Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barna Group research suggests similarities, differences between straight and gay Christians - and Episcopalians' massive miscalculation

The Barna Group's own report is here and should be looked at because those of us who "interpret" it are likely to grind our own various axes.

While Barna surveyed over 9,000 people, the self-identified gay respondents were less than 300, which presents considerable room for error in social research assumptions.

With that caveat, here are some highlights and some of my thoughts:

One of the most basic beliefs has to do with one’s understanding of God. This proved to be one of the biggest differences noted in the study. While seven out of every ten heterosexuals (71%) have an orthodox, biblical perception of God, just 43% of homosexuals do. In fact, an equal percentage possesses a pantheistic view about deity – i.e., that “God” refers to any of a variety of perspectives, such as personally achieving a state of higher consciousness or maximized personal potential, or that there are multiple gods that exist, or even that everyone is god.

If that is accurate, it is a major difference and certainly makes sense of the conflict going on in denominations attempting to address LGBT participation. If you can't agree on an understanding of God, which is item #1 in just about any Christian Creed or Catechism, how can you move on to talk about church practices?

George Barna, whose company conducted the research, pointed out that some 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,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “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 data indicate that millions of gay people are interested in faith but not in the local church and do not appear to be focused on the traditional tools and traditions that represent the comfort zone of most churched Christians. Gay adults clearly have a different way of interpreting the Bible on a number of central theological matters, such as perspectives about God. Homosexuals appreciate their faith but they do not prioritize it, and they tend to consider faith to be individual and private rather than communal.

“It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, 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, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”

If Barna is correct (again, a big IF given the small number of homosexual respondents), this points to helpful news for people who want to be neighbors in spite of differences, and suggests how elitist and eccentric the LGBT activists might be.

The implication for the Episcopal Church is staggering. If it is straight Christians who make use of traditional church structures, and gay Christians who consider faith a more private matter, then the endless fight to create an LGBT clergy caste serves neither group. The irrelevant and self-destructive direction of Episcopalian elites manifests in almost every measurable marker of denominational life. Its own "State of the Church Report" admits that there is no outreach to non-members, constant conflict among current members, and decline by attrition of about 19,000 people per year - the numerical equivalent of losing one geographical diocese every 12 months.

h/t Dakota Voice

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