The Barna Group recently did a survey of gay spiritual life, as compared to straight counterparts. The study surprised them. Since their copyright disclaimer says we can’t quote from them without permission, I’ll direct you to their website, from the link above. Read the survey. It’s short.
But the Barna Research Group found that gays took their faith seriously, even if churches wouldn’t allow them in. The gay community is huge and varied. Gay people are married, have kids, have respectable jobs, are responsible, moral, faithful, compassionate and Christian, and they are also atheist, and Buddhist, and some are irresponsible, some are immoral, some are unmarried–in effect, they have the same population dynamics that represent you. You just don’t see them coming to your church if your church has a policy against gays.
I think George Barna’s comments show, remarkably, that despite the Christian church’s pushing away gays from church, they have not succeeded in pushing them away from faith. Further, Barna notes that the stereotypes break down when you see this survey. Good for us!
The questions and the answers
What I think is obvious, though, is, when straights and gays are surveyed, that their differences in church attendance, in the importance of religion, in the view of God, or the way our faith guides our lives, have a lot to do with how gays are currently treated by the church. Would you want to make “orthodox Christianity” part of your life if you were told that God, and that orthodox faith, condemns you?
The questions the Barna survey asked: whether they would call themselves Christian or if they were committed to the Christian faith? The fact that four out of 10 gays said they were committed is AMAZING. But the “noticeable gap” can be explained by the fact that the Christian Faith is not committed to reaching out to gays–but is committed to reaching out to married heterosexuals, and it is committed to pushing away gays, especially married gays (who have to be “active lifestyle” advocates.)
Again, the Barna survey findings think it is “interesting” that homosexuals aren’t involved in their “local church.” I’m just not sure if the Barna people’s next survey ought not to be a survey of local churches that allow gay people. That might clear up the mystery. That gays don’t feel their faith is “communal”, but instead “individual” also reflects the lack of positive experience in communal church situations. Much safer to practice faith as an individual. It’s safer at home, by yourself. Our views of God are wider because we are trying to find a view of God that has not been appropriated by people who condemn us. And certainly we don’t want Fred Phelps’ God.
Why wouldn’t homosexuals buy into a Bible as the “accurate word of God” as much as straight people do? Biblical inerrancy has gone hand in hand with condemnation of gays and lesbians. Their literal interpretation often follows those 1950s translations of the “clobber passages,” reading “homosexuals” as the favorite whipping boy. It’s no wonder gays would think that there might be an error or two in the translation. It’s a miracle gays have a christian faith at all, if the central book, the Bible, is viewed as inerrant in its literal 1950s translation.
I think the survey reveals the damage done to gays and lesbians in churches and the remarkable resiliency of their faith despite persecution.
I applaud the Barna Group and challenge them to conduct a survey on area churches and their practices towards gays and lesbians both in their church and outside their church. Secondly, a survey that asked members of local churches what they think they should do in regards to gays and lesbians who come to their church, and where they think the church will be in ten years on this issue.