Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is the political victory worth it?

The Southern Baptist Convention very much likes to be viewed as the place where America turns for moral guidance. So they're rather peeved that polls show their influence isn't working. An example of that is the recent Gallup polls that show:

* A majority of Americans think gay relationships are morally acceptable (in the majority for three years now)

* 63% think that gay relations should be legal.

* 40% think a gay or lesbian orientation is something a person is born with and 3% think it is because of upbringing or environment.

So the SBC conducted their own polls. Some results:

* Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin? 44% yes, 43% no, 13% unsure.

* If you never attend a church now, would you want to attend one that is anti-gay? 3% yes, 72% no (I'm not sure exactly how this question was worded).

So will they be defiant and lose influence on the culture (or even die out) or tone down the anti-gay talk?

A link in the comment section of the post mentioned above led me to the blog of Rachel Held Evans and a post about how the young view the church. She wrote it the day after North Carolina approved a marriage protection amendment, called Amendment One.

The Barna Group did a poll of 16-29 year olds. They asked for words or phrases that describe Christianity. I've heard of this poll before (it was mentioned by members of the Coalition at General Conference), so it may be a couple months or years old.

For 91% of all respondents, the first word mentioned was "antihomosexual." That included 80% of respondents who attend church. The next most often mentioned words were "judgmental," "hypocritical," and "too involved in politics."

David Kinnaman found that 8 million twentysomethings have left the church and pronouncements about gays are a big reason.

Evans has talked to college kids about these numbers. The kids say such things as: The church is complicit in anti-gay bullying and partly responsible for the high rates of depression and suicide among gay kids. Nearly all are passionately opposed to anti-gay legislation.

Since gays could not marry in North Carolina and because religious leaders were the loudest voices for Amendment One, the only thing the vote did was prove to the youth their view the church is antihomosexual. The kids are tired of the culture wars. The kids are tired of the church bashing their friends. These votes offend gays, damage the church's reputation, and alienate young adults.
Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church?

Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?

Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians?

So how might we proceed? Evans suggests:
In my opinion, the first step toward a life beyond the culture wars is to stop talking about LGBT folks and start talking with LGBT folks.
Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network also proposes a way forward. He points out that few people who voted for Amendment One are actually bigoted.
The people on both sides who voted on this amendment honestly believed they were doing the right thing. If they voted for the amendment is might simply be a lack of understanding. Dismissing them as bigots means you've lost a chance to change their mind.
But isn't a vote for the amendment proof their mind is closed? Maybe. So:
My challenge to you, however you felt about this amendment and however you feel about LGBT/Christian issues in general, is to force yourself to see your opponents as human beings who honestly believe they’re doing the right thing. Figure out what it is that’s really motivating them, and if the answer you come up with is simply “bigotry” or “love of the flesh” or “stupidity” or “rebellion against God,” keep digging, because you haven’t gone deep enough yet. Then once you really understand them—really, really understand them—find the ways you can reach out and begin to educate them, patiently and lovingly. That is how you make change in people’s lives.

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