Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New poll: views of gay morality, and the role of TEC

Public Religion Research has published their latest poll, which shows yet again a country evenly split on marriage equality overall, but with very strong support particularly in the young.  Majorities of main-line Christians and Catholics support equality, with Evangelicals and black protestants still opposed.  You can read the summary as well as access all the data on their website.

So I explored  the data and looked at some of their interesting questions about views of the morality of gay persons, and graphed this for you.

First, the poll asked how people viewed the morality of different sexual behaviors :  sex between unmarried adults, sex between people under 18, sexting and sexual emails, and gay sex.  As expected, sexual acts between gay people were disapproved of, although not quite as much as sex <18 years of age, and not near as much as sexting.

Next, I looked at their data about the acceptability of gay people in different roles in the community.  These answers were broken down by the level of comfort.

I was surprised that strong majorities approved of gay people serving as police, judges (despite the Judge Vaughn Walker issue in the Prop8 case),  doctors, or elected persons with relatively little "very uncomfortable" beyond a baseline 12%.   Curiously, the most vehement response AGAINST anyone was the idea of a gay clergy person.  That means that some number of people (around 12% or so) who have no problem with a gay policeman, are uncomfortable with a gay clergy person.

 But in some respect, the most interesting data were in the views of the morality of gay persons themselves.  Participants were asked to agree or disagree with various statements.  I was surprised that relatively few disagreed with the statement that gays can have good moral values, or can be committed to their religion and to God.  In fact, a majority agreed that gay relationships should be accepted by society.  As before, there's a pretty consistent 12% who disagrees strongly with any gay-positive statements.
Where they disagreed, however, was the idea that gay relationships can be blessed by God.  The baseline of 12-15% swelled to  33% who strongly disagreed with this idea.  The overall disagreement totaled 47% as opposed to 45% who agreed.  Thus, a substantial fraction of those who admit that gay people can have good moral values and be committed to religion, nevertheless feel that gay relationships cannot be and are not blessed by God.

From this selective analysis, I take away two broad points.
First, the marriage equality issue must be separated from the religious aspect of Holy Matrimony in the political sphere.  Too many people absolutely disagree that gay couples can be blessed as a couple. Therefore, we must frame the political debate  about civil marriage and educate people in how that differs. This includes explicit statements separating what people do in their faith communities from civil law.   Yes, I know that they aren't necessary, but we need to make the line bright.

Second, in these and other data from the poll, there appears to be a baseline of about 12% who are completely opposed to any rights for gays, who view gays as immoral, and are always negative.  These are the core opposition:  the NOMmers and their like.  They are not going to be moved.  They are implacable foes.  Where we have to fight the battle is in the moveable middle.
And that means reaching people in faith communities.  Sure, over 50% of lay Catholics and mainline white Protestants are pro-marriage--but we need those numbers to be closer to 60 or even 70% if we are to achieve civil equality.  Just as we all need to come out at work and at home, I believe the full participation of LGBT in churches, active participation in religious life, will help.  I have to hope that seeing devoted gay couples living faithful lives together will move some of those in the middle from the slightly disagree to sort of agree columns in these polls.  Simply by being us, we can make a difference.

And TEC, by recognizing us as couples like any other, could play a big part in this.  I think the challenge for GC2012 will be huge:  you will need to  resist codifying gay relationships as "less than," and fight for the same blessing for everyone.  Otherwise, you would commit the ecclesiastical equivalent of domestic partnerships for The Gay Folk.  And separate is never equal.

Well, we'll see, won't we?

Update:  From the mouths of babes, a great column in the SMU student newspaper (of all places)
The truth of the matter is that what we have here-to-fore referred to as "same-sex" marriage is no different than any marriage between opposite-sex couples. In both cases, two people come together in love and unity to declare, before God, their unending love for one another. It makes no difference whether it is a man and a woman, two men, or two women. Ultimately, holy matrimony derives its sanctity from the love that both partners share for one another, and not from the genitalia with which they were bestowed....

Gay men and women across the country are not fighting for "same-sex marriage;" they are fighting for "marriage."

I hope that GC2012 will make that so. 


JCF said...

Thus, a substantial fraction of those who admit that gay people can have good moral values and be committed to religion, nevertheless feel that gay relationships cannot be and are not blessed by God.

This shows the INSANITY of fundamentalist religion. These are people who believe their "God" is Not Good! Yet worship (give highest worth to) their Ungood God anyway! Gobsmackingly crazy.

Martin T. said...

Straight people can be good too, but just as sexual activity outside of marriage isn't blessed, nor are homosexual sex acts, period.Yes, gays can have moral values and be committed to God if they obey Him. The problem is when you search constantly to justify your actions and come up with excuses all the time. No insanity here, just not being self-deceived as to what sin is.

Byron Estes said...

Not so fast Martin T. There is scriptural support for same-sex love in the bible (Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi) and older translations did not use the term homosexual, a very modern word. I wouldn't be so quick to claim that God denies blessings to anyone for their intrinsic nature. The Spirit is working all the time toward helping us all love God and love our neighbors and ourselves. These are the primary goals of any Christian.

JCF said...

Yes, gays can have moral values and be committed to God if they obey Him.

The Apostle Paul (speaking w/ the authority of God): "Better to marry than to burn."

Gays ARE obeying God, Martin T. (Welcome to Friends-of-Jake---now play nice!)

Geoff said...

JCF, as usual, you've hit right on it for me. The sense in which gay relationships are "immoral" is so abstract as to be meaningless if it's divorced from the actual moral qualities of the relationship. That's why "contras" have such a hard time identifying the locus in which the supposed immorality subsists - after all, aside from the fit of genitalia, there are no real candidates that are not equally features of (most - remember the infertile!) heterosexual relationships. No one would plausibly deny that gay couples are capable of mutual self-offering, sacrificial love, care and comfort, lifelong fidelity, or the growth of new life. Yet opponents are desperate to try and make the sum of all these morally good parts somehow add up to a negative (for other people, naturally). Talk about self-deception!

Brother David said...

From the mouths of babes, a great column in the SMU student newspaper (of all places)

Play nice with my alma mater!

JCF said...

Hey, Hermano Dahveed, como estas? Y tu corazon?

Brother David said...

Thanks for asking.

One fully blocked artery now open and four stents installed. All over again on 15 SEP for two partially blocked arteries. Back in Mexico for now regenerating for the next round.

I guess that my heart will probably not set off metal detectors, no?

IT said...

Dahveed, please take care of yourself. You are awfully young for this kind of heart problem!

JCF said...

Like I said at Mimi's: switch to vegetarian frijoles Dahveed! No more manteca for tu!

JCF said...

[FYI, I love saying manteca. Partly, because I'm going on vacation tomorrow . . . and we're turning off, to the Sierra, in ...{wait for it}... Manteca! (Yes, California has a town named for *lard*! LOL)]

Brother David said...

By order of my cardiologist I am now in phase 1 of the South Beach Diet; no sugars, no fruit, NO COCA COLA, no white rice, no potatoes or carrots. Only lean meats, low fat cheeses and dairy, purified water and artificially sweetened ice teas and select vegetables and beans.

BTW, few Méxicanos eat refried beans with lard!

Mary Clara said...

Good post -- and so good it provoked a response from brother Dahveed with an update on his health!

And like him, I am an SMU alum and not at all surprised by the column in the Daily Campus. SMU is in a very conservative part of the country but has always had strong liberal voices as part of its dialogue. In my time (1959-63) the John Birch Society put a lot of pressure on the university to try to get liberal professors fired; the President stood firm. SMU students and faculty were active in the desegregation movement which was just heating up then; leadership came especially from the theological school, and the Methodist Student Movement and Campus Y were heavily involved. These days the United Methodist Church has been badly undermined by the IRD people, but I don't think their social witness will be permanently hobbled -- partly because of their ongoing ties to the many fine colleges and universities established under Methodist auspices over the years, where the theological basis for Christian social witness continues to be nurtured at a scholarly level. The Methodist Church's commitment to higher education historically makes that of the Episcopal Church look pretty feeble.

Anonymous said...

My discussion of the marriage equality issue in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia: