Evangelicals Falling to the Left

A new study by Baylor University shows that a quarter of self-described evangelicals are ambivalent about gay marriage and civil unions.

For their study — “How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence toward Gays and Lesbians” — researchers analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, a random sample of 1,714 individuals across the country. Researchers found that 24 percent of evangelicals fit into the ambivalent category, supporting gay civil unions even though they are morally opposed to homosexuality. The survey, designed by Baylor University scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization, included more than 300 items dealing with religion and the attitudes, beliefs and values of the American public.

“We’ve known that moderate and ambivalent evangelicals are there, but now they are actually starting to have a voice and beginning to be more political,” Martinez said.

The “Messy Middle” — which researchers refer to as “Ambivalent Evangelicals” — has differing views from evangelical “Gay Right Opponents,” who oppose civil unions, and also from “Cultural Progressives,” who support homosexual behavior and civil unions.

But when it comes to religion, “The Ambivalents have the same level of belief, church attendance, prayer life, Bible reading and friends in church as Gay Rights Opponents do,” Bean said. “They’re enmeshed, not peripheral. You have these people in the pews and serving as Sunday School teachers who are supportive of civil unions.”

Read the rest: Baylor University || Media Communications || News.

For more coverage, see this article from the Associated Baptist Press.

  • Jonnie

    Seems about right for how lots of evangelicals work: when something becomes undeniably part of the American ethos of freedom and rights, they can’t help but get on board because, at bottom, it’s just about the same as generalized civil religion. Young folks will consent to give them the bare minimum, but no more. They’re just open enough to square those basic rights with their parent’s theology, maintaining the purity of marriage, etc. alongside the rights of their Americanism. No theological change, no personal investment in this struggle of these people as people, is necessary. Just obtuse talk about rights, etc.

    • Dean

      Well, I think what you describe is 95% of the world by the way, not sure there are throngs of any religious order plugging away at the latest “theological challenge”. As much as I enjoy these discussions on the blogosphere, sometimes I wonder what the whole point is.

  • Andrew Watson

    This is kind of how I feel on these issues. I believe that the Homosexual lifestyle is morally wrong, but I also don’t feel that I have the right to function as the Holy spirit in another persons life. Overall if 2 guys, or 2 girls, or 3 guys 2 girls and a Labrador retriever decide to get married, it really doesn’t affect me. The only reason I still publicly oppose gay marriage is because of the recent and very disturbing stories of Christians being sued for not wanting to be involved in Gay weddings or civil unions and Christian businesses being threatened by public officials in major cities because of the owners personal views.

    • RollieB

      “I believe that the Homosexual lifestyle is morally wrong…”
      How can love between 2 people be morally wrong?

      • Phil Miller

        Pretty easily, actually… If I fall in love with someone who’s not my wife and act on that, it would be morally wrong.

        • RollieB

          That’s infidelity, which I agree, is morally wrong. Two committed, monogamous people who love each other, and can now get married in my state regardless if they’re same gender or opposite gender, that relationship is not immoral… it’s love and blessed by God.

          • Steven Waling

            People also get married too young when emotionally immature, to unsuitable or violent partners, because they’re in denial about their own sexuality, for all kinds of reasons; and infidelity is one way out of an already bad situation. It’s too easy to make blanket stateents about what is right or wrong in any circumstance.

  • http://www.progressivemom.com/ Progressive Mom

    I would call of it more of a “rising” than a “falling”.

  • http://geoffreyholsclaw.net/blog/ geoffh

    Tony, why title this as “falling to the left” when even the part you quoted speaks of the “messy middle”? Why take away the mess and apply right/left, conservative/progressive descriptors?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Because, if you read the ABP article, you’ll see that the middle cannot hold. People are getting tired of the messy middle.

      • http://geoffreyholsclaw.net/blog/ geoffh

        Those are two totally different uses of the “messy middle”. The Baylor report (from which you quoted) speaks of a principled difference that is neither conservative nor progressive.

        But the ABP report, from which we claim the “middle” cann’t hold uses these words as meaning “churches characterized by ideological pluralism that resolve the potential confusion by simply ignoring every issue that might spark disagreement within the body.” That is not a messy middle living into tension beyond right/left, that is the “apathetic middle” that prefers ignorance and easy to any rigorous thought, and unfortunately, that middle I think hold out quite well as easy Christianity.

        Either way, doesn’t your post (and your slipping in the ABP article) indicate a commitment to that right/left polarization?