A survey of social attitudes in Britain suggests that British people are becoming more tolerant and liberal in their view of sex, marriage and alternative lifestyles. However, attitudes towards poverty and people of another race is hardening.
The British Social Attitudes Survey produced by National Centre for Social Research interviewed a cross-section of 3000 people throughout the country. Interviewees were asked about their attitudes towards marriage, sex, the environment and politics.
The survey suggests 70% of the 3000 people polled had no objections to pre-marital sex – up from 48% in 1984; while only 28% thought married parents brought up children best. Respondents were more likely to talk of the quality of relationships rather than the legal marital status.
The gender divide in the family home is also shifting. Only 17% of men polled thought they should be the main breadwinners – down from 32% in 1989. On housework, nearly eight in 10 people (77%) with partners said that the woman usually or always does the laundry. This has changed little since 1994, when the figure was 81%.
Attitudes towards the environment indicate high awareness of the possible link between patterns of lifestyle and climate change. However, whereas eight in 10 people thought that current levels of car use have a ‘serious effect’ on the environment, less than half (45%) are both willing to reduce their car use and able to do so.
On issues of race and poverty, tolerance is less forthcoming. One in four people now think that poverty is due to ‘laziness or lack of will power’, up from one in five in 1986; and while concern about the gap between those on high and low incomes remains high, fewer people are willing to contribute, in order to do something about it.
A total of 34% of people surveyed wanted the Government to raise taxes and redistribute income. This represents a fall from 47% in 1995. There has also been an increase in the number of people (30%) who describe themselves as prejudiced against people of other races, compared to 2001 (25%).
Should Evangelicals be concerned about statistics like these? Yes, since the Bible ascribes a large measure of influence on the ethos of society to Satan, ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience’ (Ephesians 2:2). It is the devil who blinds the minds of otherwise rational people to wholesome social and moral values.
Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees that they ‘strain out a gnat and swallow a camel’. They were meticulous in religious observance, yet ruthless in their treatment of the vulnerable (Matthew 23). Likewise our society talks endlessly about carbon footprints, ‘quality time’ and ‘quality relationships’, but is indifferent to values that the Bible highlights as for the greatest good of all, especially the weakest – things like sexual purity and marital faithfulness. If ever there was a time for Evangelicals to call our nation to repent and believe the gospel, such statistics demonstrate that this is it.