Even as the rest of the country has grown more accepting of same-sex marriage, Evangelicals have held firm. Over the past ten years, Evangelical opposition to same-sex marriage has stayed constant—even slightly increased-–according to a new report from the Barna Group:
- In 2003, 12 percent of Evangelicals favored changing laws to support LGBTQ lifestyles. Today that number has declined to 5 percent.
- In 2003, 90 percent favored defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Today that has inched up to 93 percent.
- In 2003, 95 percent rejected the moral acceptability of same-sex marriage. Now that number has increased to 98 percent.
This is good news for Evangelicals, whose commitment to scripture binds them to the Bible’s vision of marriage premised on difference and tied to reproduction. To identify as Evangelical still means to accept the Christian moral teaching on homosexual relationships.
But there is also a problem. As David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group warns, Evangelicals risk being perceived as anti-gay: “The anti-homosexual perception was the ‘big’ one; the perception that overshadowed all else. . . . Many churches and Christian leaders are going to rise or fall based on how they address it.”
This will only become harder as the view that Christian moral teaching is based on animus makes cultural gains. As Peter Leithart observed after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, “There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms.”
One point of light for Christians is the rising generation of writers who speak openly of their attraction to the same-sex and their commitment to Christian teaching. Writers like Wesley Hill, Joshua Gonnerman, Daniel Mattson, Aaron Taylor, and Eve Tushnet use personal testimony and a winning presentation of the Christian tradition to demonstrate the joy of submitting to Christ and to his teaching on marriage and sex.
We at First Things have been privileged to become perhaps the central site for these conversations, which I only expect to deepen and broaden with time. This new crop of writers doesn’t have all the answers, and they sometimes disagree sharply, but the Christian church has never before had such a resource. Today as never before the Church is equipped to address same-sex issues in the first person, to speak of same-sex attraction in terms of “I” rather than “you.” To show, in short, how this matter of controversy is first of all a question of charity.