The Pew Research center has some interesting statistics on the acceptance of gay marriage among evangelicals born after 1980 and they are (ho-hum) not encouraging for those who hold to the biblical position. Of course, the definition of who is and is not an evangelical can be debated but even allowing for nuance on such does not change the direction of the obvious overall shift. As the older generation passes away, acceptance of homosexual practice and gay marriage will become the utterly dominant position in society and in many churches. So far so predictable.
Perhaps of more interest are the statistics showing that society is simultaneously becoming more pro-life. I have friends—not least among the supporters of First Things—who take great cheer from this, arguing that a cause once apparently lost is now in the ascendant, and that the same may well happen with regard to sexual mores. Roe vs. Wade was just the beginning of the war, not the end, they claim, and traditional marriage and sexuality might yet win the day.
It may. I am a historian. I explain the past, I do not predict the future. But it seems to me that the rise in fortunes of the pro-life cause has much to do with the influence of technology that allows us to see into the womb. Sonograms have succeeded where argument alone failed: They have turned fetuses into people, and thus aborted people into innocent victims. Gay marriage depends merely upon the argument for allowing people who love each other to be together, and transgenderism upon the argument for allowing those who consider themselves trapped in their bodies to be free. Who can disagree with such things?
In the matter of sexual politics, creating the impression of innocent victims is going to be that much harder, if not impossible. This is especially so now that the rhetoric of victimhood is already well-established as a weapon against opponents of the current sexual free for all. When a transgender person commits suicide, it is always the fault of the critics of the transgender lobby. They are the victimizers, the evil villains of the piece. And before we place too much trust in arguments about social costs and consequences, we should remember the AIDS crisis of the 80s. The obvious answers—celibacy and monogamous fidelity—were regarded as oppressive. Indeed, guess what? Those who advocated them were the real culprits. It was Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism that created the epidemic, not those who actually transmitted the disease. I anticipate that the social costs of gay marriage and transgenderism will be treated in similar manner, with technology, not moral discourse, riding to the rescue.
So I am pessimistic at this point. Abortion is one battle where technology and rhetoric are increasingly on our side. Sexual politics—not so much.
Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.