Many scholars assume that social ethics suffers when evangelism is emphasized.

Early in this century “the great reversal” separated fundamentalists from modernists and split Christian groups that emphasized evangelism from those that stressed social concern. Many scholars thus assume that social ethics suffers in evangelicalism, today’s fundamentalist “mainstream.” They argue that emphasis upon proclamation of the gospel rather than social action lacks concern for people’s material and social needs.

The CHRISTIANITY TODAY-Gallup Poll survey of noninstitutionalized civilian adults clarifies many aspects of the relationships between religious and social attitudes and corrects popular myths about evangelicals. Some findings related to social ethics are highlighted here; the details will be discussed in future articles.

The Ten Commandments

Although 84 percent of American adults think the Ten Commandments are valid for today, only two-fifths can name at least half; one-fourth can name no more than two. About half of the frequent churchgoers, Bible readers, tithers, and evangelicals are able to name five or more. But more important is applying and living up to them in contemporary circumstances.

Christians are divided over the meaning or current application of several commandments. For example, do warfare, capital punishment, and abortion violate “Thou shalt not kill”? Only one, abortion, was surveyed. Thirteen percent of the public believe abortion is acceptable under any circumstances; 19 percent believe it is always unacceptable; and 62 percent hold it to be acceptable only under certain circumstances. Evangelicals are more conservative, with 5, 31, and 64 percent, respectively.

Perspectives about adultery are similar. Eighty-three ...

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