A survey published this week by Premier Christian Communications indicates that Christians in the UK are feeling increasingly marginalised.
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” with their experiences over the years.
People try and say that our cases are the exception … 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 groundswell of feeling and experience of prejudice or marginalisation.
Almost 12,000 people took part in the the “State of the Faith survey”, which showed that 93 percent think Christianity is being marginalised in society and four in five believe Christianity isn’t given the same respect as other faiths
Nola Leach, Chief Executive of Care – a Christian group which lobbies politicians – agreed that there are “worrying signs” Christian viewpoints are being side-lined.
Premier CEO Peter Kerridge, above, 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.
Alex Cunningham, a Christian 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.
Four in five respondents said they did not believe Christian is given the same respect in society as other worldviews and religions.
Theologian, Andrew Graystone was sceptical about the survey, saying that Christians sometimes like to believe their being “squeezed out”, and that life for UK believers isn’t always as bad as they may think.
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.
For crying out loud, they even have a Minister for Faith and Integration – Lord Bourne, above, who 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.
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 percent of pensioners agreed compared to only 77 percent of 15-19 year olds.
Paradoxically, 70 percent of 15-19 year olds said they had experienced prejudice because of their faith – compared to just 51 per cent of pensioners.
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 should 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.
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.
• The graphic at the top of the page was taken from Ordinary Christian, which is exhorting people to sign a pledge which says:
I support ordinary Christians and believe that people of all faiths should be able to be themselves at home, work, education and in public life.
If you provide Ordinary Christian your cellphone number it will send you “seven days of free prayers to strengthen your faith”.