Evangelicals divided on how churches, leaders should engage on public policy issues

Getty Images/Exkalibur
Getty Images/Exkalibur

While there has been a longstanding debate over how involved churches and their leaders should be when it comes to public policy issues, a majority of Evangelicals only agree on two issues they think churches and their leaders should be very involved with — abortion and what is acceptable in public expressions of faith.

Everything else, according to a newly released report by Infinity Concepts, called Evangelicals in The Public Arena, is up for debate. The more religious Evangelicals see an issue, however, the more they are likely to support churches and church leaders’ public involvement, the findings of the study show.

Data from the study gathered in late 2023 and early 2024 from 1,039 Evangelical Protestants show 54% of Evangelicals believe churches and church leaders should get involved publicly about abortion, while 51% support involvement when discussing what is acceptable in public expressions of faith.

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When Jason Yates, CEO of My Faith Votes, sought to encourage Christians to vote in 2020, for example, he presented voting as an opportunity for Christians to add “salt and light” to the political process.

“We’re called to be an influence in our culture, in our society. I often talk about the verse Galatians 6:10 that says as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those in the faith, and I describe our opportunity to vote as an opportunity to do good,” he told The Christian Post. “It’s not the good that the world necessarily knows or believes but it’s a good of who we serve.”

When presented with 11 different public policy issues in the study, however, Evangelicals were divided on how churches and their leaders should be engaging on them publicly.

While 22% of respondents said they would rather not see public involvement from churches and their leaders on any of the 11 issues, 78% of Evangelicals support public involvement in at least one issue. And the more politically conservative Evangelicals are, the more likely they are to support churches and church leaders, being very involved in every one of the 11 issues tested in the study.

Of the 11 issues presented in the study, Evangelicals found the issue of what is acceptable in public expressions of religion to be mostly religious.

 Election integrity and fairness, gun laws, the Second Amendment, the First Amendment and free speech, criminal justice and sentencing reform were considered mostly political issues by a majority of Evangelicals.

Racial justice, school choice, and transgenderism are largely seen as social issues by a majority of Evangelicals. Abortion, however, isn’t as straightforward. Some 42% of Evangelicals say it is a religious issue, while 36% called it a social issue.

Evangelicals are also similarly divided when it comes to antisemitism, with 43% calling it a social issue while 38% see it as a religious issue. Donor privacy is seen as a social issue by 49% of Evangelicals, while 37% see it as a political issue.

The study also found that while a majority of Evangelical Protestants, 63%, describe themselves as politically conservative, 24% identified as moderate and 12% said they are politically liberal. White, high-income, and Evangelicals older than 55 were found to be more likely to identify as conservative.

Regardless of how Evangelicals described themselves, the study found that they all pray, attend church, participate in small groups, study the Bible, and consume Christian media with similar frequency.

The majority of liberal Evangelicals also believe abortion is sin (62%), and that sex before marriage (70%), homosexual activity or sex (70%), and pornography (80%) are sinful.

“Overall, conservative Evangelicals view very liberal people in a far more negative light than liberal Evangelicals view very conservative people. Conservatives are more likely to use terms such as immoral, radical, evil, and the enemy to describe liberals,” researchers noted.

“However, there is evidence that the very liberal and the very conservative may be about equally negative toward their political opposites. The challenge is that there are not enough very liberal people in the Evangelical population to give us a robust sample of those individuals in this study,” they added. “Those who are right in the middle politically rarely have strongly negative views of the very conservative or very liberal.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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