May 15th, 2012
For many years, conservative Christians have played a word game with themselves and the public. When it came to discussions about sin and love, there was a careful distinction between the person and the behavior. They could joyously love the sinner (but not his sin) so much that they longed for his soul to know God (and give up all that sin). But when it came to individual rights and civil liberties, that distinction evaporated. When talking about whether someone should have job security or the right to rent an apartment, suddenly the Bible declared “it’s a sin”.
This allowed conservatives the comfort of convincing themselves that the American public still agreed with them, still deferred to them on matters of religious conscience. Should Connecticut allow marriage or should Lincoln choose to ban anti-gay employment discrimination, well at least they know that they are accommodating immorality.
But now they are losing the sin debate. After decades of seeking intentional civilly enforced discrimination against gay people because “the Biiiiible says it’s a siiiiiiiin!!”, the public isn’t buying it.
Gallup, for the third straight year, has found that Americans find “gay and lesbian relations” to be “morally acceptable”.
But that’s the liberal secular press, you know, so not all that impressive to conservative Christians. And besides what is “gay and lesbian relations”? We are talking about homosexual behavior, not relations!
But now LifeWay Research (a project of the Southern Baptist Convention) has conducted a poll about American attitudes about homosexuality. And it is most decidedly not good news. Or, at least, not for those who have convinced themselves that real Americans know in their heart of hearts that sin is sin and Baptists can be trusted to tell you what it is.
They didn’t ask about “gays” or “relations” or “morally acceptable”. They asked about sin. Homosexual behavior and sin. And they discovered that a majority of Americans no longer believe that homosexuality is sin.
Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?
44% – Yes
43% – No
13% – Not sure
And the news went downhill from there. Not only are Americans split on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, it turns out that being anti-gay is a hindrance to church growth.
If you were considering visiting or joining a church, would knowing that the church taught that homosexual behavior was sinful impact your decision positively or negatively or have no impact?
Who cares? I mean, really, do that many people really decide their church based on it’s views on homosexuality? Really?
Yep. A whopping 58% said that it would impact their decision and the split didn’t go to the anti-gays. While a third of respondents wouldn’t consider a church’s views on homosexuality when making their selection, 36% said such teachings would negatively impact their decision while only 26% considered it a positive.
And as for evangelizing, it turns out that the non-churched really do care about Teh Ghey and they don’t want to hear you preach against it. Only 3% said they’d prefer a church that is anti-gay, while 72% of Americans who never attend a place of worship would rather not sit through Sodomy Sunday, thank you very much.
And even the good ol’ fashioned literalist believers aren’t as committed as they used to be. Just over half of them would consider a ‘homosexual behavior is sin’ stance to be a positive factor in their church selection.
And, of course, there are the discouraging facts that younger people and urban people are increasingly less tolerant of anti-gay theology, along with city dwellers and the educated. The future looks grim for the anti-gay moralists.
But we’ll have to see how this report impacts the Southern Baptist Convention. They are not exactly known to be theological trend setters. And many Baptists possess an ability to choose what they wish to believe, irrespective of, oh, polls or studies or reports or nonsense like facts and are quite convinced that they speak for real Americans.
For example, the good Baptist folk in Jacksonville, Florida, are fighting a proposal to ban employment discrimination.
The measure will “further infringe on the religious freedoms of Christians, and the majority of mainstream Americans who do not accept such alternative lifestyles as normal.”
Of course, the Baptists in Jacksonville also believe that there is no “protection under the ordinance for followers of Jesus Christ”, that it would impact “clubs, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts” and that firing gay people is a “Christian belief”, so it may just be that Jacksonville Baptists are a whole separate brand of stupid. (To be fair, two Jacksonville Baptist churches are endorsing the measure.)
Ultimately, I’m guessing that there will be a lot of talk about “doing what’s right, not what’s popular” while quietly toning down the rhetoric. And in, oh a few decades or so, the SBC will apologize for “failing to affirm the civil rights of the homosexual person”.
Meanwhile, in other news, wackadoodle extraordinairre Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association had this advice for presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
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On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
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