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Religious Groups Fight To Be Heard


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Guest Religion News Service

Saturday, April 17, 2004

By Adelle M. Banks

Religion News Service

 

 

WASHINGTON -- A new survey finds the vast majority of U.S. evangelicals view themselves as part of mainstream American society while at the same time believing they have to fight to be heard by mainstream Americans.

 

The results of the survey, conducted for the PBS television program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" and U.S. News & World Report, were released at a news conference this week.

 

The survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research of Washington, D.C., looked at political, religious and racial diversity among evangelicals as well as beliefs, values and behavior.

 

A significant percentage of evangelicals relate a tension between having arrived on the American scene and being a community of Rodney Dangerfields within the larger society.

 

Seventy-five percent of all evangelical Christians say they fit into mainstream American society, and exactly the same percentage say they have to fight to get heard by mainstream Americans.

 

"These are folks that perceive themselves to be very much in the modern world -- and they are, in fact, very much in the modern world -- but they do not see themselves as being of the world," said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron who acted as an adviser to the survey.

 

The national poll of 1,610 respondents was conducted between March 16 and April 4, and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

 

Researchers found distinctions among evangelicals about leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who often are viewed as their representatives. Forty-four percent of all evangelicals offered a favorable view of Falwell, and 54 percent viewed Robertson positively. "They're discerning about their own leadership," said Anna Greenberg, vice president of the research firm that conducted the survey.

 

The world's most prominent Catholic ranked higher than some evangelical brethren. Pope John Paul II earned a favorable rating from 59 percent of evangelicals.

 

There also are distinctions on key theological viewpoints.

 

Although 48 percent of evangelicals surveyed say only born-again Christians will go to heaven, 45 percent said they do not believe that. Half of white evangelicals say that is the case; fewer black evangelicals, 42 percent, say only born-again Christians will enter heaven.

 

"I think it does tend to undermine the notion that evangelicals are dogmatic and intolerant about faith matters," Green said. "The fact that they see salvation as something that's available to people other than themselves . . . it does go against the stereotype."

 

The survey results will be included in a four-part series on "American Evangelicals" that will air on "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" from April 16 through May 7, and a story in the May 3 edition of U.S. News and World Report magazine.

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