A new study of Christian reaction to the June 26 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S. has found that the country is deeply divided on the issue but that most Americans believed it was inevitable.
The Barna Group is reporting on their new poll which revealed several key findings they hope will help people make sense of where Americans really stand on this divisive issue – and what’s next in the conversation.
The survey found that 49 percent of the general population support the decision with 43 percent opposing it and seven percent saying they’re not sure how they feel. This compares to 66 percent of the practicing Christian population who are opposed to the ruling.
Americans are equally split on whether they believe the new ruling will have a positive or negative effect on the country. Forty percent say the impact will be negative while 37 percent think it could be positive. Overall, 52 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage is morally right and 43 percent believe it is morally wrong.
The point most seemed to agree on was that same-sex marriage was inevitable with 62 percent saying it was just a matter of time before it became legal.
The survey also found that the opinion of those Christians who are more personally observant of their faith differ from those who are “cultural” believers.
“In this instance, practicing Christians (28%) are far less likely than self-identified Christians (43%) to favor the Supreme Court ruling,” Barna writes.
Only 38 percent of Catholics said they opposed the unions, with 53 percent approving of them. This was the highest percentage of approval among all Christian groups and was surpassed only by people of other faiths (32%) and no faith (18%).
Even though youth in the general population tend to favor same-sex marriage more than their older counterparts, this is not the case among practicing Christian youth. Only a third of practicing Christians under the age of 40 favored the ruling (35%) with 61 percent disapproving of it. These numbers represent a deep division between practicing Christian youth and non-practicing Christian youth in the general population of which three-quarters (73%) favor the ruling.
The majority of Americans – among all faiths and age groups – believe religious institutions and clergy should not be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their beliefs.
A majority of U.S. adults also believe that for-profit businesses should not be forced to provide services for same-sex weddings with the younger population (44%) saying they ought to be compelled to do so.
Concerns about religious freedom are rampant among the U.S. population with nearly six in 10 (56%) saying they believe religious freedom will become more restricted in the next five years. This number rises to 62 percent of adults over 40 compared to just 45 percent of Americans under 40.
Interestingly, the majority of Americans, including most religious groups, believe there is a difference between church and state unios with more than half (54%) saying that “Christians can support legal marriage for same-sex couples and also affirm the church’s traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman”.
“First, many practicing Christians—including evangelicals—appear to be looking for ways to express their faith authentically in this cultural context. For one thing, observers should not underestimate the depth of the opposition that evangelicals feel toward same-sex marriage. The 20 million or so Americans who qualify under Barna’s theological rubric are not just sort of different from other groups—they are dramatically different in their ideological and theological resistance. Still, it’s interesting that many Christians, including evangelicals, are coming to the conclusion that it’s possible to support legal same-sex marriage and also affirm the church’s traditional definition of marriage. Many Christians are attempting to negotiate the new normal on this.
“Second, the gap between younger practicing Christians and younger Christians who no longer actively practice their faith is striking,” Kinnaman continues. “Some have speculated that many young people have left church because of the church’s traditional stance on LGBTQ issues. And while this research doesn’t confirm this finding, it certainly shows that inactive Christians are skeptical about a great deal of the Church’s authority on these kinds of matters. The gaps between younger practicing Christians and younger lapsed and dechurched Christians will be a major cultural fault line—particularly as younger churchgoers become a smaller slice of the overall population.
“Third, while it is a minority of Americans who believe clergy should be legally compelled to perform same-sex marriages, one in five is not an insignificant number. And two in every five Americans contend that businesses should be made to provide services to same-sex marriages. These represent points of view that—given their prevalence among younger Americans—could represent shifts in how Christians are able to exercise their religious freedoms.”
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