I must admit I was quietly relieved to read the latest statistics from the Evangelical Alliance on what is most likely to affect how evangelical Christians will vote in the coming election.
There are days when some of the traffic on social media and some of the newspaper headlines make it look as if evangelicals might only be concerned about gay marriage and right-to-life issues. I understand how important these issues are for many, but this new survey of 2020 Christians tells a different story.
- Freedom of speech
- Alleviating poverty
- Working to end a foodbank culture
- Fighting human trafficking
- The living wage
- Reducing pornography
- Protecting the NHS
All of the seven issues above make it into the top 10 concerns of evangelicals and apparently will be the deciding factors as to how most will vote.
According to January's YouGov survey commissioned by Christian Vision for Men, 60 per cent of people who regularly attend church are middle class (ie demographic category ABC1). This makes the range of issues that are central to the voting habits of evangelicals even more interesting. In the main these are not self-interest issues – they are about seeking the welfare of society, not just the Church.They put the needs of the poor and marginalised at the forefront, rather than personal gain. Rather than focusing on tax cuts, immigration or personal pensions, evangelicals are going back to their social activist roots where according to historian Professor Brian Stanley, "Anti-slavery was the cause celebre of the evangelical conscience, and the language and methods of the anti-slavery campaigns were carried over into campaigns against other social and moral wrongs."
What's more, when you add up the numbers evangelicals have a real opportunity to influence the public life of the nation as the election approaches. In the 2010 election 29.7 million people voted, which was 65.1 per cent of the electorate. With the last election being one of the closest ever fought, the difference in votes between the three major parties was very small, with Conservatives on 10,726,614, Labour on 8,609,527 and Liberal Democrats on 6,836,824.
Even taking in consideration how the constituency lines fall, 2 million votes can make a very significant difference in what many expect to be an even closer election this year.
With this in mind Christians should take the opportunity to help make sure that questions of social concern are a central part of the election conversation. The recent pastoral letter from bishops of the Church of England encouraging congregations to vote and for asking for a fresh moral vision in British politics was an important step in this direction. The latest survey results from the Evangelical Alliance show the bishops' pastoral concerns are shared by the majority of evangelical voters.
My hope is that this political opportunity won't just be for the election season but will lead to more evangelicals using their political influence to seek the welfare of the society in which we all live.
Dr Krish Kandiah is the president of London School of Theology and founder of the fostering and adoption charity Home for Good.