Fascinating Facts on Religious Views of Gay Marriage
What Changes Christians’ Minds about what God Thinks?
Supposedly God’s views and God’s prescriptions on important social behaviors don’t change, right? (This according to the majority of American Christians.) In fact, the same Christians often label these “moral” behaviors. For example, all kinds of homosexual behavior under all circumstances most such Christians have considered immoral. That is, until recently.
In the build-up to upcoming Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, the Washington Post just published an interesting snapshot of the changes in American views on same-sex marriage in recent years, some comparing up to 20+ years back. You can find it here.
Among the charts featured, one shows how views among different religious groups have changed since 2001. What is interesting here is that views of white Evangelical Christians have changed substantially in just these 12 years. Not as much as those of white mainline Protestants (11% vs. 17%) or the religiously unaffiliated (16%), but clearly on the move. Overall, it appears the changes in views among religious people parallel those of the overall population (or perhaps they lead it, as the religiously affiliated are well over half the population.)
What a Difference When it Gets Personal!
Another interesting thing in findings summarized by the Washington Post is that 20 years ago only 42% of the US population (per surveys) answered “yes” to “Do you know someone who is gay or lesbian?” Now 77% say “yes”!
That is a whopping change for something with high emotional content in that relatively short period. What is going on here? Surely there is not that great a change in how many people are gay or lesbian; nor in how many people actually know someone who is. The explanation would seem to have to lie mostly in respondents’ realization that they know a gay person or in their willingness to admit it on a survey.
Without knowing the survey format or techniques, I’d guess it’s more an increase in realizing. And that could have come through various causes. I’d think primarily via more gays being open so that people can know they are. Maybe secondarily via more ability to “notice” as homosexuality has gradually become considered less an oddity, a disorder or an embarrassment (to family or friends as well as to the person himself or herself).
The fact that there is a correlation between people saying they know gay people and acceptance of a right for them to marry partners they are deeply attracted to is not surprising to close observers of human thought and behavior. Here’s how the evolution may work:
Many people, especially the more strongly religious, tend to think in terms of unchanging “absolutes” (ideas in the abstract such as “sin, immorality” or general categories, such as “homosexuals”). It becomes much harder to make someone “strange” and to oppose vital emotional/practical privileges for them when it is someone you actually know (perhaps closely) and love. It’s easy, and may seem important for guarding against fears, to denigrate and deny some amorphous “group” you have little connection to. Much harder to do that when one or more of that “group” is someone close to you whose heart you know.
What are your personal experiences? What do you observe about changes in our attitudes toward sexual orientation (being abstract for a moment) and same-sex marriage (in the concrete)?