The South’s Stunning Embrace of Gay Marriage

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.

46 Responses to The South’s Stunning Embrace of Gay Marriage

  1. James Stanton March 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Denny, very informative piece. I agree with pretty much everything you have written here except for this myth that the South was ever a “cultural Zion in the midst of Babylon.” Perhaps this was just a comment on perception and not meant to be a historical fact.

    As for the study itself, I think it reflects the growing tide of political libertarianism in the United States. Ideas about sexual morality in general have are a factor but that’s not a new trend. There’s a connection in the rising interest in liberty and independence from government to attitudes about homosexuals. It creates a contradiction and millennials seem to lack the doctrinal background to make a value judgement on the matter of marriage rights for homosexuals. It’s a double edged sword to stoke mistrust of government.

  2. Don Johnson March 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    My take is that while it is a generational change, the reason for the change is that denying marriage benefits to homosexuals that want to make a commitment is not a battle worth fighting, as most of the health concerns are with promiscuity of any sort. So anyone that is saying they do not want to be promiscuous is something the government can endorse for health reasons.

    Also, does anyone really think that a single parent family is always superior to a 2 parent family of any gender? Or that a 2 parent family with abuse is always better than a family of any sort without abuse?

    Government is often concerned with avoiding the worst outcomes and letting people decide otherwise what works for them.

  3. James Stanton March 10, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    Also, does anyone really think that a single parent family is always superior to a 2 parent family of any gender? Or that a 2 parent family with abuse is always better than a family of any sort without abuse?

    Don, that’s not quite clear cut and can be seen in legal arguments against same-sex marriage. Some say that being raised in a two parent same-gender home should be considered abusive. Others have presented evidence that children growing up in such an environment are worse off. I’m just saying that opposing same sex marriage in the courts require exactly these positions to justify a federal ban on same-sex marriage or the preservation of state bans on gay marriage.

  4. Rick Wilson March 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    All Christians for all time have always believed that children, both boys and girls, need masculine fathers and feminine mothers for human flourishing. This is why the state had a legitimate interest in these things, back when it was more influenced by Christianity.

    And James is correct, again “all Christians for all time have always believed” that gay couples raising children IS abusive by nature. Such an arrangement is an absolute offense to God and will not model proper gender roles for children. You can claim otherwise and call yourself a Christian, but you are not an orthodox Christian. You are outside the stream of what Christians have always believed.

    Let’s put it this way – it is far better for a child to be raised by married heterosexual non-Christians then by married homosexual non-Christians. All Christians must believe this to be orthodox. So these issues are worth fighting over.

    Denny is just 100% right on here, and these progressive faux-Christians that follow his blog are infuriating, but instructive.

    Among evangelicals we must become much more comfortable with 5 little words – “You are not a Christian”.

    • James Bradshaw March 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      Rick, do you oppose granting civil marriage licenses to heterosexual men imprisoned for rape, murder or pedophilia? It’s currently legal right now. Are you arguing that these folks would make great parents merely because they’d be partnered with someone with different genitals? If so, I think the problem is NOT that your standards are too high but are rather abysmally low.

      Further, do you oppose granting civil marriage licenses to heterosexuals who have been divorced and seeking remarriage for unbiblical reasons? If not, perhaps you’re not a “true Christian”, either. See Luke 16, Matthew 5.

      • Rick Wilson March 10, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

        James, what you misunderstand is my intention is not to legislate specific morality, but that the law should incentivize marriage for the good of the society. This is because, from the state’s perspective, masculine fathers and feminine mothers raising children together is best for human flourishing. I think this primarily because this is what Christianity teaches, but my reason for wanting to bring this grace in to the public square is to help all people and love all people.

        So, the standards for non-Christians are not the same as the standards for Christians. In once sense, yes, only Christian marriages entered in to rightly are “real” marriages. But, for the state, heterosexual non-Christian marriages are a good thing. It is good to demonstrate proper gender roles and fidelity. Of course sinful people will fail these things, but the law of the state should guide people as much as possible to what is best for society. We can’t expect non-Christians to live Christianly, but we can provide laws that help as many people as possible have mothers and fathers. Of course, altering divorce law as the first and biggest mistake. I could go on in describing this, but I shouldn’t have to. The reason I shouldn’t have to is that this is what Christians have always believed and you seem to be plenty educated enough to know this. You are outside the bounds of orthodox faith, and since you claim to be a Christians but don’t have orthodox views, there is not much point in talking to you.

        The problem is, we have both theological (I do not think you are a Christian) AND political differences so wide we just continually talk past each other.

        • Chris Ryan March 10, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

          Rick, if it helps you feel any better, lots of saved Christians grew up in unsaved homes. My grandfather was one such man and he became an ass’t pastor. Sometimes children of alcoholics become alcoholics; a lot of other times tho they become tee totalers. And, the reverse is true too. You know what they say about PK’s. In fact, from a Calvinism perspective, one’s salvation shouldn’t have anything to do at all with the salvation of one’s parents. My best friend grew up outside of the church; his father was a serial adulterer, yet he’s one of the most faithful people I know.

          • Rick Wilson March 10, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

            Chris, personal antidotes are not really relevant to a discussion of state policy. Here we’re primarily talking about what is the best course of action for the non-Christian state, broadly. That would be kids having married moms and dads in the same home. Of course Christians come from non-Christian homes and the other way around.

            However, your statement about Calvinism does reveal either a misunderstanding of Calvinism, or a misrepresentation of it, since your statement hints at fatalism. While God can most certainly save from any situation, it matters a great deal whether parents are believers, even if one is not Covenantal (I am not). God ordains both the ends and the means of salvation, and on the whole (personal antidotes aside), redeemed parents are one of the most common means of salvation that God uses.

            • Chris Ryan March 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

              No I just believe in a great big God, Rick. If God can create the Universe in 6 days, I’m pretty sure He can save a person raised by 2 gay parents. In fact every single person Jesus and the Apostles saved was raised by unsaved parents.

        • buddyglass March 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

          It is not the case, biblically speaking, that “only Christian marriages entered in to rightly are “real” marriages”.

    • Lauren Bertrand March 12, 2014 at 1:56 am #

      Rick Wilson said, “Among evangelicals we must become much more comfortable with 5 little words – “You are not a Christian”.

      I would say most of us non-Evangelicals (i.e., faux-Christian apostates) pretty much have always known Evangelicals to be very, VERY comfortable with those 5 little words.

  5. Don Johnson March 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Right now there is a lot of parental irresponsibility and the trends are terrible. The statistics show a continual rise of single parent families and babies born without the parents being married. The younger generation sees this and wonders why oppose people that want to commit to each other?

  6. Chris Ryan March 10, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    Yeah, I’d have to second James’ point that the South is not some Zion in the midst of Babylon. It never has been. Forget about its embrace of slavery and Jim Crow; when I moved from the Midwest to Texas I was shocked at the # of bars and strip clubs (they have more than California & New York). Prostitutes used to line the streets nearby my college. The 10 states with the highest divorce rates are all red states.

    As for the rest, I’m glad Millenials are re-thinking gender roles. We’ve gone far beyond scripture to impute some sort of unjustified superiority in male leadership. Seeing as people’s hearts and brains are well above the waistline, I don’t see how differences in reproductive organs justifies the hugely differentiated gender roles Southern society has held up. Traditional gender roles owe more to male arrogance than to Scripture.

  7. Ken Temple March 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    The new generation is lost, if they are the main contributors to this trend. But many millennials and generation – X also want to smoke weed a lot more and play video games a lot more to the point of addiction. They try Meth more; heroine use is on the rise. They also are generally very tech and internet savvy and know how to download music and movies illegally and don’t see the problem with it. I’ve many say, “everybody’s doing it”.

    They don’t seem to care enough about the meanings of words and the history of civilization. Some of them are experimenting with same sex behavior just for the erotic thrill of it; then switching back to heterosexuality or they go back and forth – bi-sexuality. They are confused.

    Single parent IS better than a homosexual couple as parents – by nature and definition. (no matter how nice the homosexuals are.)

    Abuse in a one man-one woman marriage is wrong, but 2 wrongs don’t make it right. Take the abuser away and get counsel. The answer is not homosexual marriage.
    Homosexuals should never have been allowed to adopt children.

    • James Bradshaw March 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

      Ken writes: “Single parent IS better than a homosexual couple as parents – by nature and definition. ”

      Have any evidence to back that up or are you just pulling it out of thin air?

      http://www.news-leader.com/article/20121125/NEWS01/311250054/single-parents-Ozarks-poverty

      “Statistically, a child in a single-parent household is far more likely to experience violence, commit suicide, continue a cycle of poverty, become drug dependent, commit a crime or perform below his peers in education.”

      • Rick Wilson March 10, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

        James, his evidence is that he actually believers what Jesus says. Single parenthood IS a tragedy, and one that the church is specifically tasked with helping. BUT, all Christians must believe that homosexual parents are a far worse tragedy, since regardless of the negative outcomes you mentioned (violence, suicide, poverty), children of homosexual a parents are far more likely to not know Jesus and burn in hell forever. And that is the very worst negative outcome. Again, these are things Christians have always believed, and if you do not think this way you are outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity.

        • buddyglass March 11, 2014 at 10:04 am #

          “children of homosexual a parents are far more likely to not know Jesus and burn in hell forever.”

          Would that not also apply to, say, children of Muslim parents? Or the children of liberal atheists? Do you feel the believer should agitate for excluding such couples from becoming adoptive parents? Or, for that matter, why should they be allowed to raise children at all? We could seize the children of such couples and have them raised by Christian foster families and/or orphanages. Is that not the most humane thing to do, really?

          • Esther O'Reilly March 11, 2014 at 11:36 am #

            Islam is so violent and toxic that I think a case actually could be made for excluding Muslim adoption. As for whether it would be more humane to seize Muslim children before they learn to follow Mommy and Daddy’s footsteps and vow to do their part in wiping Jews off the face off the earth, I’m not sure. Sometimes I think that sort of education can border on child abuse (Muslim-produced propaganda glorifies children who want to become suicide bombers), so perhaps in some cases…yes?

            • buddyglass March 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

              Ignoring your absurdly hyperbolic characterization of Muslims, most especially those living in the United States, Rick’s argument against allowing gay couples to adopt was premised on the spiritual welfare of the child and not what harm that child might grow up to cause others.

              Based on that logic, on what basis should heterosexual two-parent atheist households be allowed to adopt? Or, for that matter, politically and socially conservative Mormons? In one case you have parents who are likely to instill in their children a hatred of Christianity, and in the other you have parents who are likely to instill the false belief that they are Christians.

              What about two-parent heterosexual households that claim Christ but also ascribe to universalism or some other heterodox theological position? What about Jewish families? Who gets to decide which families are good to adopt and which aren’t?

        • Lauren Bertrand March 12, 2014 at 1:50 am #

          Rick Wilson, Evangelical Christians were saying the exact same thing about children in interracial marriages 30 years ago. We’re not all so forgetful, and that’s probably why more and more are seeing it as a wonderful, liberating, and just thing to be “outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity”. Even if your hyperbole about children from gay parents burning in hell was true (as though none attend the “right” churches), aren’t you putting a disproportionate amount of weight on the “sins of the father(s)”?

          • buddyglass March 12, 2014 at 9:20 am #

            “aren’t you putting a disproportionate amount of weight on the “sins of the father(s)”

            I suspect its not the sinfulness of the same-sex relationship he sees as dooming adoptive children but the worldview that goes with it. But I’m just speculating. If that’s the case, though, then, in terms of spiritual outcomes, children raised by same-sex parents should be no worse off than those raised by outspoken atheists.

            • Esther O'Reilly March 12, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

              It can’t be coincidental that children raised by gay/lesbian couples often “turn out to be” gay themselves. If homosexuality were truly, completely innate, there should be no environmental correlation at all.

              • buddyglass March 13, 2014 at 12:39 am #

                Source? I’m familiar with the Schumm and Cameron papers, but they have serious issues. Multiple others reject the claim that the children of same-sex parents are more likely to be gay themselves.

                If that were true, though, some possible explanations:

                1. Children raised by heterosexual couples have the same rate of same-sex attraction but are nevertheless less likely to self-identify as “gay” because the environments in which they were raised are less affirming of homosexuality.

                2. Children raised by same-sex couples are often biologically related to one of the parents. If same-sex attraction were heritable then we would expect a child with a same-sex attracted parent to be more likely than usual to experience same-sex attraction herself.

    • Nell Parker March 11, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      Is a homosexual couple worse than bleak orphanages and the failed foster care system? Some of these kids have no one to love them.

  8. Ken Temple March 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    should have been, “I’ve heard many say “everybody’s doing it.”

    • Ken Temple March 11, 2014 at 6:41 am #

      Rick Wilson wrote:
      “James, his evidence is that he actually believers what Jesus says. Single parenthood IS a tragedy, and one that the church is specifically tasked with helping. . . . ”

      Yes, thank you Rick. Jesus defined marriage in Matthew 19:1-6; and quoted from Genesis 2:24 and alluded to Genesis 1:1 and 1:26-28 and 5:2

      “He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.”

      There are no privileges denied to homosexuals; rather they are trying to get privileges that don’t belong to them by changing language and meaning. They can live together if they want and will their inheritance to their partner if they want. Homosexuals living together as sexual partners is immoral, but they are free to do that in the privacy of their homes. It is they who bring the issue out of the bedroom and are forcing their selfishness onto the public. But they are not married. Civil unions are lawful, but even they are immoral.

      It is unfortunate that the public and younger generation sees the inabilities of homosexual couples to get married as “restrictions” and “penalties” and “discriminatory” (S. Smith’s comments below) – they in reality are not; but the homosexual political agenda has affectively framed the argument in those terms.

      The problem is calling something evil as ‘ok” and acceptable by society. It is inherently wrong.

  9. Bob Wilson March 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    I’ve lived in Dallas for thirty years now. I’ve always found Texans to be SCINOs–social conservatives in name only. Divorce and drug use are rampant.

    Texans are Fox news conservatives, meaning they are right-wing nationalists. That’s very different from social or religious conservatism. There is still a veneer of that Ol’time religion but it doesn’t fool anyone.

    • Ian Shaw March 11, 2014 at 11:32 am #

      Which is peculular because I don’t believe Jesus wants us to be nationalists. Or at least blind-nationalists.

  10. Andrew Orlovsky March 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Statistics show that the biggest indicator of whether a “Christian” kid will lose his faith as an adult is the absence of the Father in the home. With large numbers of divorces and out-of-wedlock births in the South, it no surprise that we’re starting to see a huge nosedive in the number of Southerners who adhere to Evangelical Christianity.

  11. Curt Day March 11, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    Denny,
    When was cultural Christianity alive?

  12. S Smith March 11, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    it is possible that a LOT of Americans from all over the country may simply want for gay Americans to have the same civil opportunities in their lives as straight Americans . . . they perceive the civil restrictions placed on a gay person and his or her partner to be genuine forms of discrimination.

    And that many Christian people are beginning themselves to abandon the penalties imposed on gay couples as discriminatory and are now speaking up in support of the same civil rights for the gay community as for other Americans,
    that is likely the reason YOUNGER people who are Christians are becoming advocates for those who have been deprived of rights in the past.

    Other Christians who are more conservative are adamantly opposed to any form of even civil marriage in their states, and are unwilling to see changes made in the civil realm likely for fear of looking as though they now approve of gay marriage. (?) I don’t know that for certain, but another possibility is that they famously argue for status-quo using the ‘slippery slope’ example.

    In any case, younger Americans appear to want change. Even conservative Christian younger Americans who are able to promote civil unions for the sake of the freedom from discrimination, although these young Christians still do not accept gay religious marriages.

    some thoughts . . .

  13. Stephen Beck March 11, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    Denny, you mention that support of gay marriage is no longer restricted to “urban centers” but I think there is still a large urban-rural divide here. In the North Carolina vote that upheld traditional marriage a couple years ago, only around 6 counties had a majority in favor of allowing gay marriage – the 6 counties with the biggest cities (Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Asheville, Greenville). There is definitely an age divide (Greenville is an otherwise small town with a midsized university) and the vote in every town or city is a lot different than what it would have been 10 years ago, but the cities are leading the way.

    • Lauren Bertrand March 12, 2014 at 1:43 am #

      Stephen Beck raises a good point. Even in the “liberal” “blue” “Northern” states, support for gay marriage is overwhelmingly concentrated in the urban centers. The difference, of course, is that, after deducting the urban centers from the state’s total population, you’re left with a minority in most northern states–not necessarily the case in Mississippi or Arkansas.

      Then again, Evangelical Christians constitute less than 50% of the population in pretty much all the northern states; in the South they are usually at least 60% and sometimes 80% of the population. Mainline Christianity, though on the decline pretty much everywhere, still holds a much greater sway in the Midwest and Northeast.

  14. Joe Jones March 11, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    Denny, great post. One question I would ask is why you say cultural Christianity is dead. It seems rather to me that as the culture looks less less like orthodox Christianity, so, too, will “cultural Christianity.” That is to say, it’s not dead so much as it is quickly changing its face to keep pace with the “progressive culture.” Simply put, in order to truly be “cultural,” cultural Christianity has had to change the name of the game from moralism to progressivism. The result, then, is that the new brand of cultural Christianity is easier to distinguish from true Christianity than the old one was.

  15. Paul Reed March 11, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    For many social conservatives, the whole anti-gay-marriage and anti-abortion movements in the US are really hard to support. The anti-gay-marriage movement says, “Let’s try to have a little less perversion than those liberals, or at least try to slow down the move toward total perversion”. And the anti-abortion movement says, “Let’s try to kill a few less babies than those hard-core pro-aborts, or at least do it in a cleaner and more humane method”. I don’t think many of us want the movements to die, but it’s going to be hard to shed tears when they go.

  16. buddyglass March 11, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    “the South is no longer a cultural Zion in the midst of Babylon”

    As if it ever were…

  17. Suzanne McCarthy March 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Cultural Christianity used to defend slavery. Zion?? Or Babylon??

    • Ian Shaw March 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      Let me guess, you defend the notion that religion is the cause for all (majority) of wars on the planet right?

      • Lauren Bertrand March 12, 2014 at 1:39 am #

        Ian Shaw, just because you oppose one grotesque, laughable distortion (that the South was ever more virtuous than the rest of the country) doesn’t mean you support another.

        • Ian Shaw March 12, 2014 at 8:28 am #

          An explaination for your point might be good, as I didn’t say the south was more virtuous than the rest of the country….

          • buddyglass March 13, 2014 at 12:47 am #

            Lauren’s comment was with respect to your question to Suzanne. Suzanne suggested the South was closer to Babylon than Zion. Based on this, you asked whether she also believes religion is responsible for the majority of wars. Lauren’s response was intended to reject your implication that the latter (religion causing wars) follows from the former (South being Babylon). Her response might have been written as follows:

            “Ian Shaw, that Suzanne opposes one grotesque, laughable distortion (i.e. that the South was ever more virtuous than the rest of the country) doesn’t mean she supports another (i.e. that religion is the cause for the majority of wars).”

            • Ian Shaw March 13, 2014 at 8:13 am #

              True, but my comment was sarcastic, thought I should have put a sarcasm alert with it. For it’s proven that religion accounts for less than 10% of all record wars on earth.

  18. Ian Shaw March 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    As a Christian I feel compelled to say this. It should be evident to us that we have shown how double-minded we can be on things. Granted, life should be a struggle and if you are not failing in at least 1 area of your life, there’s a bigger problem.

    The church (collectively), we, have let marriage be deconstructed and marginalized over the past 50 years. Christian marriage mirrors secular marriage more now than in any part of history, with regard to divorce and adultery and abandonment.

    With this in mind, it is supremely frustrating to me to see my brothers and sisters try to move heaven and earth (politically) to try and save what shred of the sacrament of marriage they have left to cling to, when we (collectively) have been destroying it more so than anything secular every could.

    This is merely fueling the fire to those that disagree with our view. The church/we (collectively have destroyed our witness for marriage. It needs to be rebuilt, but that restoration process cannot take place in a courtroom or a legislative floor. In need to happen inside everyone of our hearts and within our local church families.

    Answer me this, what is more destructive to the family unit: legalized homosexual marriage, or a father that denies/neglects/abandons his Biblical given responsibilities over his wife and children?

    I may be all over the map on this or way out in left field. But the way I see it, this issue shouldn’t be the, “be all, end all”.

    Am I in favor of homosexual marriage? No I am not. Would I ever vote for it in an election ballot? Nope, probably not. Does this make me a bigot? Logically no, politically probably. Do I believe there are more pressing issues within the church that have a far great weight and force over restoring the churches role in promoting and educating men and women to have awesome, Godly families? Yes. Are those issues a “hill to die on”? Yes they are. And it starts with all of us.

  19. buddyglass March 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    For the record, Gallup puts support for same-sex marriage at 43% (vs. 51% opposed) in “the South” as a whole. That was in July of last year.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/163730/back-law-legalize-gay-marriage-states.aspx

    • Ian Shaw March 12, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      Buddy, polls can be very useful tools, but it’s pretty common that at least 15-20% of people lie when taking polls. So take it with a grain of salt.

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