Report says no US-style culture war in the UK

While conservative Christian groups in the UK are coordinating their political responses regarding human sexuality, marriage, family life, and religious freedom, there is no sign that they are becoming an American-style "Religious Right."

So says a report written by Andy Walton, Andrea Hatcher and Nick Spencer on behalf of a think tank called Theos called "Is there a religious right emerging in Britain?"

The Church Times reports:

The report defines the Religious Right in the United States as "a large-scale, well-organised, well-funded network of groups which has a clear and limited set of policy aims deemed as 'Christian', which it seeks to deliver through the vehicle of the Republican Party".

The US Religious Right campaigns primarily against the liberalisation of abortion laws and gay-rights legislation. It is also characterised by support for the state of Israel, opposition to "big government", and opposition to the teaching of evolution, among other issues.

Is There a "Religious Right" Emerging in Britain? argues that "British Christians are not as fixated on a particular set of specific issues as the US Religious Right. While abortion and gay marriage may not be popular among Christians here, evolution, Israel and small government are not major battlegrounds."

The report examines UK Christian pressure groups, including the Christian Institute, Christian Concern, the Evangelical Alliance, and the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

"There is no sign of the kind of tight-knit, symbiotic relationship between a right-of-centre political party and a unified Christian constituency emerging in Britain as it did in the last quarter of a century in the US," the report says.

Groups such as the Evangelical Alliance, for example, are "not officially or unofficially affiliated to a party". The groups that most resemble the US Religious Right "are also further from political power. The reverse is also true."

The report concludes: "There are many things to envy about the American Church and American politics, but the influence of the Religious Right over the last 40 years is not one them. It has allowed the development of a narrative that suggests only one party is deserving of a Christian's support. This has never been the case in Britain and, in spite of some journalistic suggestions to the contrary, there are few signs that it is the direction in which we are heading."

A leader in the Church Times (behind the paywall) commends the report:

Individuals or groups with a narrow, sectarian interest are frequently represented in the media as representing "Christians". There are three types of culprit: the unscrupulous reporter or, more typically, broadcast producer, who simply seeks good copy; the busy journalist who has time only to contact those who are readily available; and the "religious pundit", who has the spurious weight of some sort of organisation behind him or her. Because these together have brought religion in the secular media to such a low pitch, there is a fourth culprit: the sensible, knowledgeable practitioner who understandably puts other priorities above correcting false media impressions.

In this light, we commend the new Theos report on the supposed Religious Right in the UK. Its authors examine the credentials of those organisations most often cited as examples of a right-ward shift, and find, in sum, that they have neither the support, the organisation, the connections, nor the policies to constitute a political movement that corresponds to the Christian Right in the United States, which is, itself, experiencing the doldrums after the recent Republican defeat. And yet these organisations are the source of the persecution narrative that has now been accepted as the normal experience of Christians in the UK.

We therefore recognise the sentiments behind this description of these organisations by someone from one of the more mainstream groups, the executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Colin Bloom: "They are so marginalised where it matters that they're
irrelevant. They're only relevant to a lazy journalistic clique that try and create a polemic for good TV or good radio. . . They want to get the most extreme voices and say, 'you represent the Evangelical Christian Right' - and these people are mad!"

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