The Evangelical Divide on Gay Rights

In the video linked at right, Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches and Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute discuss changing public opinion on gay rights. Several things are interesting here.

1. Assumption – There is an underlying assumption that skews this conversation. Posner and Jones virtually equate “gay rights” with the right to “homosexual marriage.” The assumption seems to be that support for gay marriage indicates support for the basic human rights of homosexual persons and that opposition to gay marriage indicates opposition to the basic human rights of homosexual persons. I think, however, that this equation is a mistake.

2. Generation Gap – Surveys indicate that religion is not a decisive factor in determining one’s views on homosexual marriage. The two leading indicators are a person’s age and relationships. Younger Americans tend to be more open to the idea of gay marriage and other “gay rights” while older Americans tend not to be. Likewise, those who know homosexuals tend to be more open to gay marriage while those who don’t know any homosexuals tend not to be. That distinction cuts across religious lines—even among evangelicals. Younger evangelicals who know gay people tend to support gay marriage while older evangelicals who do not know homosexuals do not support gay marriage. That is very telling.

3. Authorities – Jonathan Merritt is cited as a bellwether for understanding the opinions of younger evangelicals. The Manhattan Declaration is cited as a bellwether for understanding the opinion of older evangelicals.

I think one thing is clear. Evangelicals have virtually lost the battle for hearts and minds on this question. They haven’t even won the hearts and minds of their own.

13 Responses to The Evangelical Divide on Gay Rights

  1. Ali October 13, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    I think one thing is clear. Evangelicals have virtually lost the battle for hearts and minds on this question. The culture is going one way, and Christians are going to have to go another.

    I don’t think it has to be that way. I think there is ground lost, but there are ways to work towards regaining it. See my thoughts on some of this here.

    The question is whether Christians should do something about it.

  2. Gareth October 13, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    The basis for whether gay marriage is right or wrong should be based on scripture alone, as this is the word of God.
    In Dueteronomy, Leviticus and in Pauls epistle to the Corinthians God condemns homosexuality clearly.
    There is no such thing as a homosexual Christian.

  3. David Vinzant October 13, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I have to disagree with your statement, “Surveys indicate that religion is not a decisive factor in determining one’s views on homosexual marriage.” What surveys do you have in mind?

    From a Gallup Poll conducted in May 2010: “Americans who say religion is ‘very important’ in their lives oppose legal same-sex marriage by 70% to 27%. In contrast, Americans who say religion is not important to them support gay marriage by just as wide a margin.”
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/128291/Americans-Opposition-Gay-Marriage-Eases-Slightly.aspx

    I would also drop the “virtually” from your next-to-last sentence.

  4. julie October 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    As a committed Christian, and part of the body of Christ, I’m really tired of being blamed for not:
    reaching/winning the culture
    touching/winning hearts and minds

    Our nation is under God’s judgment. Read Romans chapter 1 and the book of Isaiah. When a nation is under God’s judgment, the people will no longer listen. They will not hear, no matter who speaks. I cannot convince someone of the truth unless the Holy Spirit is working on their hearts. The nation of Israel did not hear Isaiah, yet he still proclaimed the truth. Did he fail to win the hearts and minds of his countrymen? Or were they under God’s judgment? I’m not saying that God is not still saving people today – He is. Graciously, yes, He is. But by and large the USA has rejected the truth. They have sown to the wind, and now they are reaping the whirlwind.

  5. Nathan October 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Re: Evangelicals losing the battle.

    On what front?

    If you are talking about PUBLIC policy, then so what? Christians aren’t called to control other people and make them live up to Christian ideals, which is impossible, BTW. Trying to do that is grossly misunderstanding a Christian idea: for one to act Christ-like, he must be changed by God himself, not by the law or other coercion.

    If you are talking about CHURCH policy, then that is a huge deal. Churches need to adhere to the Bible.

    I think the distinction between public and private policy is important. The younger-religious demographic probably can make this distinction more easily than the older-religious group.

  6. Chris October 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    I agree there is no losing happening. God’s natural created order will prevail.

    Young people always rebel and take contrary positions. Over time those young people will grow up and see God’s best is one man and one woman in a lifetime covenant called marriage.

  7. Gabe October 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    “Young people always rebel and take contrary positions. Over time those young people will grow up and see God’s best is one man and one woman in a lifetime covenant called marriage.”

    I seriously doubt that will happen in this case. It’s true that you’ll find more younger people who support equal rights for gay people, but the growing support is becoming deeply imbedded in our culture. Young people are growing up in a culture that supports gay rights and doesn’t view homosexuality as a sin. I see nothing idicating that this will reverse. I wouldn’t doubt that in 20 years a law limiting the rights of gay people will be considered the equivalent of a law limiting the rights of a particular race.

  8. Dan P. October 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    In response to Gareth’s comment:

    I agree with you in terms of homosexuality being an action that is sin, however I wonder about the comment “There is no such thing as a homosexual Christian.”

    Is there such a thing as a lying Christian? adultery-commiting Christian? thieving Christians? Christians who slander?

    I think that we can agree that there are believers who sin in these ways but who would still be followers of Jesus. Thus, a believer who sins in the area of homosexuality is no better or worse than those that sin in ways that are not homosexuality. And homosexuality can not be elevated to a higher level of sin.

  9. Chris October 14, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Gabe I see it already! The “idea” of tolerance and “live and let live” is common among young people because they lack maturity and life experience. As they mature they will recognize the wisdom of Gods natural created order. They may be less discriminatory against homosexuality but since it is a sin, they will recognize it as such.

  10. Donald Johnson October 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    There have been some homosexual Christians that chose the path of celibacy.

  11. Nathan October 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Marriage has some thorns, but celibacy has no roses.

    — VERNON K. MCLELLAN

    // no roses… especially when church members are breathing down your throat about getting married — look down on you because you’re single — and saying that manhood is *defined* by the roles of husband and father — see Mohler: http://tinyurl.com/BadMohler //

  12. Donald Johnson October 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Nathan,

    Jesus did not marry or have kids while here, so follow him.

  13. Cat October 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    In response to Dan P.:

    Yes, there are lying Christians. But are there people who are truly Christians and say that lying is not wrong/sinful? I think that is largely why we see such a “separation” between how homosexuality is treated and how other sins are treated. There are plenty of sins that Christians are still committing, but they are not fighting to have those things declared as not sinful.

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