Press Release May 7, 2008

Most Americans See No Problem with Christians in Politics

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Over half of all Americans (52%) canvassed disagreed with the statement, “I am concerned that at times Christians are too involved in politics,” according to a survey conducted through a joint project of LifeWay Research and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

When researchers asked those who attend religious services of any type at least weekly—65 percent of those polled indicated a high degree of comfort with the notion of Christians being involved in politics.

Only one in five (21%) of this group either said they strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the contention that Christians are too engaged politically, according to results released May 7.

“The majority of Americans (and a larger majority of Christians) do not share the concern that Christians are too involved in politics,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research in Nashville.

“The data tells us that a minority of Americans, and a smaller minority of Christians, are concerned that Christians are ‘too involved’ in politics,” observed Stetzer. He noted a strong minority, 44 percent of Americans, agreed (25% “strongly” and 19% “somewhat”) with the assertion that Christians were often too embroiled in politics.

Americans who described themselves as “born-again,” “evangelical” or “fundamentalist,” including Southern Baptist respondents, expressed the highest degree of disapproval (72%) with the statement that at times Christians are “too involved in politics,” with just over a quarter (27%) of these individuals telling researchers they agreed (“strongly” or “somewhat”) with the statement.

Most Southern Baptist pastors (67%) surveyed indicated their disagreement with a claim that believers are “too involved in politics,” with 26 percent “somewhat” disagreeing and 41 percent “strongly” disagreeing. Only eight percent of Southern Baptists pastors surveyed agreed “strongly” with the statement that Christians are “too involved in politics,” with 23 percent saying they “somewhat” agreed.

“When people of faith bring their religious convictions to bear on political issues having to do with moral concerns they are standing squarely in the middle of the American religious and political tradition,” Land said.

“The Abolitionist and the Civil Rights Movements are not explicable or comprehensible apart from the religiously motivated outrage that created them, the religious leaders who led them and the religious supporters who made possible their eventual triumph,” he emphasized.

“Christians need to speak prophetically to all political parties, not be beholden to one,” Stetzer said.

“If evangelicals are seen as a voting bloc of the Republican Party, I am concerned. If Christians are told to leave their faith outside the public square, I am more concerned,” he added.

Land expressed similar sentiments, saying “Our allegiance as people of faith must always belong to God, not to any party or political philosophy. As people of faith, we should not be endorsing candidates; rather, we should be looking for candidates for office who endorse our values, no matter what their party label may be.”

In the survey conducted by a national polling firm for LifeWay Research and the ERLC, over 1,200 random Americans were polled by telephone April 10-12, 2008. Researchers also completed an online survey of nearly 800 Southern Baptist pastors between April 16 and May 5, 2008.

More information on the survey is available at "lifeway.com/research":http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/mainpage/0%2C1701%2CM%25253D200767%2C00.html.

p(notes). The Southern Baptist Convention is America's largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.3 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC's ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

p(notes). LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resource, assists and equips church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness.