English Christians on Englishness

Date added: 09/08/18

A poll designed for St George’s Day by Christian Research has revealed that nearly half (42 per cent) of Christians in England feel able to define ‘Englishness’.

For the majority, to be English is to be tolerant with over one in three (36%) stating this as a defining trait. 30 per cent felt Englishness is defined by being fair, one quarter by being polite (27%), 22 per cent by being traditional and 18 per cent as being honest.

The least identified characteristics were romantic (0%), spontaneous (0%) and rebellious (1%).

The majority (82%) believe that it is important to have a sense of national pride. Perhaps conversely, only 13 per cent, celebrates or marks St George’s day – with more Christians celebrating All Saints (20%) and All Souls (19%).

Similarly, the majority feel little or nothing when hearing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. Only a quarter (27%) feel strongly patriotic, nostalgic (25%), optimistic (24%) or inspired (28%). In fact nearly half, (46%) feel cynical when hearing ‘Jerusalem’.   

Commenting on the findings Matthew van Duyvenbode, Director of Christian Research, said:

“These results point to a complex picture of religious and national identity. While many English Christians are confident in the value of belonging, there’s less certainty about defining what we belong to and how this maps on to the traditional religious icons of Englishness.’

Some of those who stated that they couldn't define Englishness offered the following reasons why not:

  • “Because I suspect the 'Englishness' that some people talk about is an idyll that never existed. This island has always been invaded by various nationalities - so what is Englishness? Is it our genetic heritage or are we talking about 'our green and pleasant land' where the poor had to work till they dropped!”
  • “There is nothing particularly distinctive about being English. The underlying values which mark out a fair society are shared by many people regardless of their race or nationality.”
  • “We are now a mixture of backgrounds, values and beliefs”
  • “England has always been, and remains, a multicultural society with influences from all over the world.”
  • “It is a place not a culture.”

Some of those who stated that they could define Englishness offered the following thoughts on what 'being English' means to them:

  • "Tolerance, freedom of conscience, sense of humour, pragmatic, openness to new ideas."
  • "Christian in foundation, compassionate in judgement, firm in fighting evil, and full of hope."
  • "Individual freedoms; Christian, democratic values; global responsibility; rule of law; concern for the "underdog"/vulnerable; anti-authoritarian; eclectic language; strong sense of fair play."
  • "Welcome, inclusion, tolerance, getting on with it."
  • "Belief in freedom, Christian values, sense of history and monarchy"
  • "Working with our laws & and fitting in with our culture"

Methodology: The survey was undertaken by Christian Research, 1785 Christians in England responded. Polling took place 27-30 March 2015.

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