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June 22nd, 2011
12:28 PM ET

U.S. evangelicals gloomy about future, 'global south' optimistic, study finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) – Half the world's evangelical Protestant leaders are optimistic about the future, confident that evangelical Christians have an increasing influence in their countries and that things will be better for them in five years.

The other half are pessimists, convinced they're losing influence on the life of their countries and mostly not persuaded that things will be better for Christianity where they live in the future.

Those are among the findings of a groundbreaking survey of more than 2,000 evangelical leaders from around the world, which the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released Wednesday

The split on optimism is between north and south, and the way it breaks down might surprise you.

It's evangelicals in the comparatively poor south who see a bright future ahead - Africans, Latin Americans and Middle Easterners.

Those from the developed world, where evangelical Christianity was born, are the pessimists. And Americans are among the most glum of all, with more than eight out of 10 evangelical Christian leaders there saying that the movement is losing influence in the United States today.

Among other results from the survey:

– Only 3% of evangelical Christian leaders believe in evolution as defined by scientists. About half believe God created the planet and life on it as it is now, while four out of 10 say there has been evolution, but it was guided by God.

– Nearly all believe abortion is usually or always morally wrong. A similar number say the same thing about homosexuality.

– They feel generally positive about Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews but have a low opinion of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and atheists, with atheists rating the lowest of all. (Evangelicals from Muslim-majority countries tend to have higher opinions of Muslims than those who live elsewhere, the Pew Forum found.)

– Half say the Bible should be read literally. Half say not everything in it should be taken literally.

– Half say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. Half say it isn't.

Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo said the "optimism gap" between north and south struck him the most about the survey.

"There are huge differences between the global south, who see things getting better, compared to the global north, and particularly the U.S., where we get down to 31% who see things being better five years from now," he said.

But the respondents' perceptions may not reflect reality, said Michael Cromartie, an expert on evangelical Christians and a senior adviser to the Pew Forum not involved in the survey.

"In the United States, evangelicals feels like they're losing influence because the elite culture isn't sympathetic or sees them as intolerant - which I don't think it is the case, but it's how they're perceived," said Cromartie, who directs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

In the global south, on the other hand, "You could see yourself having influence because the numbers (of evangelical Christians) are growing so fast," he said.

"The numbers are exploding. That doesn't necessarily mean you have influence, but you feel like you have influence."

Both sides think the south - where a majority of evangelicals now live - should have more influence on the movement as a whole, the survey found.

"We were surprised to see a majority thought that the global south should be contributing more - and leaders from the global south were even more self-critical," Lugo said.

Leaders from the south tend to be more conservative than those from the north, a pattern that mimics that in the global Anglican Communion, for example. If the south gains influence over time, it could push the movement as a whole in an even more conservative direction.

But Lugo points out that the south is not a monolith.

"Latin America is much closer to North America and Europe than to the rest of the global south" in its attitudes, he said. "They tend to be less conservative on homosexuality even than European leaders, and less conservative on tithing and biblical literalism than the rest of the global south."

The Pew Forum surveyed 2,196 participants in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa, in October. The respondents were leaders sent by their home churches and mirror the geographical map of evangelical Christians around the globe, the Pew Forum said.

There are at least 260 million followers of the movement worldwide, the Pew Forum said.

The conference where it conducted the survey is a follow-up to one Billy Graham convened in 1974 in Switzerland.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

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soundoff (611 Responses)
  1. used handphone

    Hi, thanks for sharing. used handphone http://aim-loan.com/

    April 9, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  2. magdaleine

    I wish Evangelical Christians would learn how to properly interpret the Bible. Not all things were meant to be taken literally. Hence the use of metaphors and allegories in the Bible based in the time period they were created to proclaim a message, not a fact. Christianity can be a beautiful thing as long as it is not hijacked for someone's own agenda and does not spout "holier than thou end of the world repent or else the devil is gonna get ya" fearful rhetoric! That type of theology is what keeps an atheist, atheist. God is not fear. To paraphrase the Gospel of John (because I am Catholic and we learn messages from Scripture, not memorization...) wherever there is fear and punishment, there is no love. They cannot exist together in the same mind frame. Anything else is hypocritical.

    August 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  3. lavoris

    Jesus christ is the only way

    June 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  4. Epidi

    Wah, wah wah! My religious flavor's better than the next, blah, blah, blah. ZZZZzzzzzzz!

    June 29, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  5. Huh

    Religion has lost its relevance.

    With the advancement of science and technology to explain how the world works, there is no value in "praying for healing" or blaming god for a natural disaster.

    June 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Chris

      We will all live for an eternity in either heaven or hell. Despite what you might believe, The Bible makes it pretty clear that hell will be a place of unquenchable torment and suffering. What an awful fate for anyone! I only want to see as many people aviod this destination as possible. I know people will mock this, and say I'm simplistic, and narrow minded, and all kinds of other nasty things, but that's ok. I can only speak what I know to be true, and you have the right to accept it or reject it. Read John 3:36 which says: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. It's that simple. Or, if you want to know how simple it is, consider the theif on the cross next to Jesus. You can read Luke 23:42-43. 42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
      43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. This is the thief on the cross speaking to Jesus, and Jesus replies to him, and he is saved and will be in Heaven. Here he was, on a cross next to Jesus, and he could do nothing, and he didn't even say that much, but Jesus knew his heart. .....for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands
      every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be
      found by you; but if you forsake Him, he will cast you
      off for ever." (1 Chronicles 28:9)
      If you don't know Jesus as Lord, but would like to know more, the easiest was is to read The Bible. If you don't have a Bible, you get read it online. I would recommend the gospel of John to start with in the New Testament if you don't know where to start. Or, seek out a Bible believing church or talk to someone you know is a Christian, as I can guarantee they would love to share what Christ has done for them and let you know how He can change your life

      June 28, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Veritas

      I have read the Buy Bull several times and I have research Roman history and pre xianity.
      I have found out your Jebus guy in a made up demi-god created from stories from far earlier times.
      Put that Buy Bull down and do some research.

      June 29, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  6. Marie Kidman

    _
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=390]

    June 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  7. Reality

    Adding to the pessimism:

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of angelic visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems within Protestantism:

    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    June 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.