The Pew Research Center's latest polls released Tuesday reveal a reality that is sure to shock many: a majority of Christians in the United States support LGBTQ acceptance in our society.
That's right, 54 percent of all American Christians as of 2014 believe that sexual and gender minorities should be accepted and normalized in American society. For those, like me, who work as an LGBTQ activist and advocate among conservative Christians communities, these numbers only add further proof to a reality that I have been seeing among Christians for the past few years. But to many these numbers are likely to be shocking because a majority of the most prominent Christian religious denominations still have official stances in opposition to LGBTQ inclusion and equality. What is going on here?
What we are seeing is one of the most dynamic shifts in the religious landscape in American history. We are seeing a stark divide between the leaders of religious denominations and the laypeople who fill the pews every Sunday. We are seeing a stark contrast between the official doctrines of a particular denomination and the lived experience of it's members. The reality is that nearly 4 percent of the American population identifies as LGBTQ, about 10 million people. This means that it's likely that everyone knows someone who is LGBTQ. Also, the stories of LGBTQ people have found their way into mainstream media, which has demystified the so-called "gay lifestyle" and shown us as average human beings.
When it comes to the state of Christianity in the U.S., the LGBTQ Christian movement has gained significant traction over the past two years, with dozens of theological books being published on the topic, a number of prominent new pro-LGBTQ ministries have been launched, and LGBTQ affirming Christian churches and leaders stories are being widely covered in the national news media.
A shift is happening and it's happening quickly. It's happening because LGBTQ people are demonstrating both our humanity and our faithfulness in very public ways. Religious leaders can no longer stand in a pulpit and proclaim that one cannot be gay and Christian with credibility, because hundreds of thousands of gay Christians are making ourselves visible in our denominations, religious schools, and in broader society. We're no longer see faith in opposition to our sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, a recent Pew poll revealed that over 50% of LGBTQ people identify as "Religious", 48% identifying as Christians.
So what does this mean for the future of Christianity in the United States? It's hard to say. But what seems clear is that lay Christians are no longer dependent on their denominational leaders for their theological and political views. Instead, they are using the wide array of resources available to them to ask the hard questions and seek the truth about sexuality and gender identity. More than that, they are entering in to relationships with LGBTQ people. We are no longer mythological figures that can easily be demonized; we are your children, friends, co-workers, and religious leaders. As we continue to do life with our straight brothers and sisters, their personal experience is challenging their disembodied theology and the experience is winning. If Christianity is anything, it's incarnational. It's about the enfleshed experienced of life lived in community with one another. And it's in these incarnational communities that transformation and redemption is occurring.
So while it may remain easy for denominational spokespeople and religious leaders to sit high in their office buildings proclaiming non-inclusive theology and bolstering their opposition to LGBTQ rights, their people on the ground are actually doing life with real people in the real world, and that is changing everything.
That's why Pew's findings are unsurprising to me. They simply demonstrate the rapidly growing trend that will soon completely dismantle how Christian's think about sexuality and gender identity.
A growing number of Christians are realizing that queer love is real love, and that to deny the power of love is to deny something fundamental to our faith. When reality and theology clash, reality will always win out. This is what is fundamentally transforming the way Christians view LGBTQ relationships and this is what will fundamentally reshape the positions of our religious institutions forever.