By Aaron Earls
Why does everyone seem so angry all the time?
The vast majority of American evangelicals say the lack of civility in our social discourse is concerning to them, but they aren’t sure exactly who is to blame.
In a previous study on cultural outrage sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Lifeway Research found 78% of evangelicals agreed that they were very concerned about the lack of civility in discussions surrounding modern political and social issues, including 46% who strongly agree.
In the latest study sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Lifeway Research asked 1,317 evangelicals an open-ended question: “What is the cause for the lack of courtesy and respect in public discussion of today’s important social issues?”
American evangelicals gave a multitude of responses, but 19 types of answers garnered more than 2%.
Most place the blame on the actions or attitudes of individuals, some want to point to those across the political aisle, while others call out spiritual issues.
- Disrespectful actions 12%
- Selfishness 6%
- Disagreement over issues 6%
- News media 5%
- Donald Trump 5%
- Lack of manners or rudeness 5%
- Ignorance 4%
- Lack of morals 4%
- Partisan politics 4%
- Intolerance or not willing to listen 4%
- Lack of caring 3%
- Human nature or sin 3%
- Racism or bigotry 2%
- Liberals or the left 2%
- Anonymity of the internet 2%
- Social media 2%
- Removal of Christianity 2%
- Greed or money 2%
- Refusing to compromise 2%
Regardless of who is to blame for its disappearance, evangelicals say they remain committed to the value of civility.
Almost 6 in 10 (58%) say when they meet someone whose political views differ from theirs, they tend to believe their motivations are good.
Two-thirds (66%) believe being civil in political conversations is productive.
Yet a significant number of evangelicals excuse and even support decidedly uncivil actions by those who share their political views.
Less than half (42%) say they have publicly expressed disapproval for what they viewed as unacceptable words or actions by someone sharing their political views.
A quarter (26%) of evangelicals say when they hear political leaders who share their ideology make insulting personal remarks about opponents, they tend to believe those remarks are justified.
Around 1 in 6 (16%) are OK with political leaders bending the truth if it helps influence people to adopt “good or sound political views.”
This may be explained by most evangelicals (58%) saying they believe that the nation’s democracy will be in danger if their political opponents are able to implement their agenda.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.