compared to just 51 per cent of pensioners.

 

Speaking on marginalisation, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell (above), the Bishop of Chelmsford said believers should not be surprised or downhearted when "the sheer beauty of the Gospel is a shock and an affront to a fallen world".

He said: "The world has never been in accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we've always had the challenge that we need to live it and share it."

The Rt Rev David Walker (below), the Bishop of Manchester said Christians need the power of the Holy Spirit to explain to others how their faith directs their decisions on things like work or volunteering choices.

Diocese of Manchester

 

He said: "I've heard so many stories of people who have had their own religious faith come back to life or have come to faith through simply that sharing with a neighbour [about] doing some voluntary work or [their role] in the workplace.

"It can't be overrated; it's really important."

Premier Christian Communications is now calling on politicians, employers, the media and wider society to do more to ensure Christianity is given the same respect as other faiths and that ordinary Christians feel able to be open about their beliefs both at home and at work, whilst asking the Church to do more to widen its' reach.

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Peter Kerridge said: "We want the Church to be much more supportive of Christians who aren't necessarily found in church on a Sunday.

"There are millions of people who are trying to live out their lives and for whatever reason can't be in church on a Sunday.

"It sounds obvious but they could 'extend their opening hours', experiment with new ways of using the tens of thousands of church buildings, and generally really adapt to enable normal ordinary Christians to feel they are really part of a community.

"It would show that Christianity isn't an institution run by a professional elite ministering to the holy few."

Click here to listen to a special report by Premier's Alex Williams:

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