Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The influence of culture and politics

Welcome back to my blog. Today we continue on the series of surveys performed among Bible believing pastors who graduated from Masters, Westminster or Denver Theological Seminaries. The first survey (please visit our website for infographic and blog) showed that pastures maintain their biblical adherence to scriptural principles throughout their life of service in a church.

However, with recent increasing secularization of culture and government in the developed world influence from government and cultural entities might pressure Bible-adherent pastors to conform to modern cultural norms (1-4).

Consequently, maintaining Biblical principles sets a stage for potential conflict with secular society. Accordingly, such cultural tensions could produce mental health issues for pastors in their attempt to maintain their ethical positions. However, little data has been accumulated from Bible adherent pastors regarding the influence of any adversarial relationship with culture and government.

Therefore, we surveyed pastors who graduated from Bible adherent seminaries to assess their perception of their role in society and the potential psychological impact of any adversarial attitudes of culture or government against their ministry.

Of 1064 invitations sent, 164 (15 %) answered the survey. Pastors overwhelmingly believed that Christianity provides a historical and current positive ethical foundation to American society.

Even more strongly, pastors asserted Christianity provides for enhanced wellbeing for society and individuals.

Pastors appear concerned, however, of a larger government encroaching on freedom of religious expression. Approximately 75% indicated that constitutional freedoms were vital to allow full expression of religious beliefs and two-thirds noted that a larger government more likely represses religious expression and acts as a replacement of many actions normally provided by the church or a deity (5).

Pastors were further concerned, by a wide margin, that the government favored other religions over Christianity (Humanism, Atheism and Islam).

In addition, many pastors noted concern over their ability to express freely a political opinion from the pulpit because of current culture, governmental opposition and IRS regulations.

Approximately, 45% said they had suffered persecution for their beliefs. This perceived persecution was most commonly psychological through being mocked, social isolation and a cause of anxiety in some cases. However, a strong minority had experience workplace or educational institutional bias.

In response, pastors indicated that they should be able to express a political viewpoint from the pulpit, that Christians should be active in politics as an expression of their faith in the public square and support candidates who espouse free expression of religious beliefs.

Our study suggested that Bible adherent pastors overwhelmingly believe that Christianity’s ethical teaching is beneficial for the wellbeing of individuals and society. However, many pastors feel negative societal and governmental pressure because of their beliefs with a potential psychological impact. Accordingly, pastors generally assert the importance of constitutional freedoms of expression to maintain their ability to express themselves from the pulpit.

Table: Short summary of responses

Christianity played an important positive role in shaping American history.
Christianity helps promote a good, civil, ethical society and government.
Christianity assists in producing wellbeing
Protecting constitutional freedoms is vital to allow the full expression of religious faith and the Gospel.
A large government generally leads to repression of religion and replacement of God by the state?
Do you believe the federal government favors one religion over another?
If you believe the federal government favors one religion, which does it favor?
I feel repressed in my ability to express a political opinion from the pulpit because of the current presidential administration or popular culture.
I feel repressed in my ability to express a political opinion from the pulpit because of IRS regulations.
I fear reprisal in expressing the gospel in society.
I have suffered physical or emotional abuse because of my Christian faith.
What type of abuse?
Social isolation
Workplace or educational institutional bias

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to your comments and questions.

WC Stewart

1.     Chaves, M. (2011). Religious Trends in America. Social Work & Christianity, 38: 119-132.
2.     Payne, M.W. (2007). Philosophy among the ruins: Twentieth century and beyond. In W. Andrew Hoffecker, ed. Revolutions in worldview: Understanding the flow of western thought. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company.
3.     Pearcy, N. (2010). Saving Leonardo: A call to resist the secular assault on mind, morals, & meaning. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
4.     Wells, D.F. (2005). Above all earthly powers: Christ in a postmodern world. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
5.     Bloom, P.B., Arikan, G., & Sommer, U. (2014). Globalization, threat and religious freedom. Political Studies, 62: 273–291.

Response policy - The purpose of the comment section is to promote discussion that is encouraging, propels the further search of Scripture and raises interesting and thought provoking Biblically related questions. You may feel free to disagree with me in a constructive manner using appropriate language. I reserve the right to remove your comments if they are profane, pornographic, libelous or I do not consider them constructive or consistent with the policy stated above. By posting you no longer own your comments and you are granting me an unrestricted worldwide license to use your comments.

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