In a nation that is often described as “post-Christian,” a spark of revival might be on the horizon.
A breeding ground of Darwinian evolution and atheism — and more recently, spreading Islamization — England has been recognized as falling away from its Christian heritage for generations. But recent survey results released by Oxford University indicate that a large majority is ready for a return to its Christian roots.
And just how many Brits ascribe to the belief that Christianity should make a comeback? A YouGov poll reveals that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the 1,800 participants in the study believe that Christianity should be taught in schools because children need to learn about it in order to understand English history. Furthermore, 57 percent say that learning about Christianity is essential for students so that they can truly grasp English culture.
But do the English think that Christianity should be taught for reasons other than to bolster their historical and cultural knowledge? It was found that a slight majority, or 51 percent of those polled, believe that Christianity provides a moral compass that helps children decipher right from wrong.
The poll results came as a pleasant surprise to Christian leaders seeking to influence culture with the Gospel.
“It is striking that so much of the public sees the need for Christianity to be taught properly,” expressed Andrea Williams, who serves as chief executive of Christian Concern. “We are often given the impression that teaching about Jesus and His message is old-fashioned and irrelevant to a modern generation. But this survey shows that many people value the Christian framework.”
Instead of new philosophies, naturalistic worldviews or modern psychology, which have proliferated in England for more than a century, citizens of the island nation have come to the realization that a return to the core teachings of the Bible is the way to true enlightenment.
A substantial segment of those polled (43 percent) maintained that a greater emphasis should be placed on the teachings of Christianity in RE (Religious Education) lessons. At the same time, 37 percent of participants in the survey are concerned that many of the RE instructors cannot teach Christianity effectively because they know little about it.
These figures indicate that Christianity is not a fading religion or worldview that’s being swept under the rug. The need for responsible and ethical behavior is no longer being ignored.
“This is not surprising, given that our society is increasingly confused about a basis for moral decisions, for human dignity and for community,” Williams explained. “Jesus is the personal basis for this, as well as the foundation for so much of our nation’s culture and history.”
Reasoning behind the research
When Oxford University’s Department of Education took to the streets to administer this public opinion poll, it set out to find whether Christianity should be taught through RE lessons. The team of researchers was to come away from this study with answers explaining how this world religion should be taught in the classroom with greater intensity and meaning.
Oxford’s Dr. Nigel Fancourt, who is heading a project to enhance curricula in schools throughout England, notes that Christianity has typically been taught in schools in an incoherent fashion. He also contends that the presentation of Christianity to students has been too stereotypical and continues to be taught in a way that often lacks intellectual development.
The underlying motivation behind the project is rooted in a legal requirement that schools throughout England should teach curricula that accurately portrays Christianity as the building block for the nation’s religious heritage. Consequently, it is anticipated that Christianity will be the only religion studied during the course of students’ schooling in England.
A touchy but rewarding topic to teach
Despite the exclusive focus, Fancourt contends that Christianity ─ the world’s most influential and widely followed religion with reportedly more than 2 billion adherents worldwide ─ will be taught objectively.
“It is treated in the same way as other religions but studied more frequently,” Fancourt explained.
Even so, researchers maintain that there could be a fine line to be walked while teaching Christianity. They point out the potential and legitimate fears educators might have ─ that their delivery of instruction might be considered as evangelistic in nature.
To avoid pitfalls, Oxford’s academic team is developing a free web-based introduction to teaching Christianity class. It is scheduled to go live in September and is geared to equip primary instructors at the trainee level.
Yet one secular argument conveys concern that this Christian instruction can work to exclude a majority of students who don’t consider themselves Christian ─ possibly leading them to challenge their own beliefs.
“Christianity should be taught about, and taught about well, but not, as at present, to the exclusion of other approaches to life and not in any pretense that it is relevant to the developing beliefs, values and life stances of most young people, over two-thirds of whom have non-religious worldviews,” asserts Andrew Copson, a member of the British Humanist Association. He contends that poll results indicate most British people see Christianity as less of a religion and more of a historical and cultural platform.
But regardless of the challenges the new curricula on Christianity may face, it is generally agreed upon by both sides of the religious spectrum that the intensified religious studies project to be implemented across British schools will work to benefit students.
“For several years, inspection reports have shown that the teaching of Christianity, which is a key part of the RE curriculum in our schools, is too weak,” stated project supporter John Keast, of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales. “With almost total withdrawal of government support for RE, it is good to see a major university project, sponsored by charitable trusts, providing a positive way forward.”