It is obvious to anyone who is paying attention that achieving marriage equality is only a matter of time. Marriage equality has become the law in 18 states, whether through law or through the courts. The Supreme Court will likely weigh in in favor of marriage equality in the next few years, setting the law in the handful of states that will remain longterm holdouts. This is a battle evangelicals will lose.
But they aren’t just losing the battle, they’re also losing the war.
Other polls indicate that as many as 65% of young evangelicals may now support marriage equality. The trend has been for these numbers to increase, and it is likely they will continue to do so. This suggests that evangelical Christians have a bit of a problem.
Of course, there’s another dimension to this problem.
Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.
In other words, even as some young evangelicals are switching positions on marriage equality, others are leaving their faith as a result of evangelicalism’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals. In other words, evangelicals’ hardline position on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality is driving some evangelicals out of the faith entirely.
Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Only among members of the Silent Generation do less than a majority (43%) believe religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
When seven in ten Millennials say religious groups are alienating young adults by taking a hardline stance on issues like LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, it becomes pretty darn clear that evangelicals have a problem.
Evangelicals who keep their hardline stance on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality claim they have to take that stance, because it’s written in the Bible. Clearly, 44% of evangelical Millennials disagree. So do the large numbers of church youth who leave the church upon adulthood, one third of whom cite their church’s hardline stance on LGBTQ issues as an important reason for leaving. In addition to those Millennials disagreeing and those Millennials leaving, a full 70% of Millennials believe that churches that take hardline stances on this issue are alienating young adults. Now maybe it’s just me, that seems rather significant.
If evangelicals keep their hardline position, they will eventually have to recognize that they are not only losing the battle but also the war.