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 linesâ€”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.