Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

Evangelicals are shifting on same-sex marriage, but it’s no avalanche

To hear some commentators talk, debates on LGBT issues are over and conservatives have lost. But such predictions are premature.  (Image credit: http://bit.ly/1GXzzyo)

To hear some commentators talk, debates on LGBT issues are over and conservatives have lost. But such predictions are premature. (Image credit: http://bit.ly/1GXzzyo)

Pardon the yawn.

The 1.7 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) on Tuesday voted to officially approve of same-sex marriage, an announcement that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the mainline Protestant denomination’s trajectory. Perhaps a more substantial but less widely reported story was the decision by City Church, San Francisco’s largest evangelical congregation, to affirm LGBT couples.

Evangelicals are among the most stalwart opponents to LGBT marriage, but a number of evangelical congregations have publicly shifted their stance in the last year. Among them are Seattle’s Eastlake Community Church, Nashville’s GracePointe Church, Portland’s Christ Church, and New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California. Other prominent evangelical pastors tell me off-the-record that they are in the midst of similar conversations.

Churches aren’t the only evangelical factions inching left on matters of sexuality. Popular Christian musicians and worship leaders have either come out of the closet or publicly voiced support of LGBT equality. And evangelical publishers have released a glut of books taking progressive positions on sexuality and marriage. These stories are part of an ongoing media narrative about shifting evangelical attitudes on LGBT issues.

Whenever such stories are reported, polls are cited to show the retrenched stance of evangelicals on the matter. But it is easy to fail to read the footnotes on these surveys or to only pay attention to polls that confirm one’s bias.

The Barna Group, for example, reports that evangelicals have “become more resistant toward LGBTQ concerns on several fronts.” But Barna uses an extremely narrow nine-point definition of evangelical that is not embraced by any other major polling organization. A closer look at this study reveals that support for LGBTQ concerns has increased among every other subset of Christians, and a broader look at data from organizations such as Pew Research and Public Religion Research Institute shows evangelicals are indeed shifting. If the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide as early as this year, shifts in public opinion could quicken.

The data make clear that opposition to same-sex marriage is coming only from a small and aging subset of the Christian world, and if you follow the headlines, it feels like an invisible finger has flicked the first domino in a long row of tiles. But don’t be fooled. Evangelicals are still mostly opposed to same-sex marriage and concerned about how gay rights might infringe on religious freedom. A lot of time remains on the game clock, and much of the field is yet to be negotiated.

But the goal posts have moved. Many conservative Christian leaders and political organizations tell me that they consider same-sex marriage to be a fait accompli, and most seem to have shifted their attention away from legally banning gay marriage and now focus on churches, non-profits, and businesses.

The Southern Baptist Convention cut ties with New Heart Community Church after their pastor endorsed homosexuality, and the Evangelical Covenant Church withdrew their support of Christ Church after their pastor made similar statements. After World Vision announced they would hire persons in LGBT marriages, the swift public outcry forced them to renege. And conservative Christian organizations are pouring money and energy into religious liberty battles to protect Christian florists, cake bakers, and photographers from having to serve LGBT couples.

The jury is still out on each of these matters, and it is possible that compromises may arise. Consider, for example, how evangelicals evolved on the issue of divorce during the past three decades. As the general public became more accepting of divorce, many conservative Christians followed suit. But others found ways to be more inclusive of divorced Christians in their congregations and communities without moral affirmation of divorce itself. It seems quite possible that a similar path may be carved on sexuality.

To hear some commentators talk, debates on these matters are over and conservatives have lost. But such predictions are premature. Some evangelicals have indeed shifted on LGBT issues, but it’s no avalanche—at least not yet.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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  • Funny how we continue to make God in our own image, assuming we know best and thus negating what he instructed us in Scripture, continuing to justify doing “what is right in our own eyes.” We can love and should love all our brothers and sisters, but is it really love to say, “go ahead and live however you want to live”? That’s true no matter the issue. Gay marriage just happens to be in the headlines as though that’s the only thing that gives us identity. More Christians should be reading Wesley Hill.

  • I, for one no longer will endure the now meaningless and shameful label of “evangelical”. I am unashamedly a Bible believing, Bible preaching Fundamentalist Christian. Billy Graham and others led the way in compromise starting in the forties and I have lived long enough to see the corrupt fruit of their actions.
    There are still a few of us who know what true salvation is and think saving people from their sin is more important than making them comfortable in it.

  • The US Presbyterian church split before, on an essentially similar matter. Prior to the Civil War (1861), congregations in the South separated from those in the north and formed their own denomination, so that they could continue to support slavery (because it said so in the Bible, of course). These two reunited in the current PCUSA in 1992. Presumably, the congregations in the South were no longer so fond of slavery.

  • Yeah, funny about that.

    First God supported slavery. Then he didn’t that people owning people was really very Christian, after all..

    First God supported witch burning, then he realized that there was no such thing as a witch.

    First God supported Jew hatred, then he was thoroughly embarrassed.

    First God supported segrgeation, then we passed the civil rights act.

    First God supported women keeping silent. And yet here you are.

  • Oh, c’mon. You’re not the REAL Steven Anderson, are you? you’re not really one that supports execution for gay men, are you?

  • Barna gave up all claims to impartiality and competence when he teamed with David Barton to write a book. Barton has been almost universally panned by Christian professional historians and his ironically titled book, “The Jefferson Lies” was pulled from distribution from his own publisher for serious “factual errors”. This collaboration moves Barna into Barton’s category of propagandist instead of honest social researcher. You can read more about Barna and Barton at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/10/30/reactions-to-the-new-book-by-george-barna-and-david-barton-part-one/

  • Yes, evangelicalism will continue to loose ground and the courts will soon make this the law of the land. Yet I believe that over time this trend will see a reversal of sorts. As the church correctly responds to its wrong, hurtful behavior and language of the past, and as the theology further develops and churches can move past emotional and cultural pressures, then some will realize their mistake. Out of this will come a renewed message of our identity based first in Christ and not in our sexuality. Out of this will come an understanding of the deeper reasons why God created two sexes from the very beginning with purpose and design. Out of this will come a better understanding of our brokenness in all aspects of our lives and that we stand together in need of mercy and redemption. It will take a renewed vulnerability on behalf of the church to communicate our struggles, inclinations and orientations towards sin as a part of this fallen world in need of restoration. God is refining his church and it is not so that it can be more acceptable to the culture, but it is so that it can be a pure part of his plan to redeem the world.

  • Actually, God created more than two sexes. Most medical researchers who have studied human gender issues will tell you that there are also intersexed individuals, people who are born neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.

    Even within the two predominant genders, there is variation along other dimensions of sexuality. Some people are born with an exclusively heterosexual orientation; others are born with an exclusively homosexual orientation; and still others have an orientation which is neither exclusively heterosexual nor exclusively homosexual.

  • Gonna have to disagree on that one. IF you want scripture to be your source, then you would have to explain why in Genesis it records that God created them male and female. The questions surrounding this issue is why did God do that? Did he have a purpose, did he create something for a reason, did these two reflect something bigger in the Godhead? And what of the implications of the fall? What exactly got messed up after that? Should we now live under the results of the fall or do we live redeemed lives according to the intentions God always had for us? I do not doubt the problems within the sexual dimension as you list, but they are post-fall distortions of God’s plan. As to orientation, you have no support scripturally for that. We are all oriented towards sin.

  • “As the church correctly responds to its wrong, hurtful behavior and language of the past…” It’s not the past, it’s the present. And they claimed they were “correctly responding” before when they did all within their power to harm gay people. 2000 years of murders, jails, destroyed families, beatings, destroyed lives, torture, vilification, slander, reviling, blaming us for every possible social ill that we could have had nothing to do with, destroyed careers, and the degrading of our natural instincts into misery and vice. And that’s just gay people. Let us not forget the immense collateral damage to the lives and families of countless heterosexuals in the name of Christian “love”. And especially, let us not forget WHY the schisms among the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians existed in the first place.

    “and as the theology further develops and churches can move past emotional and cultural pressures, then some will realize their mistake.” They claimed it was the veritable Word o’ God, not mistaking an ancient, vicious and durable prejudice for the Word o’ God.

    “Out of this will come a renewed message of our identity based first in Christ and not in our sexuality.” Not as long as there are money, power, and dominion to be accrued at the expense of the lives of innocent gay people. Yes, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Cardinal O’Brien, and a host of others: I’m talking to you. Not as long as there are the Haggard homosexual-hating-homosexuals, especially those who hide Haggardly behind their so-called faith, who exorcise (or exercise) their own personal Haggard demons at the expense of innocent gay people who have not drunk the koolaid of self hatred.

    “Out of this will come an understanding of the deeper reasons why God created two sexes from the very beginning with purpose and design.” I still have yet to hear an explanation of why gay people existing is somehow contrary to god’s alleged plans for heterosexuals, let alone a “deeper meaning.” The comment implies that you STILL don’t understand why we exist, outside of your self-referential framework of “brokenness”.

    “Out of this will come a better understanding of our brokenness in all aspects of our lives and that we stand together in need of mercy and redemption.” YOUR brokenness. I feel fine. I haven’t harmed christians in the name of homosexuality. In all aspects of YOUR life, not mine. I don’t claim perfection. but I also don’t go out of my way to harm people I don’t know, know nothing about, and who have done me and intend me no harm. YOUR need for mercy and redemption—did you do something really, really wrong? Mercy is something that so called Christians have been denying to gay people for 2000 years, until FINALLY, decency and humanity have come to mean something more that badly translated passages, written 2000 years ago by people who thought the world was flat, which have been used to justify what is nothing more than a vicious, ancient, and durable prejudice that actual loving, CIVILIZED people have repudiated.

    “God is refining his church and it is not so that it can be more acceptable to the culture” Do you mean the church was wrong before, but finally has it right? Just like all of the other issues that a certain class of so-called Christians finally repudiated, like slavery, segregation, Jew hatred, heretic torturing, and witch burning?

    “It will take a renewed vulnerability on behalf of the church to communicate our struggles, inclinations and orientations towards sin as a part of this fallen world in need of restoration.” Why is it always about YOU?

    “but it is so that it can be a pure part of his plan to redeem the world.” A little too late for that. 2000 years worth of too late.

    Why, oh why, do some Christians find it so difficult just to say “We were wrong. We have been wrong before, and we are wrong on this issue. Let us do what we can to make amends.” Why is “treating others as you would like to be treated” seemingly so beyond people who identify as bible-believing Christians?

    All of us may be sinners, in need of redemption. Only some of us have been throwing stones.

  • A significant factor in this is a change in the minds of those who have stature in the evangelical community. You can’t easily claim those people are operating in bad faith or don’t care about scripture.

    I think of Jack Rogers, longtime and beloved New Testament professor at Fuller, who wrote “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality,” years ago, after he moved from opposition to support of lesbians, gay and transgendered people, or Paul Achtemeier, who for years led the opposition to this change in the Presbyterian church. Also a professor of New Testament and a self-identified evangelical, he wrote: “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.”

    In response, fundamentalists (like Southern Baptists) will have to more zealously guard their boundaries, firing faculty and pastors who start wandering off. And that’s hard to do when they are beloved figures, already trusted, and seemingly sharing the same faith for many years. When people like Rogers and Achtemeier say they’ve changed their minds, their rationales matter.

    This might follow the same trajectory as the ordinaton of women — a slow drip, then a landslide, with some still holding the line in a narrower and narrower band of “purity.” The first stop on the road will be making this issue no longer the litmus test of real faith, but agreeing to disagree yet remain together. I believe that is already happening in more places than those looking to take another vote.

  • But if “first God supported women keeping silent”, as you claim, then why was Anna a prophetess (Luke 2:36)? Why would God give a communication gift to a **woman** if God supported women keeping silent?

    You see, we can go to Scripture and examine closely about whether or not your specific claim about God, women, and silence is biblically true or not. We can go to the Bible texts and check things out.

    We can also do the same Bible searching in regards to, umm, gay marriage. We can together look at every single Bible text that has anything to do with homosexual behavior, and with the origin and nature of marriage as instituted by God.

    But when we do THAT, what do we find Ben? Do we find ANY possible Bible openings for gay marriage? Do we find God offering the slightest wiggle room for gay weddings anywhere in Scripture?

    Does Jesus act like the Presbyterian denomination and **affirm** the homosexual behavior of the Corinthians in 1 Cor.6:9-11, or does He FLAT-OUT clean it up, wash it out, and get RID of it when they come to Him for their salvation? When Jesus talks about the origin and nature of marriage (Matt. 19:4-5), does He leave ANY room at all for same-sex marriage, or is it strictly male-female?

    Can’t trust churches and denominations anymore. Can’t trust Christian celebrities anymore. Can’t trust media outlets either. But we can at least trust the Bible enough to take time and find out what it actually says or doesn’t say.

  • @Doc.

    “But if “first God supported women keeping silent”, as you claim, then why was Anna a prophetess (Luke 2:36)? Why would God give a communication gift to a **woman** if God supported women keeping silent?”

    You’ll have to take that up with Paul and timothy.

    “We can also do the same Bible searching in regards to, umm, gay marriage. We can together look at every single Bible text that has anything to do with homosexual behavior, and with the origin and nature of marriage as instituted by God.” Well doc, it all depends on whether you believe that whatever the bible is talking about has something to do with homosexuality, as it is understood now OR was understood then. Since NOWHERE in the bible is there a single example of actual same sex love– except perhaps the centurion and his boy, or david and jonathan– I would suggest to you that the bible cannot condemn what it obviously knows nothing about.

    That won’t stop YOU, of course.

  • @ Paula

    ““The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.” Though I appreciate Achtemeier’s change of heart– I really do– all it underlines to me is that he finally grew up, and that this is no more about the bible than the Sodom story is about the price of a pillar of salt.

    “:God’s word never changes”– so the resident homophobes tell me. Achtemeier merely confirms the truth of that. God’s word doesn’t change, WE DO…

    and hopefully, for the better.

  • Most Evangelical churches have sullied their image as anti-gay during this culture war which they so dearly loved. Among the young people especially, they are forever branded as being bigoted and judgmental. Conservative churches will go down in history with a negative image that only intensifies as they now pursue “religious liberty” legislation, which will viewed as a last-ditch, ungracious attempt to perpetuate homophobia.

  • “You’ll have to take that up with Paul and timothy.”

    So that means you probably won’t be using arguments like “God supported women keeping silent” in future discussions on the Bible versus homosexuality, until you are actually able to defend such arguments from the totality of Scriptural texts?

    ****

    “Well doc, it all depends on whether you believe that whatever the bible is talking about has something to do with homosexuality, as it is understood now OR was understood then.”

    Ah, so you’re bringing up Mel White’s old argument. The “understood now” business is what you’re claiming that the Bible “obviously knows nothing about.”

    What you’re really trying to say, is that the Bible writers didn’t understand that homosexuality is “Born That Way”, innate and unchangable, as gay activists insist on understanding it now. Just another attack on the authority and reliability of the Scriptures.

    However, your argument is already refuted, especially regarding the New Testament. In fact, one of the most famous gay activists, the late John Boswell, openly contradicted your claim.

    Boswell wrote,that “the idea of that homosexuality represented a congential physical characteristic was widespread in the Hellenistic world.” The late Stanley Grenz, in his book “Welcoming But Not Affirming”, specifically quoted Boswell’s statement (pages 84-86), and also cited the well-known scientist and thinker Ptolemy as an example of this idea (although Ptolemy apparently — and correctly — viewed homosexual behavior as NOT natural.)

    Which means that today’s understanding of a “Born That Way” homosexual orientation was actually well within reach of a well-traveled, very-familiar-with-the-Greco-Roman-world guy like the Apostle Paul.

    There is therefore NO reason, and NO evidence, for claiming that Paul was not aware of the (mistaken) idea of homosexuality being promoted today, the idea that it’s some kind of innate inborn unchangable aspect.of the human constitution.

    Hence your argument is, ummm, burnt up clean to Crispy Critters. C’est la vie. Anyway, it’s time for Bible-believing Christians to take a stand — and to stop letting these compromising churches drive this nation off the cliff !!

  • Well said Lynne. Sometimes what we say is love is actually hate. I love my children enough to say no to them when they feel unloved by my response. At the time they feel that it is vitally important to their happiness to do whatever it is that they want to do. For my teen girls it is to wear a revealing dress to prom. I think at times they loathe me for my no. Am I hating them for saying no? What if every person but one says yes I am? Does that make it so? At the end of the day God’s opinion is the only One that counts.

  • Boswell also reported on the same-sex marriages and liturgical books providing the ceremonies in the early Christian church, right up to the Twentieth Century. Nevertheless, conservative Christians love mistranslating the Bible to support their malicious and foolish hatreds. In Scripture, for example, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with homosexuality, but was inhospitality. This makes you and yours sodomites.

  • Can’t trust churches and denominations anymore. Can’t trust Christian celebrities anymore. Can’t trust media outlets either.

    Not precisely that it’s a business for them, but whatever it was they were trading in incorporated Christian idiom but constituted feel-good blancmange. Christian moral teaching in that matrix is sustainable only to the extent that it does not generate emotional tension derived from a disjunction from what is conventional.

  • They are much less sophomoric than their parents (and their parents’ preachers). More genuinely Christian, too. Best of all, they lack the motivations of their elders: arrogance, vanity, malice, and wilful ignorance.

  • years ago, after he moved from opposition to support of lesbians, gay and transgendered people, or Paul Achtemeier, who

    You’ve confused Paul Achtemeier (a biblical scholar who died a couple of years ago) with his son, Mark Achtemeier. As for the latter, telling people it was getting tense at faculty cocktails would be more reality than he could bear.

  • Best of all, they lack the motivations of their elders: arrogance, vanity, malice, and wilful ignorance.

    Some years ago, a Methodist minister retailed a conversation she’d had with an admissions examiner at a seminary. The examiner tells her that the most common reason he hears for why people wish to enroll is ‘I like working with people’, to which his reply was invariably “oh, do you know many?”.

    There’s a reason I’ve not discovered that youths of 16 are not free of
    ‘arrogance, vanity, malice, and willful ignorance’: I’ve known a few.

  • Boswell also reported on the same-sex marriages and liturgical books providing the ceremonies in the early Christian church,

    Boswell’s thesis was also taken apart before the ink was dry on his print run by Robin Darling Young and by the Catholicos of the Nestorian Church.

  • Boswell was eagerly eaten up by uninformed laypeople, but among his peers his work was rightfully dismissed as the “advocacy scholarship” that it was.

    And since Boswell couldn’t make his case, neither can any other “affirming” theologian, since virtually every argument for same-sex practice in the church originated with Boswell.

  • Lol! That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day.

    Look, genius, something you’d better get a grip on before you go out into the big bad world and get your clock cleaned for you is that people only beget other people, and every last one of them has wrong motivations of some sort or other. The smart catch on to this relatively early. The others don’t until their own kids come along telling them they’re crap.

  • Look, genius, something you’d better get a grip on before you go out into the big bad world and get your clock cleaned for

    I’ve been out in the big bad world for a generation.

  • Most Evangelical churches have sullied their image as anti-gay during this culture war which they so dearly loved.

    “The Culture War” was an initiative of the legal profession, a wing of the academic community, Hollywood, and sundry opinion journalists and ‘activists’, and has been going on since about 1962. Not our doing. We just resisted and wish to be left alone.

    It is grossly amusing how liberals and Vichy evangelicals expect us to have the mentality commonly attributed to battered wives, though.

  • Among the young people especially, they are forever branded as being bigoted and judgmental. Conservative churches will go down in history with a negative image

    My father was not fool enough to take moral instruction from callow youths and neither am I. And ‘history’ doesn’t scare me.

  • Some people are born with an exclusively heterosexual orientation; others are born with an exclusively homosexual orientation; and still others have an orientation which is neither exclusively heterosexual nor exclusively homosexual.

    It has never been demonstrated that people are ‘born’ sexual deviants.

    The notion that homosexuality is genetically-determined has been discredited by twin studies.

  • We can love and should love all our brothers and sisters, but is it really love to say, “go ahead and live however you want to live”? That’s true no matter the issue.

    Of course it is not, but the point of the dyad between the gay lobby and their patrons is an exchange of ego satisfactions. No applause, no satisfaction.

  • Culture war– pat Buchanan, 1992.

    you want to be left alone? Funny how you cannot apply that to gay people.

  • Twinstudies, eh? Absolutely a dishonest statement. But then, it’s you. you really just cannot help yourself, can you.

    There is the testimony of the catholic and Mormon churches, surely no friend to gay people, that my sexual orientation is inborn.

    There is the testimony of nearly every scientific, medical, and professional organization in the entire civilized world– or at least, the West– that has the slightest thing to do with the subject. But you know better than they do.

    There is also evidence of millions of gay people, and the failures of Jesus, Freud, and the fraud of ex-gay therapy to change anyone. But accepting our testimony would mean you would have to a) question your own imaginary superiority b) see us as fully functional human beings that are different from you. So, I’ll just refer you to Francis collins, former head of the human genome project, current head of the NIH, and big time evangelical Christian. When your own side starts telling you you’re full of it, perhaps it is time to go find someone else’s business to mind. Maybe unwed Christian mothers?

    “The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable…No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.”

    So, ho are we gonna believe? A known antigay person, heavily invested in antigay theology, or Francis Collins?

    There is no known heterosexual gene, BTW, so your argument already lacks cogency. Since you people are always claiming this is a choice, the lack of a heterosexual gene implies that YOU, too, are choosing. when did YOU choose to be heterosexual?

  • The genetic origin of sexual orientation has not yet been discovered. For all that, twin studies find, in fact, that in the large majority of cases that both have the same sexual orientation (whichever it is: hetero, homo, bi). Religious nuts, who have fastened for some reason on the few exceptions, hate that reality, too. (They love to make much of these pathetically few exceptions, as in the statistically inconsequential numbers of “ex-gays”, and of children of gay couples who, having “come to Jesus” are now whining that they wanted a different parent). In any case, such a genetic marker will be discovered (although, like the genetic origins of race, once much sought after by religious conservatives, probably after this no longer matters, which will be soon). Such a genetic marker will determine all (that is, any) of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. The main consequence will be the rush by religious conservatives to terminate pregnancies of gay foetuses and, at the same time, marker(s) for gender dystopia.

  • This is an extremely misleading clause: “from having to serve LGBT couples.” The besieged wedding-related businesses only wanted to not be roped into *gay couples’ weddings*. The woman in Washington state served the man who’s now suing her for years before she told him her conscience wouldn’t let her participate in his marriage. Would you say a gay baker didn’t want to serve straight couples if a man asked for a homophobic cake for his own straight wedding? Or would you properly phrase the baker’s objection?

  • The genetic origin of sexual orientation has not yet been discovered. For all that, twin studies find, in fact, that in the large majority of cases that both have the same sexual orientation (whichever it is: hetero, homo, bi).

    No Chris, what the twin studies show is that among identical twins, discordance is at least as common as concordant homosexuality. Among fraternal twins, discordance is at least 3x as common.

    There is a distinction between a ‘hereditary factor’ influencing the genesis of homosexuality and homosexuality as a trait derived from genes inherited or from mutations. Again, discordance among genetically identical pairs discredits the notion of inherited homosexuality. Homosexuality is not analogous to eye-color or blood type

  • Actually, Loren, Barna is criticized the most not by you folks on the left but by Christians on the right.

    The reason is that based on the very same criteria you’re bashing now (because it doesn’t suit your immediate purposes), Barna has shown that the number of people in the country who are actually Bible-affirming Christians is a fraction of what religious-right pastors have long claimed it to be. Simply stated, based on Barna’s rigorous criteria, the vast majority of self-styled evangelicals flunk all objective criteria, from church attendance to Bible reading, that one would expect from even the barest of commitments to Christ. If one is committed to golf, one can be found frequently on the golf course…..same with everything else…..including religious faith.

  • Ben, the Collins quote is admirably nuanced and fair, but it hardly supports the view that homosexuality is entirely genetic.

    Collins is a careful, decent, honest man who does not want to claim too much or to be used by either side to make their points, but the fact remains that the 20% figure he cites is much lower than what I would have guessed. I had thought it was about 50%.

    The 20% figure is not good news for those who would like to argue that homosexuality is 0% (post-fetal) environmental. To make up the enormous gap, one would have to argue that factors like hormonal changes in the womb were key. While they probably play a role, the burden is on those who would say they play the sort of gargantuan role required for the gap to close.

    Collins says there might be other factors we haven’t yet identified. Again, he is speaking as a fair-minded and objective scientist. But until we find those factors, we are left with the possibility that there is a very significant post-natal environmental factor….although, on the other hand, to my knowledge, nobody has identified its nature. The old psychoanalytic theories tried but seem to have failed on that as well.

    In the face of this, humility is the way to go.

  • I tried to respond to John’s post previously, but it didn’t end up where it was supposed to go.

    So to reiterate: John, that was a magnificent post.

  • Chris, if you’re going to make a case for same-sex marriage from the Bible, you’re going to have to say that for the past 30 centuries or more, until about a generation ago, classical Judaism and its scholars and teachers consistently got its own holy books wrong. While you might say that anything is possible, you need to step back and understand the implications of what you are saying once you embrace such a monumental claim.

  • Paula, how about summarizing the case you believe these men are making so persuasively? I’m serious. Find a few scriptures and their traditional interpretations, and tell us how they instead should be interpreted and why. Quote from the books if you’d like. While my common sense tells me that will be a very tall mountain for you or the writers to climb, as is any out-of-the-blue claim about most things, I am certainly willing to listen.

  • Well, Doc, I don’t really know that we ever could trust such people to begin with. If I were a Jew hiding from the Nazis, the last people in the world I would trust to retain their spiritual and moral backbone and keep me safe would be most mainline or even evangelical leaders. The brothers and sisters in Christ that have most impressed me have rarely been leaders or pastors. Most have been people working in “secular” jobs and professions, people who interpret life and Scripture and reality plainly and straightforwardly.

  • Ben in oakland,

    “…All of us may be sinners, in need of redemption. Only some of us have been throwing stones.”

    Excellent presentation.

    Needed to be read by all.

  • @Jack.

    Good to see you back..

    There is no known heterosexuality gene. There is no known left handed gene. There is the science of epigenetics.

    You’re right. collins is being very, very fair. But the evidence is overwhelming, except to those who wish to see homosexuality– by which they mean uppity gay people, not living their lives in the closet– disappear.

  • Good to see you as well, Ben. My point, though, was that if you’re making a case that there are zero environmental elements influencing the emergence of homosexuality, Collins’ quotation is not good news at all. In fact, if you read it carefully, it seems rather devastating to that claim. Collins realizes this as well as anyone, and so he goes out of his way to state it in as nuanced a way as possible, since, like any good scientist, he seeks to leave room for future discoveries.

  • I find it interesting, especially in the Fundigelical world where there is so often emphasis put on being “Bible Believing” … and on being the TRUE Christians … that these mercurial changes are so often happening .. usually about the time that laws supporting their bigotry no longer allow them to do so. Recently there are groups which call themselves “Bridge Builders” .. though those bridges seem to be built going one way only, and the Bridge Builders are most often LGBT people desperate to be welcomed and affirmed into the church culture in which they were raised. The unfortunate truth is that while there likely ARE churches and individuals who are changing their position re: homosexuaity, I stand with those who are very leery and who see much of the “welcome” as merely a new attempt at evangelizing “those heathen gays” out of their “pits of sin”. Time will tell, but given the fact that they are dead silent when asked the REAL questions ie: “Are you merely welcoming of LGBT folks . or actually affirming and including them in the full life of the church?”

  • WHAT on this earth is “the gay lobby”? Certainly something that no gay person I know has ever heard of.

  • Don’t embarrass yourself, Art …. The most recent of those “studies” proving that one twin was gay an one straight .. showed two photos of the same GAY man .. that were actually published without his knowledge. As much as you people want to pretend that there is no genetic determination for sexual orientation …. there are far more genuine studies and documented research than the foolishness you are trying to once again bring up.

  • Excellent!! You are right on. Homosexuality had nothing whatsoever to do with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah .. see Ezekiel 16:49,50

  • That is certainly the message of Scripture, which specifies that the sin of Sodom and Gomorra was inhospitality. (Religious conservatives are the real sodomites.)

  • There will. one day be found (perhaps, like the genetic antecedents of race, once assiduously sought by white religious conservatives to justify slavery, found long after this has ceased to matter) the genetic markers for sexual orientation, whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. In the meantime, there is the consolation, of much more practical value, that every family, every community, every congregation, every workplace, has the same proportions of all three, the world over, and when homosexuals come it, attitudes become positive. Everybody grows up.

  • Antigay people live in their very own special world, where gay people are the ultimate evil, where down is up and black is white, where freedom of religion means the freedom to cause harm to others without consequence, and most especially…

    where those they see as inferior and weak are at the same time immensely powerful and truly threatening, thereby justifying the pain inflicted on those weaker and inferior people.

    Art has elevated contempt to an art form.

  • Lynne, it is not loving to try to literally engineer or change how people live by essentially scaring them into believing that hellfire awaits unless they align themselves with your reading of scripture. If you ask most gay people (myself included) whether they recognize or even want the love of Christians who proclaim that their condemnation is borne of love or concern – most are reeling in confusion and disgust. That’s your problem. Nobody recognizes what you do as love because we do not share the same faith or beliefs. It truly amazes me how this debate – and “Christians” especially – act as though gay people have no religious or spiritual beliefs. We do. And those beliefs, while not centrally about sexuality, certainly encompass it. In other words, my spiritual beliefs indict your understanding of sexuality just as much as yours apparently indict mine. So what are we left with? A bunch of people with spiritual and religious convictions who are “loving one another” by trying to influence how they lead their lives and understand marriage? Doesn’t seem very spiritual or loving to me. If you want people to respect your Christian, heterosexual marriages and the values that influence how you relate within that institution, then you need to do what the Bible instructs and treat others as you would want to be treated. “You” is not an abstraction. Just like anyone else, we all have identities that obviously matter very deeply to us.

  • Good luck with that, Mr. Anderson. Save away! The more you speak, the more nobody believes the kinds of things you’re saying. Why? Because the Spirit lives. Beautiful isn’t it?

  • John, it is simply false to assert that our identities are centered in our sexuality. As a gay person who also has religious convictions and is VERY educated on gender and sexuality issues, I have to tell you that this understanding is rooted deeply in a Christian metaphysics of the body. It is perfectly conceivable that a person develop a Christ-centered identity while still being homosexual.

    You go onto assert that “out of this” (Christ-centered identity) will come a deeper understanding of why God created two sexes with purpose. And this is a very typical, Evangelical perspective. It is not something “to come.” In fact, it is currently all over the debates on the issue. Evangelicals seem to hold this belief that “hearing the Word” or somehow being magically influenced by the Spirit (whatever the conduit) will somehow create deeper understanding and offer otherwise hidden revelation. As gay people who have engaged religion, we’ve heard this for decades. When we “accept Jesus” (as an abstraction), then the “truth of Scripture” (that apparently you folks have) will necessarily fix the brokenness of the world, including our apparently homosexual sin tendency.

    This is a kind of transcendental power that you folks seem to assume operates with or without a certain belief in the nature of the power itself.

    It is my understanding that the transformation alluded to in the Bible refers directly to people’s nature itself, and their center of will. When that is changed, the person is literally unable to behave differently – or out of line with the truth of what they have witnessed. The salvation alluded to in the Bible has to do with the will.

    Thus, if it is at all possible for you to even begin to comprehend that a person’s sexuality is not in and of itself “bad,” then you can begin to understand this other reading of Scripture – a reading that many others share as well.

  • Really Darlene? Are you going to situate Evangelical Christians as the more mature “parent” figures of gay people? I challenge you to situate yourself in a room full of very educated gay people – and then come back here and let me know how parental you feel.

  • Jack, why don’t you do your own research if you’re truly interested and it truly impacts your understanding of yourself and your religion? It seems to me that you’ve simply got a position “on the gays” and you’re on here trying to defend it. My guess is that you’ve done very little to no research on your own over the topic. People who literally have faith and whose faith is living and constantly at play in their interactions with the world and other people – those people will literally be moved to research rather than argue. I minored in religious studies in college and can tell you that there is LOADS of scholarship out there on the pertinent topics at play in this debate. Far more than even the most educated could persuasively present on a blog. Stop being lazy.

  • John, shouldn’t the Bible explicitly say why he created them male and female if YOU are going to base your argument on scripture? Obviously two men and two women cannot procreate without the use of technology; however, it doesn’t explicitly state that the entire purpose of sexual difference is simply procreation. “Go forth and multiply” is simply something that can happen. “Becoming on flesh” is something that can happen, spiritually. It doesn’t say explicitly that the purpose of sexual difference in Christian terms was to specify a *sexual orientation* as we are discussing sexual orientation.

    Secondly, Christians cannot argue that biology itself is the result of the fall. You then must scripturally explain incarnation. In other words, why we have bodies at all. And if you’re going to argue that we have bodies because of the fall, then you have a really hard time explaining the very purpose of Christ and the resurrection. Even further, if we believe that God CONTINUES to create all people in His own image, then we are going to assume that includes biology post-fall, correct? Otherwise you would have to argue that “in his own image” refers only to the spiritual dimension. But you folks don’t argue that. In fact, most of the time you claim that homosexual brokenness is partly reflected in the fact that God’s image is heterosexual, hence the Genesis story that you often cite. And even if God’s image as such is spiritually heterosexual, then you get into all kinds of puzzles when you talk about intersexual people who are both biologically male and female in various ways. Hmmmm. I wonder which you are going to focus on at this point in your binary system – bodies, or souls? (Oh yeah, there’s that trinity thing…..). How might that relate to this binary?

    And finally, if we are all oriented toward sin – then, according to your logic, heterosexual orientation itself can be sin.

    You need to understand your terms and how they are morphing.

  • @Tara

    Now we are starting to get to the REAL issue– the insistence of a certain class of so-called Christian that they ought to have dominion over our lives because we are too lost in our sins, to corrupt, to sinnerized, to actually know anything about our lives, our sexuality, and our spiritual needs.

    Not surprisingly, the same attitude was also held towards black people. They are just too child like to simple, to be adults. Black men are predatory, and must be restrained by grown up white people. Likewise, black women are just hellcats in bed. And must also be restrained by good white people.

    this is my friend Regan on this subject:

    “There is an undeniable parallel to the sexually compelling aspect of blacks back in the day of Jim Crow. In just about every way, and I make these parallels often: black males especially were libeled with the stereotype of being morally bankrupt, sexually immature and aggressive as well as predatory. A libel that visits gay men as well. For black males, the assumption was that they were unnaturally attracted to white females and so unrestrained in the presence of one, Jim Crow had to be strictly enforced.

    “Yet, white males found black females very sexually compelling, because they were easier to exploit without challenge and there was a great deal of closeted curiosity, if not attraction to the same. This is also true of lesbians, in that socio/political equivalency.

    There is also another socio/political factor that’s shared: the paternalistic attitude towards gay people and blacks, as requiring control over them. To the extent of being treated like children, and having no more self reliance or self determination than a child.

    Gays and blacks are not supposed to contradict or challenge the dominant culture in this equation. Are not supposed to have higher level jobs, sexually committed bonds and romantic feelings.

    end of Regan, and back to me.

    This insistence that heterosexual Christians are entitled to domini0on over gay people because of what THEY think about gay people and what THEY think the bible says, they usually excuse as “loving the sinner and hating the sin.”

    That’s yet another lie. It’s not love.

    It’s NARCISSISM.

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