You might think that support for gay marriage exists mainly among America’s coastal elites and urban centers. It’s an easy explanation to believe that public opinion in blue states is one thing and that public opinion in red states is another. But that is actually not the case when it comes to gay marriage. A study released last year shows that support for gay marriage is increasing rapidly across the country in both red and blue states. In an article today for The Atlantic, one of the authors of the study—Robert Jones—writes about his findings.
Contrary to what one might expect, today Texans and southerners are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. Forty-eight percent of Texans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to 49 percent who oppose. Support for same-sex marriage among Texans has doubled during the last 10 years, up from 24 percent a decade ago according to a 2003 poll from Pew Research Center. And despite Texans’ pride in being “like a whole other country,” Texas is no outlier among southern states. In the South overall, support for same-sex marriage has similarly risen from 22 percent in 2003 to 48 percent in 2013.
Don’t let that last figure be lost on you. In ten years, support for gay marriage has more than doubled in the American South. How do you explain that revolution of public opinion in just ten short years? The data show that the primary factor is not regional but generational. The Millennial generation and younger simply do not believe what their parents and grandparents have believed about the definition of marriage. Ten years ago, these young people were not a part of public opinion polls. Now they are, and they are beginning to outnumber their more conservative forebears. In another ten years (perhaps before), the revolution will be total. Those of us who hold to a traditional view of marriage (and of sexual morality in general) will be in a decided minority from sea to shining sea.
What does that mean for us as Christians? It means that we will need to get used to the fact that the South is no longer a cultural Zion in the midst of Babylon. Cultural Christianity is dead, and we are going to be a minority in the culture. Our expectations need to change. That means that we need to be developing a vision for what it will look like for us to be a genuine counter-culture moving forward.
Our children will be facing a culture that despises the biblical view of sexuality, of manhood and womanhood, of gender roles, and of homelife. A major part of their discipleship will mean teaching and modeling those things before them in a hostile context in which faithfulness might be costly. Nevertheless, this is what we are called to if we would be taking our marching orders from Christ and not from the culture.