General Election 2017: What do evangelicals care about?

'White evangelicals' was the buzz-phrase of the US Presidential election, with 81 per cent of this powerful voting bloc propelling Donald Trump to the White House.

In the UK evangelicals are a much smaller constituency, notoriously hard to measure both in size and demographics.

The most accurate surveys estimate there to be around two million evangelical Christians in the UK – which would make up around three per cent of the population.

Reuters

Recent detailed polling of their voting patterns reveal evangelicals to be slightly more conservative (and Tory) than the wider Christian field, though more voted Lib Dem than Labour, by 17 per cent to 16 per cent respectively, against the national trend.

A ComRes study, commissioned by Tearfund, revealed that instead of immigration, issues such as 'social justice', the environment and the gap between rich and poor were top of the list concerning Christians at the 2015 election.

But a host of new websites from a number of evangelical charities offer a narrower focus at this snap 2017 election, presenting the key issues along more stereotypical evangelical lines of abortion, euthanasia, marriage and the family.

Several surprisingly detailed sites reveal how your sitting MP voted on key topics such as assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, Sunday trading, abortion and embryonic research.

One particularly stark briefing by The Christian Institute – a conservative evangelical lobbying group – splits candidates voting records into 'morally wrong' choices marked with a large red cross and 'morally right' ones marked by congratulatory green tick.

The Christian Institute offered a stark analysis of different sitting MPs voting records on issues they focus on.The Christian Institute

Engage17, another site produced by the Christian lobbying outfit CARE, divides its 'how did your MP vote' into the slightly more diplomatic options of voting 'aye' or 'no' to the motion.

But similar issues are the focus with informed briefings available for evangelicals concerned about sex education, same-sex marriage, pornography, gambling, assisted suicide, abortion, human trafficking, abortion and religious liberty.

UK director Gareth Davies says: 'The issues that feature in this database – abortion, assisted suicide, Sunday trading hours, gambling and human trafficking – are highly likely to be debated and brought up again in the next parliament.

'It is therefore crucial to find out where candidates stand on these issues as many of them are conscience issues so will be subject to a free vote in parliament.

'CARE would encourage voters not only to use this resource to find out where their MP stands on critical issues, but also to use this data to ask questions at upcoming hustings and to politicians who are out canvassing in their community.'

As well as detailed briefings, CARE's Engage17 website and The Christian Institute's election equivalent offer dozens of suggested questions for candidates at hustings.

Ranging from Ofsted inspections of church youth groups to cannabis legalisation and gender neutral toilets in schools, these questions reflect concerns along typical conservative evangelical lines.

Another site by the strictly conservative charity, Christian Concern, is even more black and white in a 'what matters most' section of their special election website.

'The biggest issue isn't Brexit, the NHS or the economy. It's a moral, relational and spiritual challenge,' it says.

The charity focus on four areas – 'freedom', 'family', 'life' and 'Christianity'.

On freedom the site reads: 'The freedom to live and speak for Jesus Christ is under sustained attack. Recent 'equality' legislation has exacerbated the situation.'

On family it says: 'Marriage and the normal pattern for family are being steadily dismantled. The consequences are catastrophic.'

In an ambitious call, it adds: 'We need government to promote and prosper one-man, one-woman marriage as the normal pattern of family. We need to see a tax system that encourages marriage. We need to see same-sex 'marriage' reversed and divorce law reformed.'

On life, abortion and assisted suicide dominate: 'We need to see an end to the killing of the unborn,' the site calls for. 'We need to resist moves to introduce assisted suicide. We need to see a reversal of the decision to make the UK the only country in the world to allow the creation of 'three-parent' babies.'

With the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act looming in the autumn, evangelicals across the spectrum are concerned about a push for decriminalisation, allowing terminations on demand.

The more broad-tent Evangelical Alliance site is slightly wider ranging in its equally detailed election guidance.

Focusing on the more wide-ranging categories of love, justice, truth and freedom, they challenge Christians to ask 'what kind of society do we want?'

Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, says: 'We want a society that is more loving, truthful, just and free, and this election is a chance to ask our parliamentary candidates what they will do to see this happen.

'Our society needs vision, and our role over the next month is to speak vision into the vacuum of our political system, and give voice to the core aspects of our faith which will help our society thrive.

'Love, freedom, justice and truth are not abstract ideas. They are perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus, and are vital for the flourishing of our society. We want to see them on the agenda in this election. We want to know how they will be fleshed out in policy.'

More News in Church