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SBC has some bad news for itself

Timothy Kincaid

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:



Ben In Oakland
May 15th, 2012 | LINK

Love the pollster, hate the polls.

May 15th, 2012 | LINK

Very interesting. I know they’ve already thrown out many Baptists (and whole churches) that believe in evolution, but I still can’t wait to see whether the denomination I was baptized in evolves on this issue or ups the expulsions until what’s left is too small to worry about.

And thanks for coming back. All the articles on BTB are thoughtful and well done, but looking over the few I’ve bothered to save on my hard drive for future rereading, your name is on most of them. Keep it up!

May 15th, 2012 | LINK

It’s always nice to see the ayatollahs of the SBC get their comuppence.

May 15th, 2012 | LINK

Above all else the Southern Baptist Convention is a BUSINESS and the CEO’s see the writing on the wall. They’re now trying to figure out how they can walk the fine line between the anti-gay theology that they’ve so deeply invested in and remaining viable into the next generation. Hey, they were able to grow to be the largest protestant denomination in America without refuting their pro-slavery position and only apologized for it in the 1990’s so perhaps they’ll find a way to muddle through the next 125 years before they apologize for their demonization and oppression of gays.

Disclaimer: I was raised in a Southern Baptist family in Mississippi and my father is a retired SBC pastor. I know from wence I speak.

May 15th, 2012 | LINK

What I find most interesting is the young and the urban.

The young I believe is because of media influences. There are a number of portrayals in the media that depict LGBT as completely normal. Shows like Glee, Modern Family, and even a transgender Miss America contestant.

And the biggest consumers of television media are in fact the youth of this country.

The urban is similar. When you mix a whole bunch of people together chances are that there are going to be LGBT folks in there. And when that happens your tolerance level rises for different groups.

What this spells is that the religious bigots days are numbered.

May 15th, 2012 | LINK

In my Southern Baptist youth, the group stood for the absolute autonomy of the individual before God, and for absolute separation of church and state. They were behind the venerable organization, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. (Of course, there was a strong anti-Roman Catholic slant to these stands.)

Then the right-wing took advantage of the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention was a pure democracy — whoever came to the annual gathering could vote. Loads of messengers (delegates) were bused in from fundamentalist churches and voted as a bloc for authoritarian-minded officers. Within three or four conventions, the right-wing was in charge, purging the seminary faculties and convention boards of moderates, and insisting that congregations toe the official line.

The old Southern Baptist Convention was no more. Jimmie Carter and many others left. But what the churches did locally didn’t matter — all the spokesmen were fundamentalist in religion and right-wing in politics. They controlled the microphone. It’s taken decades, but the extremism has gradually alienated many sincere church members. Numbers and influence are falling.

May 16th, 2012 | LINK

“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.”

I can only say that times have radically changed in my lifetime.

May 16th, 2012 | LINK

When *I* went to church, I sure as hell didn’t want to hear about gay people, or politics, or how great the Pastor was or that I should give them money.

That kind of crap is not what a church is for. “Sodomy Sunday?” Yeah, I’d of got up and walked out, and made a point of telling them why, too. As it was, I left for other reasons before all the anti-gay and “values voter” crap even started from the pulpit.

But then, evidently, I’m not the only one who got sick of the bullshit.

May 16th, 2012 | LINK

@Mudduck – thanks for the perspective.

as for “it may just be that Jacksonville Baptists are a whole separate brand of stupid”… I lived there and can say “Amen!” to this assertion. In the ’90s, the Baptists and the Klan (I think they got a 2-for-1 membership deal) would take down the license plate numbers of any attendees to Pride events and outside Gay hangouts/bars.

F Young
May 16th, 2012 | LINK

Here’s a related story:

How to win a culture war and lose a generation

Richard Rush
May 16th, 2012 | LINK

Thanks to F Young’s link, it’s nice to see it finally documented that the perceived defining ideology of Christianity today has become the persecution of gay people.

May 17th, 2012 | LINK

The question “do you believe that homsexuality is a sin?” is a nonsense. If they mean sexual behaviour with a person of the same sex, then they should say so. And then ask if the answer applies regardless of whether it is a committed relationship or merely casual sex. “Homosexaility” can no more be a sin that blue eyes. it’s behaviour that is or isn’t sinful, whatever that means.

Ben in Oakland
May 17th, 2012 | LINK

Brian, you’re wrong on that. I have it on the authority of the only infallible man on the planet , speaking ex cathedra from his belly button (take THAT, Jubal Hawshaw)that homosexuality is an objective, intrinsic moral disorder with a an inherent tendency towards grave moral evil.

May 17th, 2012 | LINK

Brian: I think this is applicable… “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

In other words, *wanting* to sin is, itself, sinful. Now, that’s OK, because gay sex isn’t inherently sinful… but it makes sense that many people who believe it IS sinful would believe that being gay is too even if you stay celibate.

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