Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shifting Views on Same Sex Issues

Thursday, the Chicago-Sun Times released a story titled, "Gay marriage views all about age, region," which pointed out the shifts going on over same sex issues. The article cited the 22-year-long "Political Values and Core Attitudes" study conducted by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which shows that public opinion over gay rights has changed significantly among the religious. This is especially true among younger Christians.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you who follow my blog. I have been noting this shift for some time. Last year, I appeared on PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly to comment on a PBS/Greenburg Study stating that 58% of young evangelicals say they support some form of legal recognition of same sex unions. Not long after, Public Religion Research and Faith in Public Life released "The Faith and American Politics Survey" stating that a majority of young evangelicals favor some sort of legal recognition of same sex unions. By all indications, evangelical opinion is shifting on this issue, like it or not.

That brings me back to the Sun-Times article in which I stated, "I don't think [recognition of same sex unions] is an issue that my generation will fight over, at least not with the tenacity that the previous generations did." I have gotten several emails telling me that I ceded too much ground, that I gave away too much information. But as the paragraph above illustrates, I am not saying anything new, but rather stating a fact that is consistent with at least three reputable, national surveys and my own conversations with younger Christians all across America.

I am personally opposed to a redefinition of marriage. Until the latter part of the 20th century, marriage has been defined as a union between a man and a woman for every civilizations for all time. To change the definition of marriage is to change the nature of marriage. Claiming that marriage should be something more than that is like saying red should now also include orange and yellow. Most marriages are imperfect and many are unstable, but the fact remains that a two parent household is the most stable environment to raise a family, and healthy families are a vital part of any healthy society. Our government should remain committed to supporting the most stable family situation possible--a loving home with both a mother and a father. If the rising generation buckles on this issue, and it seems we will, that will be a mistake.

At the same time, Christians should make sure that our support of marriage does not blind us to the injustices placed on many homosexuals in our society. For example, we should aggressively oppose workplace discrimination, and anyone (outside of religious organizations) who fires or refuses to hire someone simply because of their sexual orientation should be held accountable. I think Christians can be biblical and commonsensical at the same. I think we can live by our faith's teachings without becoming angry culture warriors. I think we should support traditional marriage while we look for ways to build bridges of reconciliation with those cultural groups that have often been the objects of our public disdain. What about you?


Anonymous said...

Jonathan, I agree with you but would go further.

Christian orgs should not be able to fire people for their sexual orientation. That would be discriminatory and unjust. There may be fervent Christians who have a gay orientation working in a church or Christian non-profit, but have chosen the harder path of celibacy based on their understanding of Biblical texts. Would you agree that it's the behaviour not the orientation that is the issue?

If the Christian nonprofit organization or church has a faith statement and resulting lifestyle covenant that restricts same-sex behaviour based on their understanding of religious texts, then I think freedom of religion should win out.

Jonathan Merritt said...


The separation of church and state is important because it prevents exactly that. Since the founding of our country, we have recognized religious organizations, such as churches, as a special class. We have protected these organizations from the regulation of government for reasons too numerous to outline here.

I believe strongly in the freedom of religious expression and the separation of church and state, and therefore, I strongly oppose the regulation of a church or religious organization's employment practices. To hold a position contrary to this would require an obliteration of some of our countries bedrock principles.


Anonymous said...

As a libertarian, I personally believe that the government shouldn't get involved with what goes in people's bedrooms--as long as it's between two consenting adults, of course. However, I do believe that, as Christians, we should be open about what we believe the word of God says. Unfortunately many Christians think this openness means bullying our gay neighbors, and making them feel like they are less than human.

We need to learn how to discuss the gay marriage issue with civility and respect. We need to not demonize our opponents, but remember than we are all on the same boat. We're all sinners looking for grace and peace of mind.

Tim G said...

Here is my question and my basic disagreement with your approach. If you claim discrimination are you not recognizing them as a race. I realize that discrimination goes beyond race many times but in this scenerio I think you are falling into the trap that the Homosexual agenda setters have laid out.

I agree in loving and sharing the Gospel. But to go to the next step that you take IMHO does give too much.

Curious how you view this.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Tim G-

You said, "If you claim discrimination are you not recognizing them as a race?"

No, actually. You can discriminate people on the basis of lots of things. In America, we prohibit discrimination based on several things INCLUDING, but not limited to race:
- Gender
- Age
- Nation of origin
- Disability or veteran status
- Religion

In other words, all Americans are entitled to the fair chance to earn a living. This falls under the whole "pursuit of happiness" thing. What I am saying is that Christians should openly oppose the unfair workplace discrimination of our gay and lesbian neighbors and protect them...just as we protect Christians from discrimination based on religion.


Tim G said...

I guess my next question would be what is protection versus what is normalizing?

I agree in the right to earn a living. I disagree in the granting of benefits established for marriage.

At what point in this "protection" do actually endorse and normalize?


Jonathan Merritt said...

Tim G,

Reading your comment, I'd think you want to discuss this. Reading what you've written about this (and me) elsewhere, I guess not. So this is that time I will be responding to you on this forum.

You used a word that represents a position that I fundamentally disagree with: Normalize. As I have said before, the Christian life is not a call to socio-political domination whereby we delegitamize the existence of those we disagree with. We aren't to marginalize people. To assume otherwise is to oppose both the life of Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament in their totality. Moreover, the pervasiveness of the ideals you promote, in my opinion, are partially to blame for the anemic state of Western Christianity.


Jonathan Merritt said...

"That time" = "last time"


Tim G said...

To bad you do not desire to discuss. I would think that one who promotes such dialogue would engage in such.

Your view is one of a few and yet I wonder of you consider the effects of such a view, once grapsed and applied, will have on young minds and hearts?

Why do you think the ACLU is suing two schools systems in Tennessee over internet access to Homosexual sites promoting it as the norm?

Would love to discuss - your call?

Rocky2 said...

(It's still legal - and always God-honoring - to air messages like the following. See Ezekiel 3:18-19. In light of government backing of raunchy behavior (such offenders were even executed in early America!), maybe the separation we really need is the "separation of raunch and state"!)

In Luke 17 in the New Testament, Jesus said that one of the big "signs" that will happen shortly before His return to earth as Judge will be a repeat of the "days of Lot" (see Genesis 19 for details). So gays are actually helping to fulfill this same worldwide "sign" (and making the Bible even more believable!) and thus hurrying up the return of the Judge! They are accomplishing what many preachers haven't accomplished! Gays couldn't have accomplished this by just coming out of closets into bedrooms. Instead, they invented new architecture - you know, closets opening on to Main Streets where little kids would be able to watch naked men having sex with each other at festivals in places like San Francisco (where their underground saint - San Andreas - may soon get a big jolt out of what's going on over his head!). Thanks, gays, for figuring out how to bring back our resurrected Saviour even quicker!

[If you would care to learn about the depraved human "pigpen" that regularly occurs in Nancy Pelosi's district in California, Google "Zombietime" and click on "Up Your Alley Fair" in the left column. And to think - horrors - that she is only two levels away from being President!]

chadwick said...


The Scriptures along with '20 centuries of culture' deem homosexuality as a sexual perversion.

That is why homosexuals have been historically labeled as 'queers.'

queer [adj.]
1) Deviating from the expected or normal; strange.
2) Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See synonyms at strange.
3) Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.

Why should any sexual pervert have special rights?

Do you think a 'secular' organization such as the Boys Club should be forced to hire a 'queer,' i.e. 'sexual pervert,' to oversee adolescent boys?

Do you think parents would want send their sons to the Boys Club if they knew that the man working with their boys was 'queer'?

Do you think a 'secular' day care would want to hire a 'sexual pervert' to oversee their children?

Do you think parents would want to send their children to a day care where a 'sexual pervert' is employed?

Bottom line concerning sexual preference:
Employers should have the authority to hire whom they wish (concerning sexual preference).

I have two questions for you:

1)Do you believe that homosexuals are 'queer'?

2) Do you believe that homosexuality is a 'sexual perversion'?


saintrage said...

Tim G. said:
Why do you think the ACLU is suing two schools systems in Tennessee over internet access to Homosexual sites promoting it as the norm?

The reason the ACLU is suing two school systems in Tennassee is because the truth is for a certain percentage of students homosexuality IS the norm. These students need to be educated on the realities of their lives in order to develop a healthy respect for themselves as well as to be taught that they can have successful lives too. I wish that I had access to gay websites when I was struggling with these issues in 1969. I turned out well but only later in life when I had learned that EVERYTHING I had been taught about people like myself amounted to a huge pack of lies. If schools can't teach gay students that their lives are valuable too then they can at least allow acess to websites that do so.

Anonymous said...

What Chadwick said +1.

Anonymous said...


Interesting comments. We're not looking for special rights, we're looking for equal rights, guaranteed by the constitution. Religious organizations should be able to hire or not hire whoever they want, based on thier criteria...I have no objection to that. Non-religious organziations should not be able to discriminate period. You're assuing that all gay people are perverts, and pedophiles and all they think about is sex. Well that's just not true. And by the way, are all straight people suited to work with children. NO!

I was a camp couselor in my youth and did a good job. The parents trusted me and I never once thought about doing any seedy with a minor---that's totally disgusting, and wrong. You shouldn't put all of us into that category. Just like we can't assume everyone that calls themself a Christian is automatically good. I've seen some of the ugliest, meanest acts done by so-called Christians that it makes me sad as I am sure Jesus feels the pain of those being abused by "Christians".