Tony Jones has a post today reviewing the beginning of the Democratic National Convention and celebrating how the Democratic Party appears to have transitioned to full-throated support of homosexual relationships and marriage equality. It’s received little comment in the media- maybe because the media arrived at such support long ago?- but such support seemed unthinkable just a few cycles ago.
Tony concludes with this thought: This is just another sign that the tipping point has been reached. And it is yet again up to congregations and denominations and plain old Christians to decide whether they want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history.
Now I know a lot of you have a lot of different feelings when it comes same-sex relationships. I realize how sincere Christians can arrive at two very divergent points of view on the question. Christians can debate the question from a variety of scriptural and theological perspectives; indeed, Christians have been doing just that (to the overall detriment of the Church) for decades. The issue threatens Church unity in my denomination (Methodism) and has torn several other denominations asunder.
Pushing the scriptural and theological concerns aside for just one moment, on one level Tony’s point is absolutely rock-solid: demographics.
No matter the supposed scriptural or theological ‘correctness’ of those who oppose same-sex relationships, long-term it’s a losing issue for the Church.
I’ll put it stronger, long-term the Church has an image problem when it comes to how we deal with the gay issue.
Why? Because, like it or not, young people think Christians are homophobic and, overwhelmingly, young people do not share that phobia.
In his book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church, David Kinnaman cites the perceived intolerance of Christians as one of the primary reasons those in their teens and twenties leave the faith.
It’s a generational difference. Kinnaman points out how in 1960 9 of 10 young adults identified themselves as Christian. Today it’s 60%. In 1960 only 1 of every 20 births was to an unwed mother. Today it’s nearly 50%.
Young people today have grown up with a diversity (religious, ethnic, relational) unthinkable 50 years ago. Diversity is an assumed norm in their lives and they bring it to bear on the topic of homosexuality. Young people favor egalitarianism in their relationships: fairness over rightness, inclusion over exclusion, relationships over opinions and, as a result, young people simply assume the participation of homosexuals in any meaningful cultural conversation.
And there’s the demographic rub. An institution that behaves as though it values the polar opposite, the Church, seems strange, antiquated and even mean-spirited to a majority of young people.
I’m not suggesting that churches should capitulate to the cultural mores of the empire. Neither am I suggesting churches should abandon teachings they sincerely believe are given by the Holy Spirit.
I am suggesting that the demographics make it even more imperative Christians engage this conversation gently and with compassion, as though all the eyes of young people are watching.
I am suggesting that the demographic realities force Christians to consider whether being ‘right’ on this issue is more important than persuading others to the love of Christ. Or, as Tony puts it again: This is just another sign that the tipping point has been reached. And it is yet again up to congregations and denominations and plain old Christians to decide whether they want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history.