The Atlantic has a fascinating article chronicling what is perceived to be “a quiet gay rights revolution” in American churches. The thesis is that churches have become more and more accepting of gay marriage, even those in evangelical denominations.
I think the article has a number of disputable points. It's very telling that the author views the “Wild Goose Festival” as a barometer of evangelical sentiment. I would wager that many Wild Goosers would bristle at being labelled evangelical, much less being treated as a poster-boy for the movement. My hunch is that the author's survey of evangelicalism leaves a bit to be desired.
Nevertheless, as a lifelong Southerner, there is one paragraph that caught my attention. Here it is:
It's no coincidence that the two sects most hostile to gay marriage are concentrated in the American South — the region where same-sex marriage polls the worst. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, as of March 2013, 43 percent of Southerners support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry (up from 25 percent in 2004), as opposed to 62 percent of Northeasterners, 53 percent of Midwesterners and 58 percent of Westerners. If the campaign for gay marriage is to convert this region, it will have to do so through its institutions — primarily its conservative churches, black and white alike.
Notice the figures for the South. It's true that support for gay marriage is still a minority view in the American South. But don't let that diminish the fact that in less than ten years, support for gay marriage has increased by almost 20 points. That figure indicates that there has been a sea change in the South on this issue. Gay marriage support is becoming less and less a regional issue with support predictably dividing between red and blue states. Even in the reddest of states, things are changing rapidly. This shows that a generational change is afoot, and in ten years support for gay marriage will likely be the majority view from sea to shining sea.
This is but one more indication of a long trend. Christians in the South are witnessing the disolution of the old way–one in which many Christian values were reinforced by the wider culture. That day–that South–has gone with the wind. That means that Christians who have grown accustomed to ease in Babylon will once again have to learn what it means to be sojourners. And that may not be an altogether bad thing.