Social Justice
Evangelicals, Liberals Share Social Concerns

Evangelical churches may actually be more concerned about social issues than their liberal counterparts. However, they put a higher priority on working to alleviate poverty through individual action and the church than through the action of government or other systems, according to two recently released studies, one conducted by CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

“An evangelical theology does not automatically restrict a congregation from engaging in community ministries, nor does a liberal theology inevitably lead to attitudes that support social ministries,” say researchers Carl Dudley and Thomas Van Eck of the Center for Church and Community Ministries in Chicago. Their new study of 100 Illinois and Indiana congregations from 14 denominations was released in the 1992 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

Evangelical churches studied by Dudley and Van Eck were more supportive of a faith-and-social-justice perspective than their liberal counterparts. On a scale of 3 (least oriented to faith and justice perspective) to 15 (most oriented), evangelicals studied scored a composite 10.3 to the liberals’ 10.0.

Defying prevailing stereotypes, evangelicals seem to see poverty and socials ills as a systemic problem. Evangelicals studied by Dudley and Van Eck actually believed more strongly than their liberal counterparts that “poverty is the result of structural or systemic barriers blocking some groups from success such as government cutbacks, discrimination, low wages, and failures of industry.”

But according to a recent CT survey, evangelicals believe another systemic barrier is also to blame for creating poverty: big government. At least 70 percent of readers surveyed said they thought ...

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