August 14, 2009

Encouragining Words 8/14/09: Stereotypes About GLBT Spirituality Are Wrong

That's the conclusion George Barna, one of the most prominent religion pollsters, came to after a recent survey of 9,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans. From the blog "Politics Daily:"

As America's leading Christian denominations are once again feuding and splitting over whether they should allow gays and lesbians to marry, or ordain them as clergy, is it a miracle there are any gay Christians? Given Christianity's history of exclusion and often outright homophobia, and the current bloodletting over their role, why do homosexuals bother staying, not to mention believing?

They do both in numbers that might surprise you: A new survey of 9,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans from George Barna, a well-known evangelical pollster, showed that 70 percent of gay adults describe themselves as Christian and 60 percent say their faith is "very important" in their lives. Granted, those figures are lower than the population as a whole, which register 85 and 70 percent on those rankings, respectively. But Barna, himself a Bible-believing, born-again Christian, points out that the numbers demonstrate that "popular stereotypes about the spiritual life of gays and lesbians are simply wrong."

"People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts," Barna said. "A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today."

Homosexuals who have come to terms with their sexuality also tend to be active in church, and especially in lobbying to change church policies on homosexuality, for the same reasons they are involved in these causes in the secular sphere: because they want Christianity, and America, to live up to their stated beliefs.

"I am deeply invested in the United States, as a country, living up to its constitutional ideals, and the vision of democracy we espouse is deeply moving to me," said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a lesbian and United Church of Christ pastor, who leads faith outreach efforts for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Likewise, part of my DNA is as a Christian, as a member of the United Church of Christ. The vision of what the church stands for and espouses really is my identity." (Voelkel notes that many of the toughest skeptics come from within the LGBT community, which understandably equates organized religion to organized opposition to its agenda and its very identity.)

On the other hand, Christianity has throughout its history faced crises over whom to include and how to include them -- from the disputes among the apostles over welcoming gentile believers, to the split in the Reformation, to divides over race and roles for women. "Each one is in my mind an opportunity for the church as a whole to make the decision: Are we going to choose extravagant welcome and hospitality and justice as that which guides us as a community? Or are we going to choose fear and inhospitality?" said Rebecca Voelkel. "Over and over again, when the church chooses extravagant welcome and hospitality, it makes itself stronger and truer to its core Gospel."

Besides, as the orthodox George Barna noted in his survey, while most homosexual Christians have rejected elements of traditional church teaching in order to remain in the fold, they do so "to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles."

"Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations," Barna concludes, "there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume."

There is much more in the article, including a look at the debates within several of the major religions denomination. Click here to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. got your email. good stuff! tweeted it. i have been a bad blog reader lately and have stuck with twitter for quickies :-)

    to your point, christians who oppose same gender relationships assume that other people in the church will just capitulate. what they don;y understand are the thousands of people who have faith not in spite of being open about their sexuality, but because of it. these folks want to worship in churches that welcome and affirm and if their church affirms their relationships, then why whould the state oppose them?