NASHVILLE (BP) — Support for legalizing same-sex marriage in America has dropped from 54 percent to 49 percent since February, according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center. But analysts are debating the poll’s significance.
“It is difficult to put one’s finger in the wind and know which way a given issue is going,” Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press in written comments. “It is quite clear to people on all sides that America is in upheaval. Our most basic principles are being debated; that which has bound us together as a body politic feels like it is pulling apart.”
Forty-one percent of Americans said they oppose “allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally” in the poll of 2,002 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 2-9. Although the 49 percent level of support for gay marriage in the poll represents a 5-point drop in seven months, Pew said the decrease may not be significant statistically.
“It is too early to know if this modest decline is an anomaly or the beginning of a reversal or leveling off in attitudes toward gay marriage after years of steadily increasing public acceptance,” Pew said in a release announcing its findings. “Moreover, when [a] February poll and the current survey are combined, the 2014 yearly average level of support for same-sex marriage stands at 52%, roughly the same as the 2013 yearly average (50%).”
Strachan said the Pew data suggests that “the uneasy 18th-century marriage of the Enlightenment and the church” that is “inherent in the American founding has birthed a new contest of visions.” The 5-point drop in gay marriage support could signal “a cultural backlash against the advance of the New Sexual Moralism.”
“We’ve seen bakers brought to heel before the state; we’ve watched as the leading officials of our government have failed to enforce the rule on the books regarding marriage,” Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, said.
“… All this has taken our breath away. But it seems also to be showing others that something deep and terrible is happening in America. These friends may well be waking up to the danger of a more authoritarian, more centralized state,” he said.
Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, believes the Pew poll is “remarkable” and shows “a rather dramatic drop in support of gay marriage.” The drop likely has been triggered by egregious instances of traditional marriage supporters being oppressed, she wrote in the National Review.
Among the instances of public oppression cited by Gallagher:
— A&E suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he expressed objection to homosexual acts.
— Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign after it was revealed that he contributed to a California political campaign that opposed gay marriage.
— Carrie Prejean, a former Miss California, “became the object of widespread public hatred” after she said during the Miss U.S.A. pageant that she believes in opposite-sex marriage.
“If my analysis is right, the future depends on two things,” Gallagher wrote, “whether gay-marriage advocates continue to press the idea that supporters of the Christian and traditional understanding of marriage should be treated as bigots in the public square — and whether stories of the oppression of opponents of gay marriage ‘break through’ the media blockade.
“That will in turn depend in part on whether political champions of supporters of classic marriage emerge to make oppression visible,” she wrote.
Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues in his latest book that polls showing strong support of homosexual marriage in America are likely inaccurate.
“Polls are not giving a true measure of how people think or will vote on the issue,” Heimbach writes in “Why Not Same-Sex Marriage.” “In truth, people rarely tell pollsters what they think or will do at the ballot box, especially when pressed to reveal convictions they think will be criticized.
“Americans are not yet as closely divided on same-sex marriage as some recent polling suggests. A more reliable and useful measure of where Americans stand these days can be seen in the fact that nearly every time the issue has been put to a popular vote, it has been soundly rejected — usually by 2-to-1 margins,” Heimbach writes.
Whether the Pew poll is accurate or not, Strachan urged Christians to maintain an eternal perspective on cultural issues.
“We’re reminded by all this that our trust is not in America,” Strachan said. “Now or in the future, America will fade away. We pray that this country practices principled pluralism and allows freedom to flourish as it has in past days, unleashing the American church to preach the Gospel and do good all over the globe.
“Come what may, though, the hope of Christians is the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ. This is one arc, one data point that will not rise and fall. It is continually rising, and continually releasing sinners just like us from the bondage of death into the obedience of faith,” Strachan said.