Are Evangelicals Really Changing Their Mind About Marriage Equality?

Jesus Is Not A HomophobeIt was bound to happen sometime: a major article suggesting that evangelicals are changing their opinion at marriage equality. The source is Politico, and the story’s theme is that “increasingly, even evangelical Christians, long known for doctrinally condemning homosexuality, are embracing gay people, too.”

Sort of.

The story marshals the available evidence to support its case. There’s the inspiring work of Matthew Vines, who is holding boot camps to help other Christians understand the importance of accepting LGBT people. There’s James Brownson, an evangelical scholar whose book Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships concludes that people in committed same-sex relationships can be living the Bible’s word. 

But there’s also a lot of rhetoric from evangelical leaders who are throwing in the towel in the face of endless defeat, particularly on marriage equality. The story contrasts some of the most hateful rhetoric of ten years ago with the more resigned language of today. Yes, in 2004 James Dobson of Focus on the Family did say that evangelicals, “could not stand idly by while the radical gay agenda was forced down their throats.”

In 2014, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said that “gay activists are leeches.”

And that’s the problem. There’s still plenty of hateful rhetoric to go around. More to the point, at heart, most evangelical leaders have not changed their position. So what if Rick Warren is sorry that he supported Proposition 8? Now he’s urging President Obama to make sure the proposed executive order banning discrimination by federal contractors includes a giant exception that would allow religious organizations to discriminate as they wish.

If that’s an embrace, count us out.

It’s true that the number of evangelicals who support gay marriage is growing. It’s also appalling low. About 27 percent of white evangelicals support marriage equality. Compare that to the majority of Americans who do. 

Any movement is for the better, and the story acknowledges that the change may take decades to complete. But let’s not kid ourselves. Evangelical Christians will be the holdouts against LGBT progress, particularly marriage equality. The leaders know that it’s a lost cause. Just because they’ve come to terms with losing, doesn’t mean that they’ve come to terms with us.