Our views on gay marriage, abortion, religion tilt toward our friends

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Surveys show our attitudes on touchy social issues are shaped by whether these impact our friends and family.

No matter how the Supreme Court eventually rules on gay marriage rights, most Americans have dialed up the “Friends” theme song.

When it comes to gay marriage, abortion, religious tension and other touchy issues today, we’re “there” for our friends, supportive rain or shine.

But not so much for strangers.

A new survey from LifeWay Research finds Americans with LGBT friends are twice as likely to agree that same sex couples should have the right to marry.

The rapid expansion of legal gay marriage to 37 states and the District of Columbia also may have made a difference in attitudes: People discovered gay co-workers and acquaintances they already know and like — but may not have known are gay – are now newlyweds.

“When it comes to support for gay marriage, a lot of it depends on who you know,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, in a press release Thursday (April 16) on the survey of 2,000 U.S. adults. “Those who say they have gay or lesbian friends are the most open to gay marriage.”

The friend-factor is true on sexuality issues, too.

The Public Religion Research Institute, in a recent study on millennials, found they accept their friends and often exempt them from judgments they might make of strangers

The PRRI survey found most (79 percent) of women who say they have had an abortion say it should be legal in some or all cases, compared to 55 percent of millennials overall. Among those who say a friend or close family member had an abortion, 63 percent hold this view.

The “friends” affect is true on attitudes toward other religions, as well.

A 2014 Pew Research survey found U.S. adults feel most warmly about people who share their religion or those they know as family, friends or co-workers. Even tiny groups such as Jews got a boost on the social thermometer from their ties with Christians. People who say they personally know someone of another religious group rated them 10 to 20 points higher.

Even so, no matter how wide spread our friend networks, there’s no guarantee that the culture — or the law that often lags behind it — will move to our personal grove. The friends-and-family tilt is irrelevant– at least theoretically – for those whose roles require they stick to doctrine or law.

The new LifeWay data also looked at a separate survey of Protestant pastor’s views on same-sex marriage, It found 80 percent oppose it, a statistical tie with the finding of 83 percent in 2010.

“Church leaders have traditionally been seen as the champions of all things moral in society,” said Stetzer. “As public perceptions of morality change, pastors find themselves in an increasingly unpopular position.”

Will the Supreme Court justices find themselves in the uncomfortable spot? Will their personal experiences in life color their views?  Do they hear that tune…

“I’ll be there for you

(When the rain starts to pour)

I’ll be there for you

(Like I’ve been there before)

I’ll be there for you

(‘Cause you’re there for me too)”

  • Ted

    In related news, water has been proved wet, and religious fanatics have been found to require scapegoats.

  • opheliart

    ZZ at the top …

    I don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, don’t take drugs of any form (including injected meat, poultry, pork … as I don’t eat these) … so, the hell of my unbridled tongue is beyond reproach—wouldn’t you say? 😉

  • James Carr

    I know several gay people, coworkers, neighbors, etc., and the subject of gay marriage has come up several times. They don’t mind that I am against it, even a few of them are, and the debate never gets as outrageous as it does here. It seems like more females, straight and gay, are pro gay marriage than the males, who’d rather leave the whole mess up to the activists…..who they’d rather not be associated with.

    So having family or friends that act opposite of yourself does not always endear you to their cause, it gives you a personal reference but does not always involve conversion of thought.

  • James Carr

    Tee hee ?

  • bqrq

    and all the people said AMEN

    Julian – thanks for your fine exposition of the truth. Keep up the good work.

  • opheliart

    Good grief, Julian … your exposé sounds like the Secrets of the Vatican!

    *Sorry, Cathy Lynn, I just couldn’t resist.

  • Doc Anthony

    Actually, when it comes to family and friends, ALL controversies tend to be “handled differently.” It’s just the way things go. Relationships matter.

    But for Christians (and non-Christians), that can create a challenge. Do you just act like everything’s A-Okay, and keep quiet, even when you see a loved one or close frined getting into serious sin, trouble, or addiction of some kind?

    Do you not even gently try to let them what your own belief or position is on the matter? Do you start watering down your own belief system (and for Christians, your own Bibles) just to avoid dealing with the fact that something very serious or damaging is developing?

    Are you busy trying to avoid dealing with the tension that may result if you discuss things Scripturally?

    These are not easy questions for anybody. But they are real. How will you answer them?

  • MarkE

    julian penrod – Nary a citation for any of your “undisputed facts” was offered. Much as those who note that simply pointing to an object will make children believe you are authoritative about said object, the same technique is used by fear-mongers and demagogues who have not factual date or research to back up their arguments; just “Jesus.” Not that Jesus even said anything of the sort, but that doesn’t matter, does it. No wonder your comments have you on the brink of banishment – there’s no meat on them bones!