June 22, 2011

Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders

Intergroup Relations

Relations between evangelicals and other religious groups do not appear to be a major concern to most evangelical leaders surveyed. A majority report that conflict between religious groups is either a small problem or not a problem in their country. The Lausanne leaders also report positive relations with a range of Christian groups, including Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Pentecostal Christians. But there are some signs of tension with non-Christian groups, especially Muslims. Jews are the only non-Christian group toward which the leaders express generally favorable views.

A. Seriousness of Inter-religious Conflict

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Overall, most of the leaders report that conflict between religious groups is either not a problem (14%) or is a small problem (41%) in their country. However, a substantial minority (44%) view interfaith conflict as a moderately big problem (27%) or a very big problem (17%).

Leaders from the Middle East and North Africa are most likely to say religious conflict is a moderately big or very big problem (72%), followed by those from the Asia-Pacific region (55%) and sub-Saharan Africa (49%). In other regions, a majority considers interfaith conflict a small problem or not a problem at all.

About three-quarters (76%) of leaders from countries that previous Pew Forum research classifies as having high social hostilities involving religion say that conflict between groups is either a very big or moderately big problem.15 By contrast, only about one-in-three leaders (31%) living in countries classified as lower in social hostilities say the same.

B. Interfaith Contact and Outreach

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One-in-five evangelical leaders surveyed (20%) say that the church or house of worship they most often attend works together with houses of worship from non-Christian faiths, such as Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, to find solutions to community problems. Churches appear to be especially likely to engage in interfaith outreach in places where religious conflict is more pronounced and where Christians are in the minority.

In countries where social hostilities involving religion are high, 28% say their house of worship engages in interfaith activities to solve community problems, compared with 19% in countries with low social hostilities.16 Three-in-ten leaders from non-Christian-majority countries report that their church engages in interfaith activities to address community problems, while 16% of leaders living in Christian-majority countries report this kind of activity.

In addition, 44% of the leaders report that they personally participate in interfaith religious groups, classes or meetings several times a year or more. About half (52%) say they seldom or never do so. Evangelical leaders from the Middle East and North Africa are among the most likely to say they personally take part in interfaith activities; 62% report doing so several times a year or more.

C. Friendliness of Other Groups toward Evangelicals

Most of the leaders surveyed see other Christians (Pentecostals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians in particular) as either friendly or neutral toward evangelicals. On the other hand, most of the leaders view people of non-Christian faiths (including people who are not religious) as either unfriendly or neutral toward evangelicals.17

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Pentecostal Christians are widely viewed as friendly toward evangelicals, with only 3% of the evangelical leaders saying Pentecostals are unfriendly. This suggests that there is relatively little tension with this close relative (or sub-set) of evangelical Protestantism. It is important to note that about a quarter of the Lausanne leaders identify themselves as Pentecostal Christians. But the large majority of those who do not identify as Pentecostals (as well as those who do) see Pentecostals as friendly toward evangelicals.

Considerably fewer of the evangelical leaders view Catholics as friendly (37%) toward evangelicals. Indeed, a plurality (46%) see Catholics as neutral toward evangelicals, and 17% say Catholics are unfriendly. Orthodox Christians are seen as neutral by nearly half of the evangelical leaders (48%), with 30% saying Orthodox Christians are friendly and 22% saying they are unfriendly toward evangelicals.

Of the eight religious groups asked about in this question, Muslims are the only one that a majority of evangelicals view as unfriendly. Nearly seven-in-ten of the leaders surveyed (69%) say Muslims are generally unfriendly toward evangelicals in their country; 26% say Muslims are neutral and just 4% say they are friendly.

Less than 10% of the evangelical leaders who rated the friendliness of Hindus, Buddhists and non-religious people called those groups friendly toward evangelicals. Slightly more (14%) rated Jews as friendly. A majority of the leaders answering the question see Jews, Hindus and Buddhists as neutral toward evangelicals. Lausanne leaders are more closely divided on how to assess the friendliness of non-religious people; 49% say the non-religious are neutral, while 45% say the non-religious are unfriendly toward evangelicals.

In general, evangelical leaders who live in countries where Christians are clearly in the minority tend to see the majority group as unfriendly. For example, 82% of leaders living in Muslim-majority countries see Muslims as unfriendly toward evangelicals. About two-thirds (65%) of those living in Hindu-majority countries say the same about Hindus. However, leaders from Buddhist-majority countries are more evenly divided in their assessment of relations between evangelicals and Buddhists; 46% say Buddhists are unfriendly toward evangelicals, while the same percentage says Buddhists are neutral.

Slim majorities of the leaders from both the Global South and the Global North see Jews as neutral toward evangelicals. U.S. leaders, however, are more likely than others to say that Jews are unfriendly toward evangelical Christians (42% of the U.S. leaders say Jews are unfriendly and 44% say they are neutral toward evangelicals in America). Most leaders from the Middle East and North Africa say the question about Jews is not applicable to their country.

By this measure, tension with the non-religious population is stronger in the Global North than in the Global South. A majority of leaders from the Global North (59%) perceive the non-religious as unfriendly toward evangelicals, compared with 33% of leaders from the Global South. About two-thirds of leaders from the United States (68%) consider the non-religious to be generally unfriendly toward evangelicals. A majority of European leaders surveyed (54%) say the same. In other parts of the world, a majority of evangelical leaders see the non-religious as neutral toward evangelicals.

D. Favorability Ratings of Religious Groups

Global evangelical leaders view other Christian groups (namely Pentecostals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians) in largely positive terms, while they tend to see other faith groups (including atheists) more negatively. Jews are the only non-Christian group viewed favorably by a majority of the evangelical leaders who expressed an opinion.

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This part of the survey asked: “How favorable or unfavorable is your overall opinion of the following groups? Very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?” Respondents also had the option of saying that they “don’t know enough to rate” a particular group.18

Among those expressing an opinion, most evangelical leaders view Pentecostal Christians favorably. More than nine-in-ten (92%) of the leaders say they have a mostly or very favorable opinion of Pentecostals, and just 8% express an unfavorable opinion. Favorable views of Pentecostals are held both by those who self-identify as Pentecostal Christians and by those who do not. Three-quarters of the evangelical leaders (76%) also hold a favorable view of Catholics, and nearly the same proportion expresses a favorable view of Orthodox Christians (74%).

In addition, three-quarters of the leaders (75%) have a mostly or very favorable opinion of Jews. But a majority of Lausanne leaders express generally negative views about all other non-Christian groups listed in this question, including Muslims (67% unfavorable), Hindus (65% unfavorable) and Buddhists (65% unfavorable). Leaders from majority-Muslim countries are more likely than other leaders to hold favorable views of Muslims, although a majority of both groups hold unfavorable views of Muslims. The same pattern holds with respect to opinions of Hindus, with those living in Hindu-majority countries more likely than other leaders to have a favorable opinion of Hindus.

Atheists are also seen in negative terms by a majority of the leaders who express an opinion. Seven-in-ten leaders (70%) report mostly or very unfavorable views of atheists; three-in-ten (30%) express a favorable view of atheists.

E. Christianity and Judaism

Many Lausanne leaders attach special theological significance to Israel and especially to the Jewish people. Nearly three-quarters of the leaders surveyed (73%) endorse the statement that God’s covenant with the Jewish people continues today, while less than a quarter (22%) say it no longer applies.

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But there are significant regional differences on this question. Leaders from sub-Saharan Africa are especially likely to say that God’s covenant with the Jewish people continues today (81%). Upwards of two-thirds of leaders from Europe, North America, Central and South America, and Asia and the Pacific say the same, including 67% of leaders from the U.S. Leaders from the Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, are about evenly split, with 48% saying that God’s covenant with the Jewish people no longer applies and 46% saying it continues today.

Overall, the global evangelical leaders are more evenly split on whether the state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the Second Coming of Jesus. About half of the evangelical leaders (48%) say that the state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the Second Coming, and 42% say it is not, with 10% giving no response.

Nearly six-in-ten sub-Saharan African leaders (58%) agree with the statement that the state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, while 32% disagree. By contrast, about half of the leaders from the Middle East and North Africa (51%) say they do not believe that the state of Israel is a fulfillment of the biblical prophecy about the Second Coming of Jesus, while 40% say they believe it is.

Nearly half of the U.S. leaders surveyed (48%) say that Israel is not a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, while 44% believe that it is. By contrast, among rank-and-file evangelical Protestants in the U.S., a solid majority (59%) considers Israel a fulfillment of the biblical prophecy about the Second Coming, while 22% do not. 19

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In the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a plurality of the evangelical leaders (39%) sympathizes equally with both parties. At the same time, of those who express greater sympathy for one side than for the other, more than twice as many lean toward Israel (34%) than lean toward the Palestinians (13%).

Leaders from sub-Saharan Africa are especially likely to say they have greater sympathy for Israel (50%), compared with only 5% who sympathize more with the Palestinians. By contrast, among the Middle Eastern and North African leaders surveyed, only 14% sympathize more with Israel, while 26% favor the Palestinians and 43% sympathize equally with both sides.

While most U.S. evangelical leaders hold a favorable view of Jews overall (82%), they tend to take an even-handed view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. About half of the U.S. leaders surveyed (49%) express equal sympathy for both parties. Three-in-ten U.S. evangelical leaders (30%) say they sympathize more with Israel, while 13% sympathize more with the Palestinians.20

F. Christianity and Islam

lausanne-inter-7A majority of evangelical leaders surveyed report having at least some knowledge of Islam; 53% say they know “some” and 28% say they know “a great deal” about the world’s second largest faith. But nearly one-in-five of the leaders (18%) describe themselves as knowing either “not too much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. Not surprisingly, leaders from majority-Muslim countries are more likely to say they know a great deal about Islam (48%); leaders from the Middle East and North Africa stand out for their high self-reported knowledge, with 65% saying they know a great deal about Islam. Among leaders from other regions, roughly one-third or fewer say they know a great deal about Islam.

Most of the evangelical leaders view Islam and Christianity as “very different” (69%), while one-in-four (25%) say the two faiths “have a lot in common.” This balance of opinion holds across all regions.
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Among the minority who see the two religions as having a lot in common, the most frequently cited reason is that the two faiths share a common scriptural tradition (33%). About a fifth (21%) say that Muslims and Christians share a piety and commitment to their respective faith, and the same proportion says the two faiths share many moral teachings. Less common responses include a belief that Muslims and Christians ultimately worship the same God (8%), that both faiths are mono-theistic (4%), and that the two religions share common historical roots as Abrahamic faiths or common beliefs and practices (3% each).

G. Religion and Violence

Eight-in-ten evangelical leaders surveyed (82%) say that some religions are more prone to violence than others. Most of the remainder (13%) say that all religions are about the same when it comes to violence.

In an open-ended follow-up question, leaders who said that some religions are more prone to violence were asked to identify which religion or religions they think are particularly prone to violence. Islam is the most common answer (84% of those asked). By comparison, 6% mention Hinduism and 4% mention Christianity; Judaism and Buddhism were each mentioned by 1%.21

This view is reflected across all regions. However, evangelical leaders who live in Hindu-majority countries are especially likely to say that Hinduism is more prone to violence (39% cite Hinduism and 73% mention Islam).


Footnotes:

15 See Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Global Restrictions on Religion, 2009. (return to text)

16 See Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Global Restrictions on Religion, 2009. (return to text)

17 Depending on the country where they live, evangelicals can have quite a lot or very little contact with various religious groups. Orthodox Christians, for example, are common in Eastern Europe but relatively rare in Latin America, where Catholics make up a majority of the population. To account for these differences, all of the percentages reported here are based only on those who answered the question, omitting those who declined to answer or indicated the question was not applicable in their country. (return to text)

18 Just as with the friendliness ratings described above, all of the favorability ratings reported here are based on the answers from those rating each group, omitting those who decline to answer or who say they don’t know enough to rate a group. For analytical purposes, the chart above combines “mostly favorable” and “very favorable” responses into a “favorable” category and “mostly unfavorable” and “very unfavorable” responses into an “unfavorable” category. (return to text)

19 See Pew Research Center, Many Americans Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics, 2006. (return to text)

20 Rank-and-file evangelical Protestants in the United States are more likely to say their sympathies lie with Israel (62%), while 10% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians and just 3% volunteered that they sympathize with both equally. However, the question asked of global evangelical leaders offered four response options (including both and neither as explicit options) while the question asked of the general population in the U.S. contained only two explicit response options (sympathize more with Israel or more with the Palestinians), though respondents could volunteer a response of both or neither. Thus, the two questions are not directly comparable. See Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Pessimistic Public Doubts Effectiveness of Stimulus, TARP, 2010. (return to text)

21 Respondents could name more than one religion. Up to four responses were coded. (return to text)

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