The Barna Group has released a new survey that explores the spiritual life of gay and lesbian adults. The study examines “20 faith-oriented attributes” and how homosexuals and heterosexuals differ from one another on these attributes. Here are some of the findings of the survey. Heterosexuals are more likely than homosexuals to hold an orthodox view of God, to attend church, to read the Bible, and to pray regularly. Homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to be unchurched, to have an unorthodox view of God, and to identify themselves as “liberal” on social issues.
What particularly piqued my interest was George Barna’s commentary on the survey. He argues that some popular stereotypes about the spiritual life of gays and lesbians are simply wrong. He writes:
“People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts. A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.
“The data indicate that millions of gay people are interested in faith but not in the local church and do not appear to be focused on the traditional tools and traditions that represent the comfort zone of most churched Christians. Gay adults clearly have a different way of interpreting the Bible on a number of central theological matters, such as perspectives about God. Homosexuals appreciate their faith but they do not prioritize it, and they tend to consider faith to be individual and private rather than communal.
“It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles â€“ but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”
Barna thinks it significant that the study establishes that a majority of homosexuals are spiritual persons. For him, it’s important because the statistic blows up a stereotype that portrays gay people as non-religious. But I find this observation to be totally non-controversial. To say that most homosexuals consider themselves to be religious (or even Christian) is no surprise. Most Americans consider themselves to be Christian, but of course it doesn’t actually follow that they are. There are many sinners who think themselves to be Christian in some sense, but a close look reveals that they are not Christian in any biblical sense.
The problem is that large segments of the population simply don’t understand what Christianity is. In fact, this study says that both gay and straight people believe in similar proportion that “good people can earn their way into Heaven through their goodness.” Misunderstandings about Christianity abound, and it’s no surprise that the rate of misunderstanding between heterosexual and homosexual populations would be similar. This doesn’t make the homosexual population more Christian than we previously thought. It does reveal, however, that the population in general is more confused about Christianity than we would like to admit.