No Narrative

Britons "shaky" on details of the Nativity story, poll reveals


A new poll conducted by a theological think-tank illustrates Britons' ignorance about the details of Christ's conception, birth, and infancy.

27 percent of Britons aged 18 and older were unable to identify Bethlehem as Jesus' birthplace.  One in ten thought the answer was Nazareth, and a similar number said Jerusalem.

Similarly, 27 percent of respondents did not know the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.  Some believed she was instead informed by the shepherds.

Among other confusions, most people believed the Holy Family fled to Nazareth, rather than Egypt in their escape from King Herod.  Just over half did not know that John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin.

Young people were the least knowledgeable, with only seven percent of 18 to 24 year-olds able to answer all four questions correctly.  People aged 55 to 64 were best equipped to answer, with 18 percent correctly answering all questions.

Churchgoers knew the stories best, with 36 percent answering all questions correctly, while only five percent of self-described atheists answered right.

Paul Woolley, the director of Theos, the theological think-tank which commissioned the survey, insisted the survey showed the Christmas story was still "very much" in the "cultural bloodstream" of the nation. 

But he conceded the survey revealed that their knowledge and understanding of the details was "a little more shaky."

Woolley suggested the ignorance among young people resulted from a decline in telling Bible stories in school and the decreasing popularity of nativity plays.

The findings followed research by the Sunday Telegraph last weekend showing that only one school in every five was planning to stage a traditional Nativity play this year.

"No one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a member of the established Church is the same thing as being British today," Woolley continued.

"But, at the same time, if we are serious about social cohesion we can't afford to ignore the stories that have bound us together as a culture for a thousand years.

"Any attempts to down-play the Christmas story in order to help social cohesion are likely to be counterproductive," Woolley said.

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