Apparently the FT‘s magazine today has an article on the rise of evangelical Christians within the Conservative Party. (If anyone has a spare copy of this: I’d love to see it.) (Update: thanks to Phil for providing a link to the article on the FT website.)
Equally interesting is the rise of Conservatism among evangelical Christians. My personal experience – admittedly limited – is that post-war Anglican evangelicals tended to lean slightly left, under the influence of John Stott and his emphasis on social justice issues, and that a shift towards Conservatism has occurred since 1997. Go back further, to the 19th century, and non-Anglican evangelicals formed the backbone of the old Liberal Party (which, admittedly, wasn’t “left-wing” as we’d understand it; but it certainly wasn’t Tory, either).
A similar change that has occurred since I first entered evangelical circles in the mid-90s: a revival of creationism among UK evangelicals. Again, when I first returned to faith in 1994 there seemed nothing incongruous about being an evangelical who accepted evolution. Books such as Henri Blocher’s In The Beginning had a significant influence, and John Stott (again) was an example of an influential evangelical leader who accepted both evolution and even a non-literal reading of the Flood narratives.
My feeling – nothing scientific here! – is that young-earth creationism is now more common among younger evangelicals than it was, with intelligent design also commanding a great deal of support. Accepting mainstream evolutionary science feels like a minority position in a way that it did not 15 years ago.
I wonder if the internet has been a factor on both these issues. The web has brought UK Christians into closer contact with American Christianity. (I should know: I wouldn’t be a Lutheran today had it not been for exposure to reformational and Lutheran writers via the web.) And this in turn has increased the influence of American evangelical concerns such as anti-evolutionism and “culture war” issues rather than issues of economic and political justice; as well as encouraging the general sense of a correlation between political and religious conservatism.
It may also be a symptom of a wider fragmentation within evangelicalism, particularly between “conservative” and “open” evangelicals. (This is in many ways symbolised by Bible translations: fifteen years ago, the NIV was used almost universally among UK evangelicals. Now conservative evangelicals tend to prefer the ESV, with open evangelicals using the NIV or even NRSV, and charismatics possibly preferring the NLT. Again, just my perception, this.)
Sixteen years ago, I became a conservative evangelical in the John Stott tradition. I’ve admittedly moved from that tradition in a number of ways, but John Stott hasn’t changed – and yet I suspect he would now be seen as more of a “liberal evangelical” or “open evangelical” figure by many. (At least, he probably commands more support from those constituencies than from conservative evangelicals, among whom the main influences are now people like Mark Driscoll.)
I’d be interested to know what others think. Am I right that a shift has occurred on these issues? If so, why do people think this has happened?