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09/03/2010

From OMG! to O-your-G!: As millennials divorce church and state, elders seek Marriage Wars 2.0

by Jeremy Hooper

So Lifeway Research, a Christian polling and data outfit, released a new report that says 61% percent of those Americans born between 1980-1991 are either Screen Shot 2010-09-03 At 9.15.16 Amsomewhat or strongly accepting of same-sex marriage. Which even sounds low to us, knowing what we know about this generation. But again: Lifeway is a conservative evangelical firm, so -- yea.

Okay, so in this data, Lifeway also reported this finding:

Two-thirds of those with no religious preference agree strongly there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriage, while only 1 in 7 of those who say they trust Christ as Savior agree strongly. Further, 46 percent of those who say they trust Christ as Savior strongly disagree and in fact find fault with marriage between members of the same gender.” [SOURCE]

Not a big surprise. While there are welcome exceptions, we pro-LGBT peeps know that the evangelical church is still our most reliably consistent well of opposition. Kids who are brought up in the church are typically injected with fear about LGBT people from the moment they start putting two Barbies together in one dream house. Anti-gay indoctrination is the all-too-reliable order of the evangelical day.

But the good thing about that: We LGBT activists and lawyers and varied equality voices are talking about CIVIL marriage equality. CIVIL. As in disconnected from the church by law. As in a custom where the religious ceremonial component is fully optional, but the CIVIL marriage license is a requirement (at least if the couple wants the state/fed. rights and benefits). Civil marriage, as in the institution that all heterosexual Americans experience now, with churches free to make whatever decisions they want in regards to the couples they will and will not marry or solemnize or recognize or chicken dance-erize. So in a perfect world, the above passage about evangelicals' personal faith-based feelings should not even come into play into the civil marriage conversation. Those feelings are for their own family, in terms of what weddings they will or won't attend and what gift registries they will and won't acknowledge, and their own church membership bodies, in terms of what weddings they will accommodate. We *FULLY* respect their right to make these decisions.

Unfortunately, the evangelical opposition is not willing to afford us the same respect. Here is Lifeway president Thom Ranier talking to Focus on the Family:

It will be a critical issue for churches – soon to be led by Millennials – to establish their biblical positions on the issue of same-sex relationships,” he said. “If it is to find relevance with Millennials, the church must be willing to deal directly with the issue of same-sex attraction and relationships. The church must voice a clear, biblical ethic of sexuality.” [SOURCE]

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Here we have research that shows milliennials are more supportive of gay people's civil rights than any generation to come before (and again, we think the Lifeway data is still low). We also see, unsurprisingly, that evangelical Christians are one of the biggest sticking points (the survey also cites Men, African-Americans, and Southerners as greater resisters). But the man whose firm conducted this survey responds by saying that more church-infused opinion is the answer? That more condemnation of same-sex relationships is the way we handle gay people's placement within civil society? That more church injection into American politics is the answer, even while similar studies show that millennials are increasingly turned off by the church, with anti-gay attitudes cited as a reason why?

Just NO! What modern-day "culture warriors" like Mr. Ranier and Focus on the Family need/must do is realize/admit that their overwrought attempt to control civil law with personal faith is something that has wounded modern American politics/government! The Falwell era? Well, it may have Fared-well for a spell, but it ultimately FAILed-well too. It divided us deeply. The hand was overplayed, with the overreaching both exposing the inadequacies of the evangelicals' argument against LGBT people's rights, as well as raising questions among increasingly inquisitive younger generations about why, exactly, the church feels like it has any kind of right to set public policy in such a way. It is past time for the religious right to admit these mistakes, learn from these missteps, and move on to a more tenable position. A position that absolutely utilizes their own religious freedom to shout their anti-LGBT biblical interpretations with a ferocity, a right that we would theoretically join them in court in defending. But it's also a position that must stop acting as if all Americans, by virtue of birth, chose one of two options: (1) To willfully join their national church, or (2) sit quietly and doodle on the church bulletin while the national sermon shapes the constitution. Just like choir director Barbara Jean's reliably inedible covered dishes, this sort of forced national church fellowship is primed to spoil even before a young chuch-goer can complete the question, "aren't their homeless and hungry people who could use our time, energy, and funding?"

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