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Breaking ground in the heart of our opposition

Timothy Kincaid

August 13th, 2013

Our community has gradually gained support in Mainstream Christianity, to the point where some more liberal denominations and pastors are taking up the mantle of advocacy in areas where there are not strong gay political action groups. And the support of churches has proven to be invaluable in such situations as the Minnesota marriage battle.

But we have, until recently, seen a sharp divide between liberal churches or the nominally Christian on one side, and the hard-core, pew-warming, born-again, biblical literalists on the other. But a study out of Baylor University has identified a new group which they call Evangelical Ambivalents who are starting to stake out a central position. (phys.org)

For their study—”How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence towards Gays and Lesbians”—researchers analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, a random sample of 1,714 individuals across the country. Researchers found that 24 percent of evangelicals fit into the ambivalent category, supporting gay civil unions even though they are morally opposed to homosexuality. The survey, designed by Baylor University scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization, included more than 300 items dealing with religion and the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the American public.

And these are not Easter Sunday Christians or liberals displaced in an evangelical church. They are part of the conservative evangelical fold who are finding a way to balance both their church and their social conscience.

Other research findings about Ambivalent Evangelicals:

    They are similar in biblical literalism and religious practice to those who oppose civil unions, while the 35 percent who are Culture Progressives—with positive attitudes toward homosexuality—are less involved in such activities as church attendance, although they pray privately.
    Ambivalents are not as politically conservative as Gay Rights Opponents, but they are more politically conservative than Cultural Progressives.
    They are more likely to be married, have lower levels of education, be biblical literalists, and attend church frequently than Cultural Progressives.
    They are more likely to believe that sexuality is innate than Gay Rights Opponents, but less likely than Cultural Progressives to do so.
    They are more likely to identify themselves as “born-again” than Cultural Progressives are.

If, as this study suggests, one quarter of evangelical parishioners are finding themselves in support of gay rights, the end to our biggest struggle is not far off.

UPDATE: The Atlantic takes on a similar theme, discussing the change in the way that religion in American interacts with gay people.

Comments

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typical
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Not sure if I’m allowed to comment….I may be censored…

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

I’m not sure that I would qualify the acceptance of LGBT persons into Evangelical churches as “our biggest struggle”.

Again, I believe this has more to do with the personal perspective of the author, and as such is unwarranted.

Can we honestly stack up the acceptance into a religious minority in a country governed by civil law where gains on civil liberties are occurring at a dramatic pace as a “bigger struggle” than, for example, overturning institutionally enforced death sentences for homosexuals in the developing world? Or the recent developments in Russia? This is our biggest struggle?

To me, an absolute precondition to this mode of thinking requires a personal vested interest in evangelical Christianity.

This is actually rather offensive to many of us who don’t adhere to that narrow perspective, and the closing statement of prioritization leaves me with serious concerns about the objectivity of the author.

And yes, typical – all hail the sword of the editor Tim. Beware, for he is averse to criticisms and quick to censor.

Hunter
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Andrew –

I think you’re right that acceptance of gays by evangelical Christians is not our “biggest struggle,” but I think it’s unwise to discount their influence in American politics. Just think about what group is essentially deciding on Republican presidential candidates, and the lamentable fact of the Teabagger Congress. They’re highly motivated, and they vote. Because of that, I think reversing the past trends toward anti-gay laws, at least in those portions of the country where their influence is dominant, is going to be a tough battle. Yes, they are a minority, but a very vocal, powerful minority.

As for the study itself, it’s a spot-check. I’ll wait for some trends to develop before I get all warm and bubbly.

Rowan Bristol
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Honestly, I can’t care about placating these people, especially since they’re an aging demographic that is offering precious little to the next generation. Just beat them in the courts, expose the harm their passive bigotry causes, let them die out, and help our brothers and sisters worldwide who are in serious dire straits.

Which is more christian, making sure my bigoted grandma likes me, or getting a 14 year old lesbian the fuck out of moscow?

jutta
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Andrew – There can certainly be disagreement about what is the biggest struggle of the gay movement in the US (or worldwide) at this time, but why is the author’s personal perspective on the topic unwarranted? This is no news-agency and no archive, it’s a blog. Blogging is all about opinions. People start blogging because they have opinions and other people comment because they agree or disagree.

Rob
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

I would like to pose the question as to why you feel it necessary to denigrate liberal Christians as “nominal”? I appreciate the inroads we are making into this segment of society (religious) but wonder why the author buys into the far right myth that liberal or accepting Christians are somehow not real or just barely Christians. This seems like a Freudian slip and that the author believes any Christains that are accepting of us are somehow not real Christians. There are plenty of pew warming, born again left leaning Christians and you do those who have supported us a huge disservice by accepting the description of the right against them. And just an FYI, ALL Christians are considered “Born Again”. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their savior are born again through Christ. One should really understand these things before writing about them.

Priya Lynn
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Very interesting…

Hyhybt
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

I remember seeing 20% for the same group a while back, so 24 sounds about right. A clarification on that last line would be helpful; I strongly suspect “biggest struggle” is not referring to something so narrow as those objecting to it are reading, but the new and silly policy of not responding to comments makes it hard to know.

Priya Lynn
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

There’s a new policy of not responding to comments now? When did that happen?

Timothy Kincaid
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

yeah I’m trying to stay out of the comments section when I write a commentary. It became a major burden and I simply don’t have the time.

Besides, the comments section should be where readers get a chance to express their views (unless – on rare occasion – we limit, restrict, or close comments), not see me rehash mine.

Timothy Kincaid
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

As noted in an UPDATE above, The Atlantic has an article addressing a similar theme.

Nathaniel
August 16th, 2013 | LINK

Rob, I can see why “born again” is a distinction. In my experience, liberal circles are more likely to include those that find value in Jesus’ teachings, but are still dissecting the meaning of his death and resurrection, as well as those that are abandoning terminology that has collected oppressive connotations (ex: in some places, progressive Christians are calling themselves ‘Followers of Jesus’ because of the imperialist associations those cultures have with ‘Christian’).

However, I do agree with you that ‘nominally’ seems misused. In one sense, all Christians are ‘nominally’ so, in so much as we each claim the name, no matter what we actually believe or have professed. Timothy, I admire your desire to give space for the reader, but comment sections are also good places to provide finer explanations for confusing, but justifiable, broad strokes used in the initial article. Obviously, if you find yourself repeating the article, there’s a problem. However, statements that are clear to you aren’t always going to be clear to the reader, and providing that clarification is incredibly useful to debate.

Sandhorse
August 16th, 2013 | LINK

Nathaniel,

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in your first paragraph. But at the same time, you have only scratched the surface.

Liberal and Left-wing ecclesiastical camps seem to have no difficulty at all in integrating almost any homosexuality with Christian faith. What’s perhaps not so evident is this: The ease with which liberal and Left-wing church groups climb aboard every GLBT band wagon may have as much to do with their allegiance to sociopolitical agendas they share with liberal and Left-wing secularists as with anything particularly Christian. It may be nothing much more than a succumbing to the suffocating Zeitgeist.

I was raised in a fundamental church; as I grew up I was labeled as somewhat of a ‘progressive’ Christian. Today, in my ‘open and affirming’ church, I am considered a ‘fundamentalist’.

The appropriateness of the term ‘nominal’ not withstanding; I think a number of liberal denominations; can only loosely be called Christian. When you can go into a Christian church and find a Budda and Star of David skirting a Cross, you know something has gone wrong. As coarse as it sounds for me to say that, I place the lion share of the blame on ‘conservative’, ‘evangelical’, ‘fundamentalist’ churches.

Years of rejecting their own out of the fold has created its own consequence. The use of the Bible as a weapon rather then a doorway will be something the church will have to answer for.

But at the same time, because of bible abuse and mistreatment from Christians who should have known better; ‘progressive’ churches ignore whole portions of biblical teaching if they are considered to sound too harsh, exclusive, or even just uncomfortable.

These days, young evangelicals Christians come out of the closet after decades of a progressively more homosexually permissive society. Yet they’re filled with fear, hurt, frustration and anger. They unleash their fury against their upbringing in evangelicalism; so many are so angry that they throw out the baby with the bath water. They don’t want anything more to do with evangelical Christianity.

But their bitterness bespeaks an unrequited love. And sadly, they then fall for all sorts of shallow and sham spirituality so long as it’s pro-GLBT.

My interaction with GLBT churchgoers is a mixed bag. Far too many see Christianity as one road among many with the same destination. But such a belief is actually a rejection of Christianity. You can’t be a Christian (a.k.a. follower of Christ) if you reject the primary message of the one your following. And this isn’t a ‘who’s-in-and-who’s-out’ argument. It’s simply a matter of fact. I can call myself a skydiver, but if I’ve never jumped from a plane, am I a truly a skydiver?

I’ll end this by clarifying that I don’t think liberal = ‘nominal’ Christian. But, my experience leads me to believe that a majority of people, who identify as liberal, have a woeful misunderstanding /ignorance of the actual gospel message.

Priya Lynn
August 16th, 2013 | LINK

La tee da.

Timothy Kincaid
August 16th, 2013 | LINK

But we have, until recently, seen a sharp divide between liberal churches or the nominally Christian on one side, and the hard-core, pew-warming, born-again, biblical literalists on the other.

One the one side we have had supporters:

* “liberal churches” – those who tend to hold a more liberal theology and often a more liberal political bent. These include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and – to a lesser, but still important degree – the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Friends (Quakers), along with others.

* “the nominally Christian” – those who identify as Christian but don’t express much observance. These may fall anywhere on the liberal-conservative spectrum, but they seldom attend services and are not particularly adherent to the doctrines and dogmas of their faith.

It appears that some are reading the “or” to mean “also known as”.

While I can see how that it could be read that way, this was not my intent. In the above quote, “or” is meant to mean “or” as in “A or B on one side and C on the other”.

In retrospect, “and also” might have been clearer. But clunkier. Maybe an entire restructure is the only way to be clear:

But we have, until recently, had a sharp divide between those who have been supportive (generally consisting of either liberal churches or the nominally Christian) and those who have been opponents (generally those who might best be described as hard-core, pew-warming, born-again, biblical literalists on the other).

I hope that clears up any confusion

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