Majority of US Gays Still Interested in God
I recently stumbled upon an article on USA Today’s website reporting the release of research comparing faith across the Gay/Straight divide. I think it says something most in the church, and many outside of it, should probably take note of: that even though numbers are lower, there is still a huge interest in the Christianity, let alone spirituality, amongst those the church has most often sought to demonise.
"People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts," said George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based research company. "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."
The Straight/Gay splits were quite consistently noticeable, but still remarkably small compared to what many want to portray. Is faith important in their lives – 72%/60%, identifying as Christians – 85%/70%, “personal commitment" to Jesus Christ” 75%/58%. I don’t know what other people think about this, but my immediate reaction is to thank God the church hasn’t done as much damage as many believe.
Experience tells me this probably isn’t very far from reality in Britain either; whilst the loudest voices proclaim the hurt they’ve felt from the church, most are actually not far behind their straight counterparts. In fact, its interesting to see just how much demand there is for serious discussion on faith and sexuality from LGBT groups on campuses around the UK.
If there really is this much interest in God amongst the Gay community, it probably explains why the Metropolitan Community Church is growing so dramatically. It maybe ought to cause churches to question whether there aren’t quite a lot of closet gays in their pews. And it certainly makes me wonder how many Evangelical Gays are finding themselves forced onto Liberal churches to avoid leaving the church altogether.
I was told sometime back, and I do wonder where this data came from, that American trends showed “Gays are getting married and Evangelicals are getting divorced”. Again, rather startling given the prejudices still held by many in the church that Gay people don’t form monogamous, committed relationships like Straight people do (its a very long time since I dismissed that impression myself, just in case anyone is wondering).
Looking at the data I just don’t see a Godless, de-churched-closed bunch (posh term meaning people who’ve left the church and are not open to returning). Specific difficulties, yes. An area which requires a huge amount of work and trust building (perhaps from both sides)? Yes. But I definitely get the impression many in the church have dug themselves a moat of presumption, believing they aren’t of interest to those on the outside.
There is also this assumption that if Gay people aren’t happy, its because they’re Gay (and the same for almost any other negative attribute, to be honest). I think much of this just reflects a kind of cultural determination to see Gay people troubled by their sexuality, when in reality, its the Christians who tend to be troubled (believe me, I get to talk to them about it far too often).
For the church, I think means a bit of a reality check is in order. How many of the churches beliefs about the Gay community are actually about justifying the application of specific, and debateable, bible verses to a group of people. And how far has that simply not worked? And how many closet gays are there in the pews? And what does this say about the Grace of God? Thank God the Church never quite manages to totally screw things up!