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Same sex marriage, public opinion and religion

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Rod Dreher, in one of his increasingly frequent loud sighs about  his side’s impending loss on same sex marriage, flags an interesting and revealing finding from the recent PRRI poll:

About 6-in-10 (59%) white mainline Protestants believe their fellow congregants are mostly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, among white mainline Protestants who attend church regularly, only 36% oppose allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry while a majority (57%) actually favor this policy.

Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics believe that most of their fellow congregants are opposed to same-sex marriage. However, Catholics who regularly attend church are in fact divided on the issue (50% favor, 45% oppose).

The framing of ‘secular vs religious’ is so pervasive that pro-SSM religious people fail to recognize they’re in the majority in their own church. It’s certainly true that they’re been an significant increase in Americans identifying as secular or irreligious in absolute terms, but they were starting from a very low baseline that the growth in their growth can only account for a trivial amount of the shift on public opinion regarding SSM. That group, however defined, is an important source of support for SSM, but in this country you can’t have social change without a significant fraction of Christendom on board, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. SSM is becoming popular because Christians are very quickly deciding they don’t have a problem with it after all. This is why when I hear people say that Christian teachings and doctrines on human sexuality and marriage  just can’t possibly accommodate SSM, I wonder what world they’re living in. Of course, some people, as part of a an attempt to dig in their heels, have convinced themselves of that, but that’s not particularly revealing; given the ease with which their fellow co-religionists have done it. In the end, Christianity has been the mainstream religion in American society by calibrating the amount of racism and sexism build into their teachings to remain close enough to the mainstream to retain its status. It’s clearly happening again with the tremendous change we’re seeing regarding acceptance of gays and lesbians.

In Dreher’s comments, someone quickly chimes in to worry that outsiders will use anti-discrimination law to sue churches that don’t perform same sex marriages. In addition to having no understanding of the relevant law, his risk assessment has a sort of Dale Gribble character to it.

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