Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future by Mark Regnerus

Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are more likely to think pornography, cohabitation, hook-ups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion are acceptable. And it’s reasonable to expect continued change in more permissive directions.
As mainline Protestant denominations increasingly accept the ordination of gay clergy and publicly affirm same-sex unions, the sociologist in me wishes to understand what this development means for people in those denominations. I’m not talking about subtle linguistic shifts. While the difference between speaking of marriage as a “civil contract between a woman and a man” and as “a unique commitment between two people” is obvious to those who pay attention to church documents, the impact of such changes on congregants’ attitudes and internalized paradigms—their hearts, I suppose—is seldom considered.
What is the sexual and relational morality of Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of same-sex marriages? Some questions naturally arise. Does adultery mean the same thing for both same-sex and opposite-sex unions? Does it make sense to speak of premarital sex in such a context? Historically, the fear of pregnancy was enough to scare many love-struck Christians into taking things slow, but same-sex pregnancies are an accomplishment, not an accident, and most Christians use contraception now anyway.
Integrating homosexual relationships into Christian moral systems is not simple, and has ramifications for how heterosexual relationships are understood, too. What exactly do pro-same-sex-marriage Christians think about sex and relationships in general?
I’m not asking what perspectives on sexual behavior people ought to hold. Instead, I’m trying to discover what perspectives churchgoing Christians who disagree over same-sex marriage actually express.
To be sure, the sexual and relational standards of many Christians have already shifted. I’m not so na├»ve as to think that affirming same-sex marriage is the first significant change to take hold in their sexual and relational norms. More likely, the sexual morality of many churchgoing Christians shifted years ago, and the acceptance of same-sex marriage as licit Christian action follows significant change rather than prompts it. An ideal test would have been to have successfully interviewed congregants in “shifting” denominations (like the Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopalians) over time, mapping what happens to their personal attitudes and opinions as social change occurred around them. So far as I’m aware, no one has done that. Indeed, it would have been difficult to do, involving the successful anticipation of future changes that were far from certain at the time.
What I do here is far more circumscribed. I assess a set of sexual and relational attitudes of Christians who support—and Christians who oppose—same-sex marriage.
Primarily, this exercise concerns the attitudes of all churchgoing Christians who express support for same-sex marriage. And since the LGBT population remains a small minority (and even smaller in organized religious communities), it’s reasonable to conclude that the sexual morality that “welcoming” congregations or individual Christians profess will have largely been fashioned—and maintained—by sympathetic heterosexuals. These are and will remain the majority (and hence, the norm) in all congregations, save for the Metropolitan Community Church and perhaps scattered congregations of the United Church of Christ.
The Relationships in America Survey
To do this, I rely on the Relationships in America survey, a data collection project I oversaw that interviewed 15,738 Americans, ages 18-60, in early 2014. It’s a population-based sample, meaning that its results are nationally representative. The survey asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with these seven statements:
1. Viewing pornographic material is OK.
2. It is a good idea for couples considering marriage to live together in order to decide whether or not they get along well enough to be married to one another.
3. It is OK for two people to get together for sex and not necessarily expect anything further.
4. If a couple has children, they should stay married unless there is physical or emotional abuse.
5. It is sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse.
6. It is OK for three or more consenting adults to live together in a sexual/romantic relationship.
7. I support abortion rights.
There is more to sexual and relationship morality than just these seven items, to be sure, but they do offer us a glimpse into how people perceive various practices and relationships. In order to ensure this is not just an exercise in documenting the attitudes of Christians “in name only,” I’ve restricted the analysis to churchgoing Christians—here defined as those who report they attend religious services at least three times a month and who self-identified with some sort of Christian affiliation. And I’ve restricted the analysis to those who report a position either for or against same-sex marriage. (I’ve excluded the one-in-four who reported they are undecided.)
For comparison purposes, however, I report the population average for each measure here, to use as a gauge of where the country is as a whole, as well as the attitudes professed by self-identified gays and lesbians who also report affiliation with a Christian tradition, and gays and lesbians that do not report a Christian affiliation. Because there is no attendance proviso attached to these two groups, the minority of gay and lesbian Christians that are regular churchgoers may also appear in one of the first two columns.
Regnerus GraphSo what do the numbers say? The table above displays the share of each group who either “agree” or “strongly agree” with the seven statements listed above. At a glance, there is a pretty obvious fissure between Christians who do and do not oppose same-sex marriage. More than seven times as many of the latter think pornography is OK. Three times as many back cohabiting as a good idea, six times as many are OK with no-strings-attached sex, five times as many think adultery could be permissible, thirteen times as many have no issue with polyamorous relationships, and six times as many support abortion rights. The closest the two come together is over the wisdom of a married couple staying together at all costs (except in cases of abuse).
Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage look very much like the country as a whole—the population average (visible in the third column). That answers my original question. What would a pro-SSM Christian sexual morality look like? The national average—the norm—that’s what.
While the divisions here are notable, we should maintain some perspective. No more than four in ten Christians who support same-sex marriage agreed with any of the statements above (except the question about children and divorce). The same cannot be said for American Christians who self-identify as gay or lesbian, as the fourth column demonstrates. And that group is clearly distinct from those gay and lesbian Americans who do not affiliate with a Christian tradition (e.g., nonreligious, Jews, spiritual-but-not-religious, Buddhists, etc.).
I’m not suggesting any “slippery slope” sort of argument here, implying that a shift in one attitude will prompt lock-step adjustments in others. In reality, our moral systems concerning sex and sexuality tend rather to resemble personalized “tool kits” reflecting distinctive visions of the purpose of sex and significant relationships (and their proper timing), the meaning of things like marriage and gender roles, and basic ideas about rights, goods, and privacy. Americans construct them in quite distinct combinations, often cafeteria-style. Instead, the results might be better interpreted as a simple story of social learning from quite different reference groups—those sets of people we use as a standard of comparison for ourselves, regardless of whether we identify as a member of that group. Indeed, attitude shifts in this domain are probably far more about reference groups than about any sort of individual “evolution” or rational construction of personal values. And it’s because of reference groups that both sets of Christians tend to perceive themselves as rather embattled, which is an inherently social sensation.
Christians Feel Embattled—Regardless of Their Views on Marriage
Churchgoers who oppose same-sex marriage sense that they are out of step with the rest of the nation about sex and relationships. (The numbers above reinforce that.) And Christians who favor legalizing same-sex marriage often remain embattled with those who oppose it, and yet sense that their own views on sexuality still lag behind those gay and lesbian Christians from whom they’ve have become convinced of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. That, too, is true. Gay and lesbian Christians, in turn, have much in common with gay and lesbian non-Christians—their social circles often overlap. The sexual norms of the former are not as permissive as the latter, but are still well above the national average in permissiveness. The latter likely constitutes a reference group for gay and lesbian Christians (together with heterosexual Christians with whom they are in fellowship).
Given the rather massive divide in attitudes about sexual and romantic relationships evidenced in the table above, reference group theory—if employed here—would suggest that the current division between these groups of churchgoing Christians will remain far into the future. Even if a share of American Christians who presently oppose same-sex marriage track in more liberal directions—and it would be shrewd to presume that this will occur—those Christians who already support same-sex marriage are themselves still tracking in that same direction. And, from the looks of it, they have plenty of territory to cover yet.
Mark Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, research associate at its Population Research Center, and a senior fellow at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Preach the Gospel and, Since It's Necessary, Use Words by Ed Stetzer

Monday, May 12, 2014

Matt Walsh - Christian Hating Liberal Fascists Have Once Again Demonstrated Their 'Tolerance'

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Written in 2005 With Public School Teachers in Mind

How we spend our time shapes who we are, and how we assemble the persons we are is cause for social concern.  At all times, we must ask ourselves whether or not what we are doing is loving or wise.  Simply having the freedom to do a thing doesn't justify doing it.  Just because it might be legal (such as pornography or immodest dress) doesn't make it right.  Liberty is the freedom to do that which is right.  Being able to discipline oneself for the benefit of others is the very essence of maturity.  What examples are adults, entrusted with the awesome responsibility for their care, to the rapidly maturing next generation who will impact our society positively or negatively depending on to what we expose them.  One of the biggest problems with today's society is that we have almost forgotten the concept of civic and social duty.  We have rebelled against that responsibility, and are forced to live in the pit that we've helped to dig as a result.  Albert Einstein once said, "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."  We're apathetic, indifferent, sluggish, and retreating when what we need to be is alarmed, outraged, vigilant, and ever on the attack.  We have experienced the natural progression of an unguarded nation towards neglect, corruption and the loss of idealism.  Shantideva said, "All the joy the world contains, Has come through wishing happiness for others.  All the misery the world contains, Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself (at the expense of others)."  To cultivate compassion, experience what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your own behaviour.  When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama said in his lecture, "…For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we end up harming not only others but also ourselves…"  

Troubling to me it is when our impressionable children are required to read books as objectionable as The Great Gatsby in our public high schools.  Certainly there are books depicting social class that are more edifying and wholesome?  So what if it is considered to be a classic?  We all need to think for ourselves, and not just do what is considered cool or popular, do we not?  Transcendentalism and literary trends should not simply be accepted as "art" but should be evaluated in the light of student edification.  Reading about affairs, murder, booze and shallow conversation is not laying a good foundation for young people, is it?  It does not seem responsible or caring to me.  There is so much we do not have control over in life that is difficult.  Why require our young people to read such sad, depressing, meaningless garbage?  True to the fallen human condition it may be, but for our children to have to fill their minds with such writing is inappropriate.  Why not fill our children's heads instead with inspirational, character-building literature.  A good dose of beautiful poetry or other imaginative literature can be just the right prescription to make one's spirit soar.  Books on truth, beauty, purity, goodness, justice, courage, faith, joy and humility are my suggestions for our awakening daughters and sons.  Unfortunately, in public schools, students are rarely introduced to men and women of courage, honor, inspiration, or traditional principles.  No, schools, instead, are issuing forth drastic, narrow-minded beliefs.  Innocence seems to be out while indoctrination is in.  In ninth grade, my daughter was required to read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joann Greenberg.  That is an exceedingly dark, descriptively graphic tale depicting the frightening life of a teenage schizophrenic.  For days after finishing the book, she was mysteriously sad.  We have our entire lives to read, develop and learn.  We do not have to read about such hard subject matter as mere teens (or ever)!  These days, children grow up way too fast!  It would be a good idea to slow that process down rather than continuing to accelerate it.  What do you think?  Why not live as Philippians 4:8 instructs us to:  Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Also quite concerning to me is The Grapes of Wrath for it pokes fun at Christianity.  In the public schools, why is it that other worldviews (such as living the homosexual lifestyle, Islam or evolution) cannot be read about in such a light, but it is okay for students to read about the Christian worldview in such a negative light???  Why does our school system wish to brainwash our next generation against the truth which is Jesus Christ???  Of what is it so afraid???  Unfortunately, many students who are not strong in their faith will succumb to unhealthy, liberal propaganda they are fed in public school.  As Michael Savage proclaims, "We've gone from the three "R's" to the three "D's":  degeneracy, disorientation, and deconstruction."  Radicals are striving to control minds using tactics such as:  drugs, textbooks revised to present history from the biased, manipulative, untrue worldview of liberals, tolerance, socialist indoctrination, deconstruction of patriotism, censorship of Christian and conservative ideas, etc.  Ponder this, if you will.  With no moral framework or baseline of truth to follow, and without historically accurate facts, how can teachers teach students to be honorable, responsible and caring citizens?  One does not have far to look to witness the chaos and devastation caused in our society due to our turning away as a nation from our Judeo-Christian roots.  The narcissism practiced by most is the basic problem in our world.  If we would all simply put God and others above ourselves, what a peaceful, kind, gentle, loving, caring world we would live in.  Having much wisdom, William Jennings Bryan made statements such as, " We do not ask that the teachers in the public schools, colleges and universities become exponents of orthodox Christianity … but Christians have a right to protest against teaching that weakens faith in God, undermines belief in the Bible and reduces Christ to the stature of a man."  He suggested that since Christians build their own schools when they want to teach their doctrines, evolutionists should do the same for promulgating theirs.  Bryan, who was a member of the American Society for the Advancement of Science said, "it is not the facts that do harm"; rather it is the "forced conclusions unsupported by fact."  "All truth is of God," Bryan argued in the August, 1923, issue of Popular Science Monthly, "whether found in the book of nature or in the Book of Books; but guesses are not science; hypotheses such as the hypothesis of evolution are not truths."  Surely parents have a right to guard the religious welfare of their children.  The evolutionary hypothesis is a challenge to the authority of God - the foundation for the Bible, Christianity, and ultimately all of civilization.  All through the ages, societies have based their laws on the "Ten Commandments."  Imagine that!

Catcher in the Rye along with Streetcar Named Desire are two other examples of books that are a waste of valuable time to read.  In them there is absolutely nothing of redeeming value for our lives.  Of course, the books I've mentioned are just a smattering of the inappropriate literature we are forcing our children to read in our public schools across the nation.

Our culture is rotting.  Just listen to the lyrics of popular songs, pick up a book or magazine, view a movie or television show.  Look around at the immodest way females dress.  The dress code in most public schools is appalling!  How can male students possibly be expected to focus on the reason they are there, which is to learn?  How can male teachers be expected to keep their eyes pure?  It is absolute insanity!!!  Be attuned to how many unborn babies are slaughtered and their precious body parts sold for profit by the factories of death.  Pay attention to the violence permeating our communities, the rampant availability of pornography penetrating every home with a computer or television., the disrespect and lack of courtesy displayed by all, judicial tyranny, and the neglect of and abuse directed at women.  (Could this be a direct result of pornography?  Duh!)  Then consider that perhaps we are allowing the wrong input in our lives and the lives of those who have been entrusted to our care.  After all, we are raising our next generation of leaders!!!  Words like diversity, pluralism and tolerance have anesthetized us to the reality of good and evil.  Tolerance is the cultivation of an attitude of indifference to things we see happening around us.  In the name of peace, we tolerate evil.  In the name of tolerance, we accept sin and call it freedom of speech or freedom of sexual persuasion.  We dare not stand up for what we believe for fear of being labeled intolerant.  Tolerance sees your sin and embraces it. Grace sees your sin and hands you over to Christ's healing embrace.

Debate is good, is it not?  Being able to disagree is one of the cherished freedoms upon which this country was founded.  Change would never come about if well-meaning folks did not speak up.  "The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error," - William Jennings Bryan.  Entrusted with the awesome responsibility of my children's care, I am concerned about how their generation is being raised, to what they are being exposed, and the examples they have in their lives.  Are they being enriched in mind, spirit and character?  They all need highly esteemed mentors to guide them along the path to liberty.  They need to be taught how to, and be encouraged to, think for themselves.  Sadly, too often conformity and control is the name of the game in our schools as well as in society. 

Lastly, bear in mind……..if we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything.  Hopefully, seeking our own pleasure is not the measure of our lives.  We are called to be intolerant in love.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parenting Teens

Watching a particular scene, in the recently released movie Grace Unplugged, has prompted within me the desire to pour out my thoughts and feelings concerning it. Referring to his wayward eighteen year old daughter, Grace's father says, as he looks heavenward, "She's yours now, Lord."

Yes, how necessary it is for all parents, who have surrendered their allegiance to Jesus, to surrender total parenting control to Him as well. Of course, no matter what, He is in control whether or not we humans turn over our supposed control to Him. Thankfully, He works in our lives and in the lives of our children no matter how much control we do or do not relinquish to Him. God the Father, as the only perfect parent, loves our children even more than we do, and what He has planned for them is best. His ways are higher than our ways, and there will always be much we are unable to understand about His ways. As we spend time wrestling in prayer with Him, seeking His guidance, He will afford us His wisdom, knowledge and right thinking on how to parent our children. Our children are unmitigated blessings from Him, and to be blessed by Him with children is an awesome responsibility, one never to be taken lightly. With each passing year, as our children grow older, we afford them realistic opportunities to make more decisions for themselves. As they make poor decisions, they can choose to learn from them or not. This is all part of striving for independence that begins the very day of our birth.

Many these days have made a practice of accusing disciples of Jesus of brainwashing our children, by simply teaching them to seek God and His will through prayer and obedience to the precepts set forth in His Holy Word. They would prefer for us to offer our children up as sacrifices to the state, as if the state is not in the business of indoctrination. How convoluted and destructive this type of thinking is. How irresponsible and unloving it would be to keep from our children knowledge of the only way to truth, the only way to holy and righteous living, the only way to life eternal, the only way to peace that passes all understanding and joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are all born knowing God, with a conscience that divides right from wrong. The world begins it's seduction as soon as we are born into it, and if responsible parents remove their God-given, authoritative, loving teaching and correction from our children, how much sooner will the sad fall from truth inevitably occur. All of God's children have rebelled against Him, except for His only perfect child, so we can count on our imperfect children rebelling. Contrary to what some believe about themselves, human parents are also imperfect. How easy it is for folks to have all of the answers when they have been faced with none of the problems personally. This seems particularly true when it comes to parenting.

Yes, we are called to relinquish our parental control to God's ultimate authority, while at the same time, we are called by God to do our part in guiding our children along the narrow way to eternal life. We are partners in conjunction with God as we raise our children to know Him and to make Him known. We will all make many heartbreaking mistakes in raising our children, and many variables come into play as we do so. There are those among us who feel things much more deeply than do others, for we allow ourselves to. Some children linger long in the nest while others fly to independence much earlier. Some live close by, while others live at a great distance. Myriad varying influences come into children's lives, for good and for bad. Some families are exceedingly blessed by being able to remain in their home areas, where their ancestral roots are firm and deep, while others lose their close systems of loving support as they move away from such vital, life-giving and enhancing familiar connections. There are families whose members are intimately connected, and families that are much more loosely joined. There are children whose lives are always open books unto their parents, while children in other families have many chapters that remain ever closed to their parents. How exceedingly easy it is for those among us who have not yet become parents, especially parents of rebellious teens, to offer up advice to those of us who are in the midst of unimaginable suffering and heartbreak, due to the rebellion of our teens. There are many who would rather point the finger of condemnation, even relishing in the pain that we are suffering, because they believe that the suffering is deserved. Instead of helping to bear our burden by lovingly coming alongside to offer comfort, encouragement, inspiration and love, or simply a shoulder to cry on, they prefer to say, "I told you so." It's as if they want us to wallow in our disappointment and pain, as they withhold loving support. Another hurtful reaction to our pain is when others are not willing to grieve with us, as they unthinkingly tell us we should move past our pain. How can we move past it when it's an ongoing condition?  We're living in the midst of it on a daily basis, wondering what antics our rebellious teens will act out next.  What hurtful words will they sling and why?  Will they come home tonight or not?  If not, where are they, with whom and what are they doing?  Is it illegal, safe, healthy?  Whom are they harming besides themselves and their concerned family?  Will they end up in jail or possibly dead?  We will not be able to move past the torment until our prodigals return to their first love - Jesus, who is the truth.  Sadly, many are unwilling to listen as we seek healing and comfort through talking about it. Until someone has walked in another's shoes, quite often we are sorely unequipped to extend the mercy, compassion and discernment needed in order to display the love of Jesus to another. WHY IS THAT? The reality of it is, as long as our child is a prodigal, our hearts will remain broken, that is, if we are responsibly engaged with our children. Of course, the Bible instructs us to be content whatever state we are in, and as hurting parents, we can achieve a state of contentment. It's necessary for us to be able to function in our daily lives. However, it is wise of us to remember that there will be days where we will be utterly depleted due to fighting the ongoing battle for our souls, and we will be unable to quench the grievous weeping over our children from deep within. It's healthier to allow ourselves to feel the deep well of profound pain, for then we are also able to feel the deep well of profound joy that is also a significant part of our lives, as we abide in Jesus. To attempt to stifle the devastating pain is unrealistic and crippling. Out of our painful experiences comes the ability to reach out to others in their suffering. It enables us to make a difference for good in this life as well as into eternity. It's part of the refinement process as we become more like Jesus, if we allow it. Out of our deep pain, we become warriors for Him, soldiers of the Cross, as we determine to keep our branches in His vine.