A survey has found that fewer Americans believe homosexuality is a sin. The LifeWay Research poll discovered that 37% "affirm a belief that homosexual behavior is a sin," down from 44% in 2011. The percentage of "unknowns" has risen to 17%, up from 13% over 2011.
LifeWay president Ed Stetzer said of the results, “The culture is clearly shifting on homosexuality, and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a minority view, strongly held by evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims and so many others?” Stetzer also believes that President Obama's change of stance on gay marriage “probably impacted” the change in cultural values.
Q: Do you think the survey's results show a permanent shift in attitudes toward homosexuality?
I believe we are seeing a steady, and probably permanent, trend toward greater acceptance of homosexuality. This is evident not only in President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, but also in voters' legalization of same-sex weddings in Maryland, Maine and Washington in November.
The background material raises the question of how America will deal with a minority view still held by some, including evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims and Mormons. Actually, how America deals with us is less important than how we deal with pressure to conform to the new majority. Religious truth is not defined by popular opinion, or for that matter, by judicial rulings. People of faith often have had to stand apart from the mainstream. This has been true since the days of Noah and Abraham. It was true for the Savior and his followers and may prove true for us as well.
The church is making a concerted effort to reach out to homosexuals, to let them know they are loved and welcome. We assure them that may serve actively and hold positions of leadership. Mormons do not believe that same-sex attraction is in itself a sin any more than heterosexual attraction is sinful. We do believe, however, members who have sexual relations outside of marriage transgress the laws of God. Those who err in this way, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are encouraged to repent.
There is no question that the requirement of chastity presents a far greater challenge for gays in a church that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman. The church teaches, and scriptures affirm, that the rest of us have a clear responsibility to respect those who carry these burdens and do all we can to help them live within the standards the Lord has set.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Martin Luther King Jr. said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and I think that is happening with gay rights. Let's also remember the obvious — that religious attitudes about sin or not sin have no bearing on a group's full exercise of their civil rights in our system.
I think that the 45% of Americans who do not think homosexuality is a sin must include quite a few evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Muslims, given statistics on religious identity and basic arithmetic. I know individuals in these groups who do not think that. I'll bet you know some too.
Take for starters my large family. Most of them are active members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and none of them think that. (They also don't like the constant misuse of the first word of their denomination name to mean politically reactionary fundamentalism. Please stop.)
Gussie Moran, tennis star in the mid-20th century who died last week, dared to wear a skirt shorter than her knees to run, reach and jump around the court, with 2 inches of lace on her underwear. For this she was said to have brought “sin into tennis.” Fashion and ideas of sin change, and I don't think these are changing back.