New Survey Finds Americans Value Personal Freedom and Reputation Over Conscience
A new study from LifeWay Research has discovered that many Americans worry more about their reputation than their conscience, and that personal freedom is a value that trumps others.
The study found that shame has become particularly powerful in American society—a culture dominated by the internet age and social media—with a significant number of respondents stating they are more concerned with avoiding shame than fretting about guilt and fear. LifeWay also found that Americans still prize independence, with 40 percent naming personal freedom as the top desire from a list of options.
As the nation reflects on freedom during Independence Day, Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net), says the survey findings are indicative of a me-centered culture, where Americans confuse personal freedom, constitutional freedom and freedom in Christ.
“The concept of freedom is one the American Pastors Network explores frequently with churches, pastors and Christians,” Rohrer said. “As terrorism permeates society, freedom is under attack, especially from those who wish to eradicate anything to do with Christianity. Likewise, laws in our own country compromise religious freedom, and Americans are becoming more focused on their wants, needs, entitlements and how they think they deserve to live their own life, sometimes with no regard for others around them. Freedom is important and an American necessity, but we must view freedom as God-given rather than a humanistic or government trait that is taken for granted.
“Personal freedom and civic freedom can only exist in a culture where sufficient people have experienced freedom from sin through Jesus Christ and, as our founders did, established a basis in law that reflected that spiritual freedom in civil freedom” Rohrer continued. “Where there is a rejection of the concept of freedom in Jesus Christ there will only be totalitarian government.”
According to the survey, the more Americans attend religious services, the less they value personal freedom. Among those who attend services less than once a month, 44 percent value personal freedom most. That drops to 36 percent for those who attend more than once a month. And Americans without evangelical beliefs (42 percent) are also more likely to value personal freedom than those with evangelical beliefs (32 percent).
LifeWay also reports that people’s perceptions about guilt, shame and fear have shaped how churches have presented faith to the public. The survey was born when LifeWay researchers wondered if guilt is still a major issue for Americans and if guilt, shame and fear affects how Christians talk about their beliefs.
Of the three feelings—guilt, shame and fear—38 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they avoid shame the most, followed by 31 percent stating guilt and 30 percent reporting fear. Interestingly, “nones,” those who claim no religious identity, avoid guilt (35 percent) more than those who are religious (30 percent), while those who are religious avoid shame (39 percent) more than “nones” (33 percent).
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