In news that is likely disheartening to the many evangelicals who are also LGBT allies, a new poll has found that American voters view gay people far more favorably than they view evangelical Christians. Of course, though our friends may be disheartened, they likely know exactly why that’s the case:
More than a simple matter of “Should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry?”, the poll looked at shifts in opinions over time, reasons for such shifts, and differing opinions among ages, faiths, geographic areas and more.
The first question addressed acceptance, comparing voters’ favorable or unfavorable feelings towards gays and lesbians and towards evangelical Christians. In a nearly80% Christian-identified country, the results might surprise you.
Fifty-three percent of voters said they felt favorably toward gays and lesbians, compared to 42% who felt favorably toward evangelicals. Eighteen percent said they felt unfavorably toward gays and lesbians, while 28% reported unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals.
Here’s a graphic from the poll:
In discussing the World Vision flap this week, evangelical writer Benjamin L. Corey explained that, in a way, evangelicalism died this week. People are no longer allowed to hold differing opinions under the tent, and those who would abandon impoverished children because they despise gays so much are the ones carrying the banner:
We often are not able to see or identify pivotal moments in history until long after they have passed. There are times however, when we’re able to realize just how significant a certain moment is.
Especially when someone– or something– dies.
Yesterday was one of those moments in American Evangelicalism.
When World Vision announced that they were now allowing married, gay Christians to work in their US offices, the internet blew up on all sides. It seems that all the gay wedding cakes that have been discussed were like tinder being collected dried out, and left far too close to a heater. World Vision’s attempt at unity within the body of Christ most obviously backfired, and became the final spark to ignite an evangelical explosion.
Last night I reflected on the situation in deep sadness. I’ve always considered myself an evangelical, and for the most part I still do depending who’s defining the term. However, I sensed in my spirit that yesterday was a profound day in our history, and it came with sadness for me.
The question I posed on twitter became: “did we just witness the death of evangelicalism?”
In some ways, the answer to that is yes. Yesterday, I believe, was a major turning point in the Evangelical Reformation that has been underway and that we at least experienced the death of Evangelical Christianity in America as it once was.
Although it may not have always felt this way, Evangelical Christianity was a relatively large bubble that had room for a range of perspectives. Fundamentalist Evangelicals, Mainstream Evangelicals, and Progressive/Emergent Evangelicals were able to all be in the same space- though there was usually friction in areas of overlap, for a time it was big enough for everyone.
Be clear: this actually wasn’t a debate on same sex marriage. This was a debate on whether or not a Christian organization can hire gay Christians from denominations who have a different theological perspective on the issue.
World Vision and those of us who lean my way said “yes– we want everyone working to help the poor and needy and we want to acknowledge diversity in the body.” The others responded with a “Hell no. We’ll pull the support of the children we sponsor before we ever tolerate gay people working here.”
And it’s those very changes that repulse the average American. I’m not even talking about gay people or those with gay children or what have you, but rather just the American folks who don’t even think they have a dog in this fight. They see gays gaining equal rights and it strikes them as fair, and they see the Religious Right and it strikes them as so much bile.
This is why projects like the NALT Christians Project are so crucial, because not all Christians are “like that,” and they need to stand up and be counted, both for the people who are hurt by right wing Christianity, and for those whose voices are so often drowned out by the meanness of the Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkinses of the world. If you’re an Evangelical and you run across this post and the results gross you out (for the right reasons), click that link for the NALT project and learn how easy it is to add your voice as a Christian who isn’t represented by the nasty voices of the Religious Right.