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Sociologist Mark Regnerus
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Christians who back gay ‘marriage’ tend to accept other sexual sins: researcher

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

A well-known sociological researcher has analyzed a massive study of American attitudes on culture and relationships and found that churchgoing Christians who say they support legalized same-sex “marriage” are more likely to support abortion, pornography, premarital sex, marital infidelity, and divorce as well.

In light of the increasing number of mainline Protestant denominations choosing to ordain homosexual clergy and give their blessings to same-sex unions, Austin Institute sociologist Mark Regnerus wanted to know: “What is the sexual and relational morality of Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of same-sex marriages. … What exactly do pro-same-sex-marriage Christians think about sex and relationships in general?”

Using data from the Austin Institute’s “Relationships in America” study, Regnerus analyzed regular churchgoers, defined as those who reported attending religious services three or more times in a month, and separated them into two groups: those who support same-sex “marriage” and those who do not.  When he compared their answers on other issues having to do with sexual morality, he found that the group supporting same-sex “marriage” was more likely across the board to agree with the following statements:

  1. Viewing pornographic material is OK.
  2. It is a good idea for couples considering marriage to live together in order to decide whether or not they get along well enough to be married to one another.
  3. It is OK for two people to get together for sex and not necessarily expect anything further.
  4. It is sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse.
  5. It is OK for three or more consenting adults to live together in a sexual/romantic relationship.
  6. I support abortion rights.

On the other hand, those Christians who supported same-sex “marriage” were less likely to agree with the statement: “If a couple has children, they should stay married unless there is physical or emotional abuse.”

In the case of abortion, 39 percent of Christians who favor same-sex “marriage” said they thought it should be legal, compared to just 6.5 percent of Christians who define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  Thirty-seven percent of same-sex-“marriage”-supporting Christians thought premarital cohabitation was a good thing, while only 10.9 percent of Christians who oppose gay “marriage” agreed. On pornography, 33 percent of Christians who support gay nuptials say it’s OK, compared to 4.6 percent of those who don’t.  More than 15 percent of Christians who support gay “marriage” even said they approve of polyamory – sexual relationships involving more than two partners, and one-third of them said casual sex was morally acceptable. 

While 52.2 percent of Christians who oppose same-sex “marriage” think troubled married couples should stay together for their children’s sake (barring abuse), just 33.5 percent of those who support gay “marriage” said they agreed.

“At a glance, there is a pretty obvious fissure between Christians who do and do not oppose same-sex marriage,” Regnerus wrote of his study at Public Discourse.  “More than seven times as many of the latter think pornography is OK. Three times as many back cohabiting as a good idea, six times as many are OK with no-strings-attached sex, five times as many think adultery could be permissible, thirteen times as many have no issue with polyamorous relationships, and six times as many support abortion rights. The closest the two come together is over the wisdom of a married couple staying together at all costs (except in cases of abuse).”

But Regnerus said support for same-sex “marriage” among churchgoing Christians is a symptom of a long-term shift in sexual mores that has already seen many mainstream Protestant denominations gradually loosen their standards when it comes to sexual sin – in other words, it’s a measuring stick, not a driver.

“To be sure, the sexual and relational standards of many Christians have already shifted,” Regnerus wrote. “I’m not so naïve as to think that affirming same-sex marriage is the first significant change to take hold in their sexual and relational norms.  More likely, the sexual morality of many churchgoing Christians shifted years ago, and the acceptance of same-sex marriage as licit Christian action follows significant change rather than prompts it.”

“An ideal test,” Regnerus added, “would have been to have successfully interviewed congregants in ‘shifting’ denominations (like the Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopalians) over time, mapping what happens to their personal attitudes and opinions as social change occurred around them. So far as I’m aware, no one has done that. Indeed, it would have been difficult to do, involving the successful anticipation of future changes that were far from certain at the time.”

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