Talking Jesus and Other News

 

Talking Jesus

Newly-published research from the Barna Group on behalf of the Church of England, Evangelical Alliance, and HOPE throws light on perceptions of Jesus, Christians, and evangelism among UK and English adults. Fieldwork was conducted by ComRes on 12-29 July 2015 among a representative sample of 3,014 UK adults aged 18 and over (including 2,545 in England) plus a booster sample of 1,621 practising Christians (1,592 in England). The UK cross-section comprised 58% self-identified Christians and 42% who were not (one-half of whom were atheists or agnostics). Under one in six of the Christians (10%) were practising, as defined by praying, reading the Bible, and attending church services at least monthly. Copies of the questionnaire (for the cross-section), executive summary of the main report (for England), a booklet Talking Jesus: Perceptions of Jesus, Christians, and Evangelism in England, and presentations of results both for the UK and England are available to download at:  

http://www.talkingjesus.org/research/downloads.cfm

Three-fifths (61%) of UK adults thought Jesus was a real person who actually lived. The proportion fell to 57% of under-35s and non-practising Christians and rose to 79% of ethnic minority respondents. A further 22% of the entire sample considered Him a mythical or fictional character, and 17% were undecided. The number believing Jesus was God in human form who lived in the first century was much lower (22%), the alternative propositions that He was a prophet or spiritual leader but not God or that He was a normal human being and not God being subscribed to by 29% and 17% respectively. Two-fifths believed in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, 17% in a literal sense as related in the Bible (including 52% of black adults) and 26% more figuratively, while 14% explicitly rejected the resurrection, the remainder being uncertain or denying that Jesus was real. The commonest words used to describe Jesus were: for all adults – spiritual (49%), loving (48%), and peaceful (47%); and for practising Christians – loving (93%), wise (88%), and inspirational (88%). 

Two-thirds (67%) of UK non-Christians said that they knew a practising Christian, three-quarters of them as a family member (35%) or friend (38%). Among non-Christians knowing Christians, 64% rated the latter as friendly, 52% as caring, 46% as good humoured, and 39% as generous, but some more negative qualities of Christians were also identified, including narrow-minded (13%), hypocritical (10%), uptight (7%), and homophobic (7%). Some two-fifths (38%) of non-Christians claimed to have had a conversation with a Christian about Jesus, but only about one-fifth of them reacted positively to the experience, 60% being uninterested in knowing more about Christ.  For their part, the overwhelming majority of practising Christians (85%) felt a responsibility to talk to non-Christians about Jesus, 52% saying that they were always looking for opportunities to do so, and 66% that they had done so within the past month. However, only 19% of non-practising Christians regarded evangelism as their responsibility, and 40% did not feel comfortable talking to non-Christians about Jesus. 

The survey also explored the personal faith journey of practising Christians. Nearly all (93%) said that they had been a Christian for 11 years or more. Just 15% reported one sudden decision to becoming a Christian (akin to conversion), while 18% recalled several key decisions, 23% described a journey over time, and 42% attributed their faith to growing up in a Christian family. Besides nurture in a Christian home other positive influences on their faith included attending church services (29%), reading the Bible (28%), and conversations with a Christian they knew well (27%). Non-practising Christians were much more likely to highlight the importance of growing up in a Christian family (72%) as the principal factor in their faith journey. 

Transforming Scotland

In our post of 6 September 2015, we flagged up another recent publication by the Barna Group: Transforming Scotland: The State of Christianity, Faith, and the Church in Scotland (ISBN 978-0-9965843-0-2, £30, inclusive of postage, order via Barna’s online store). A copy of this 175-page book is now to hand, and we tabulate below a selection of findings from one of the main elements of the research, an online survey by ComRes of 1,019 Scots on 9-16 June 2014. The questionnaire is somewhat eclectic and imbalanced, shaped by the Protestant evangelical ethos which imbues Barna. The whole book is also inadequately contextualized, both historically and in terms of awareness of other contemporary sources, especially academic ones. The bibliography of secondary research is pitiful and omits any reference to the writings of Callum Brown and Steve Bruce. 

% down

All

Men

Women

18-24

25-44

45-54

55+

Regular church attendance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child

61

59

62

45

51

70

70

As a teenager

21

23

19

4

16

20

30

As an adult

13

12

13

1

6

14

21

Never

31

33

29

54

41

24

18

Private Bible reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never

63

60

66

62

70

64

57

Less than once a year

17

18

16

12

15

14

22

Less than once a week

13

15

11

16

8

17

13

Weekly or more often

7

7

7

11

6

6

9

Bible literalism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actual word of God

3

3

3

5

3

3

2

Inspired word of God

26

25

27

31

22

28

27

Not inspired by God

16

17

16

8

14

18

21

Just another book of teachings

41

45

36

42

44

39

38

Attitudes to Christianity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourable

55

54

56

50

47

56

63

Unfavourable

27

32

24

35

32

21

24

Importance of religious faith in personal life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes

29

28

29

31

23

27

33

No

61

63

58

58

64

59

60

Contemporary Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian nation

31

36

26

25

25

32

38

Secular nation

19

21

18

22

20

20

18

Post-Christian nation

17

20

14

27

15

14

16

Nation in spiritual transition

15

17

14

14

15

15

16

Scottish Referendum Study

Preliminary analysis of the results of the second (post-vote) wave of the Scottish Referendum Study, for which 3,700 Scots aged 16 and over were interviewed online by YouGov on 22-26 September 2014, indicates that the majority of Catholics (58%) voted in favour of Scottish independence in the referendum on 18 September 2014, as did 52% of religious nones, whereas the majority of Protestants (60%) opposed it, including 81% of Anglicans. Headline data (differing slightly from those presented by the Scottish Referendum Study team six months ago) were reported by the BBC on 18 September 2015 at: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-34283948

Organ donation

Within three months Wales will become the first UK home nation where there will be a legal presumption of consent to donate organs after death unless a clear objection to do so has been registered. According to a survey by ICM Unlimited, and carried out among 4,042 adults on 29-31 July and 21-23 August 2015, 62% of Britons support this new legislation in Wales and only 20% oppose it. However, opinions vary by religious profession, the extremes of endorsement apparently being from 64% of atheists or agnostics down to 34% of Muslims. A similar range of attitude was found in response to the question about extending the Welsh opt-out policy for organ donation to the rest of the UK, which was backed by 51% of all Britons but by 55% of atheists or agnostics and 28% of Muslims. No data tables are available in the public domain, the foregoing information appearing in a press release by ICM on 9 September at: 

http://www.icmunlimited.com/media-centre/blog/wales-opts-in-to-organs-will-the-rest-of-the-uk-follow

Measuring religious affiliation

Clive Field’s article on ‘Measuring Religious Affiliation in Great Britain: The 2011 Census in Historical and Methodological Context’, Religion, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2014, pp. 357-82 is now freely available in PDF and HTML formats at: 

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rrel20/44/3

Islamic State

British attitudes toward military action against Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East have hardened slightly in the past two and a half months, according to a YouGov poll for The Times on 15-16 September 2015, for which 1,649 adults were interviewed online. Approval of RAF participation in air strikes against IS in Syria is up two points, to 59% (including seven in ten Conservative and UKIP voters), while disapproval is down two points, to 19%. A plurality (40%) approves the deployment of British and American ground troops in Iraq to help combat IS, peaking at 47% of men and UKIP voters, with disapproval at 36%, down three points on July. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/0f34cl5n9e/TimesResults_150916_Corbyn_W2.pdf

A second YouGov poll, for The Sunday Times, revisited the matter of air strikes within the context of a series of questions about the emerging policies of the new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The sample comprised 1,601 Britons interviewed online on 17-18 September 2015. Asked whether they supported ruling out British participation in air strikes against IS, only 22% did so, with 56% opposed, disproportionately Conservative and UKIP voters (72% each), men (67%), and over-60s (64%). Even a plurality of Labour voters (40%) was opposed to their leader’s stance. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/i41vkd4xdd/SundayTimesResults_150918_Website.pdf

 


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