Millennial Adults: Leaving religion due to LGBT conflicts?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Millennial Adults
Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) research chart on LGBT issue as a factor in leaving religious groups

CLICK THIS GRAPHIC to visit the Public Religion Research Institute website and read this entire PRRI report.

EACH generation
is unique; each has characteristic values.

The values of the Silent Generation were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. Baby Boomers came of age during the feminist and sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. The youngest adult generation—the Millennials—were the last to be born in the 20th century. They are the first “digital natives,” growing up with computers, the Internet, and social media.

Their unique views include rejection of organized religion and strong support for same-sex marriage. Is one related to the other?

This week, we’ve discussed the Millennials’ disengagement with religious and political institutions, their use of social media and the phenomena of the selfie (and we saw the world’s first selfie), the Millennials’ reluctance to get married, and their distrust of others.

Today, we consider their attitudes about LGBT issues and religion: Over three of ten Millennials (32%) are religiously unaffiliated, the highest percent of any generation. Most of these Millennials were raised in a religious tradition, reports the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). A big reason for rejecting their religious tradition is their perception of how organized religion treats LGBT people, according to the latest PRRI survey.

Here’s the question PRRI asked: “Thinking about the reasons you are no longer affiliated with your childhood religion, how much a factor, if at all, were negative religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people?” Thirty-one percent of Millennials who disaffiliated with their religious upbringing said this was an important or very important reason why.

LGBT issues were less of a factor for the members of older generations who disaffiliated from their childhood religions. For example, only 19% of Baby Boomers who disaffiliated said that negative religious teachings about or treatment of LGBT people were a factor; the figure is only 17% for the Silent Generation.

If you are religiously unaffiliated, were you raised in a religion?

If yes, what was your reason for disaffiliating?

How much of a factor were LGBT conflicts?

LGBT Trends: ‘Could you see yourself performing a gay wedding?’

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series LGBT Trends
Click the book's cover to learn more about it.

Click the book’s cover to learn more about it.

We are witnessing a sea-change in attitudes and policies about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. Record numbers of Americans now support legalizing same-sex marriage, members of Congress (including prominent Republicans) have come out in support of it, and Pope Francis says that the Catholic Church could support civil unions. But same sex-marriage is still a contentious issue and Americans are divided on it. Few questions are more anxiety-provoking than this one for a religious leader: “Could you see yourself performing a gay wedding?”

We began this week with an introduction to Pastor Ken Wilson’s new book, A Letter to My Congregation. In it, he explains the thoughtful and arduous journey that led him to change his mind about the place of gays and lesbians at his evangelical church. We examined the great generational divide in opinions about same-sex marriage, Americans who believe that AIDS is “divine punishment” for immoral sexual behavior, and how many Americans see same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right.

Today, we end the week with Ken’s answer to the question about performing a gay wedding at his church. If any question is the litmus test for a member of clergy, this one is it.

“I could see myself doing that,” Ken writes. “But ‘Could you see yourself performing a gay wedding?’ calls for an imagined response to a future scenario in the abstract. The fact is, I’ve not been asked to perform such a ceremony yet. What if we sharpened the question…to the more categorical ‘Would you perform a gay wedding?’ ”

Ken goes on to say that he doesn’t believe in “giving a categorical answer to a question like this in the abstract.” This might seem like a cop-out. But, in fact, it’s another example of the rigorous spiritual and thoughtful process Ken has taken. He would use the same policy that he applies to remarriage. He would have to discern, with the couple, whether this particular union should be sanctified or not.

Other religious leaders have been asked the question of “Would you perform a gay wedding?” Brian McLaren is one. Brian is a public theologian, activist, church founder, and writer (he wrote an insightful and gracious preface to my book, United America, which you can read right now on the book’s resource page). In 2012, Brian helped to officiate at his son’s same-sex wedding, leading a “commitment ceremony.” This led to considerable controversy and media coverage. (You can read more about Brian and his work at his popular web site.)

If you a member of a church, temple, or mosque—could you see your religious leader performing a gay wedding?

Would you support or oppose it?

LGBT Trends: Is same-sex marriage a Constitutional right?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series LGBT Trends
Click the graphic to visit the Washington Post website for the entire polling story.

Click the graphic to visit the Washington Post website for the entire polling story.

Majority support for legalizing same-sex marriage has reached a record high, according to a brand new Washington Post-ABC News survey. Almost six of ten Americans (59%) now say they support giving gays and lesbians the right to legal marriage.

How many also say that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right? What would the framers of the Constitution have to say?

Support for legalizing same-sex marriage has reached a new high, but this support is not equally shared across demographic, religious, and political lines. For example, women (63%) are more likely than men (54%) to support legalized gay marriage. Eight of ten religiously unaffiliated Americans support it, while just three of ten white evangelical Protestants agree. Eighty-two percent of liberals support legalized same-sex marriage; only 39% of conservatives feel the same way.

Obviously, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t say anything explicitly about same-sex marriage. Judicial interpretations of the U.S. Constitution strive to divine the founders’ original intent, or view the document as a “living constitution” that changes according to the times in which it is interpreted.

Whether the Constitution is a living document or it should be strictly construed, most Americans have an opinion about whether or not it supports legalized same-sex marriage. Here’s the exact wording of the poll question. What’s your answer?

“Regardless of your own preference on the issue, do you think that the part of the U.S. Constitution providing Americans with equal protection under the law does or does not give gays and lesbians the legal right to marry?”

Half of Americans (50%) say that equal protection under the law does give the right for same-sex couples to marry, while 41% say it does not. (The rest didn’t have an opinion.) Here, we see the same pattern we saw before—a lack of agreement about this issue across demographic, religious, and political boundaries.

Do you support or oppose same-sex marriage?

Do you think the Constitution does or does not give the right for same-sex marriage>

What would the framers of the Constitution have to say?

LGBT Trends: Who still thinks AIDS may be ‘divine punishment’?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series LGBT Trends
2014 PEW report on LGBT related attitudes


In 1992, over a third of Americans (36%) said that AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior. Over time, public opinion has become more supportive of gay rights and even legalized same-sex marriage. Has this trend also lessened the opinion that AIDS could be divine punishment for immorality?

The percent of Americans who now agree that AIDS is God’s punishment has dropped considerably, according to the just-released report by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). But a sizable minority—14% of all Americans—still believe that AIDS is divine punishment.

We see big drops in the “divine punishment” theory across the board. In 1992, the majority of white evangelical Protestants (51%) subscribed to this explanation of AIDS; today, the percent is 24%, according to PRRI. Similarly, 50% of black Protestants in 1992 said that AIDS was God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior, but that figure has fallen to 20% today.

Only 7% of white Catholics today perceive AIDS to be divine punishment, 10% of white mainline Protestants, and 8% of the religiously unaffiliated.

We also see differences by political party affiliation. One of four Tea Partiers (24%) today subscribe to the theory of divine punishment. About two of ten Republicans (19%) agree. Support for the idea that God uses AIDS to punish immoral sexual behavior is the lowest for Democrats (13%) and Independents (14%).

Do you agree or disagree that AIDS is God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior?

What explains the trend towards fewer and fewer Americans believing that AIDS is divine punishment?

LGBT Trends: Have you seen the great generational divide?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series LGBT Trends
To read the entire PEW report, click on this chart.

To read the entire PEW report, click on this chart.

In stable, traditional societies the values of the young don’t differ from the values of the old. In societies like the United States, there can be vast differences in values between the generations.

How wide are the generation divides with regards to same-sex marriage?


Back in 2003, there was a 33-point difference in opinion between the youngest adults (ages 18-33) and the oldest (68+), according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Just under half of the youngest group (45%) supported same-sex marriage, versus only 12% of the oldest group.

All age groups have become more tolerant over time, but the wide generational gap persists. PRRI reports that today 69% of Millennial Americans (ages 18–33) are in favor of same-sex marriage, while 37% of Silent Generation Americans (68+) are as well. The gap now is about the same as the gap was a decade ago.

We see vast generational differences even when we look at Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. For example, half of Millennial Republicans (50%) support same-sex marriage, while only 18% of Silent Generation Republicans feel the same way. Four of ten Millennials who are white evangelical Protestants (43%) favor same-sex marriage, compared to 19% of Silent Generation Americans.

Ken Wilson talks about the generational gap in evangelical congregations. In his newly published book “A Letter to My Congregation” he relates his journey that led to his call for inclusion. At one point, he says: “Exclusionary practices have consequences—many of the young in these congregations find them abhorrent. Abandoning the exclusionary practices has consequences—many of the long-time members find this equally abhorrent.” That, he says, is a disputable matter.

Are your views about same-sex marriage the same as your age peers?

Is the generational divide driving greater tolerance of same-sex marriage?

Media Sex & Violence: How much are teens seeing?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Media Sex & Violence

MPAA Ratings PosterHow much explicit media are young people consuming?

That’s the next question raised by religion newswriter David Briggs in his reporting on the negative impact of sexy and violent media on young adults’ religious values. Is this really a widespread concern? Are teens and 20-somethings widely exposed to this stuff?

The answer: Yes, they sure are.

In his columns on these issues, Briggs reports on studies showing that most college students do encounter pornography online, not a surprising finding. But what about younger-than-college-age teens? According to the National Studies of Youth and Religion’s widespread interviews in 2003 with teens aged 13 to 17, the vast majority of the young people in that age range said they were not looking at online pornography. The surveyed teens may have been truthful about that question—the researchers didn’t check these kids’ internet histories.

But—these teens certainly weren’t shy about admitting the prevalence of R-rated movies. Of the 13-to-17-year-old group studied by the Youth and Religion researchers, only 13 percent of these kids said they had seen no R-rated movies! Most of these teens told researchers they were regularly watching R-rated films.

That’s in sharp contrast with the clear indication of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that “children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian.” According to the MPAA, families are supposed to be researching films and only rarely allowing anyone under 17 to see these movies.

Obviously, that’s not the case.

David Briggs points out that further research is needed on this whole range of issues. Questions remain about the actual levels of consumption by young people in each age range—and whether the content is only questionable or is flatly pornographic. There are many questions yet to be answered. However, the data suggest so far that huge amounts of explicit media are being consumed by Americans from early teens through the early 20s.

What do you think of these findings?

Do they seem reasonable based on the lives of young people you know?

Are you concerned about this apparent trend?

Online Dating: Desperate or smart?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Online Dating
Click on this chart from the new Pew report to visit Pew's website and, if you wish, download the entire 57-page report as a PDF.

PERCENTAGES AGREEING WITH THESE 3 QUESTIONS. Click on this chart from the new Pew report to visit Pew’s website and, if you wish, download the entire 57-page report as a PDF.

Matchmaking isn’t new, but computers and the Internet introduced technology to the age-old quest to find a partner. The marriage of technology and romance spawned hundreds of online dating sites, services, and mobile apps.

Have you used any of them?

Has your experience been good or bad? I don’t have any personal experience with online dating so I’m counting on you to chime in!

Eleven percent of all Americans are “online daters,” having used an online dating service or a mobile app, according to a new Pew poll. Almost four of ten Americans (38%) who are currently single and looking for a partner say they have tried online dating. What questions do you have about online dating?

Here are a few:

Do online daters actually go on dates?

Two-thirds of online daters (66%) do, according to Pew. In 2005, when Pew first asked about online dating, only 43% said that they went on an actual date.

Do online daters ever find that special someone?

About one of four online daters (23%) said that they married or entered into a long-term relationship with someone they met via a mobile app or online dating service.

Are online daters desperate?

About two of ten (21%) Internet users say that, yes, only desperate people resort to online dating services or apps.

Is online dating a smart way to meet people?

A majority of Americans (59%) say that online dating is a good way to meet people. Almost as many (53%) believe that you can find a better match by using online dating services or apps.

Does online dating keep people from settling down?

Three of ten Americans say it does, according to Pew: online dating “keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.”

Are you an online dater?

If so, what’s your experience been like?

Do you know someone who is an online dater? What’s been their experience?

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