EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the 14th story in a series examining the national debate over same-sex “marriage.” The series appears in Baptist Press each Friday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If same-sex “marriage” is legalized nationwide in America, as some believe it will be, then the liberal views of teenagers and young adults are sure to play a large role.
This view is widespread among same-sex “marriage” supporters, who constantly cite polls showing what they claim are America’s changing attitudes. Teens, they say, are embracing homosexual “marriage.”
Deb Price, who works for The Detroit News, wrote a column last year about two high school students, Amanda Blair and Stephanie Haaser, who fought to change their respective schools’ attitudes on homosexuality. Price, a homosexual, believes same-sex “marriage” may be inevitable.
“The gay-friendly generation of Blair and Haaser will eventually take control of the most powerful jobs in the corporate, political and educational worlds,” she wrote.
Recently, during a protest against marriage laws in Illinois, a woman in Chicago told the local newspaper: “In 100 years, history books will look back on what’s happening right now with judgment.”
Conservatives in recent years have been emboldened by polls showing that teenagers are more pro-life than their parents. But, if the polls are right, those same teens also are more likely to embrace same-sex “marriage.” Although polls differ, nearly all of them show that teens are at least 10 percentage points more likely to embrace changing the definition of marriage.
— A December New York Times poll showed that Americans opposed same-sex “marriage” by a margin of 61-34 percent. But the results among 18-29-years-olds were just the opposite — 56 percent supportive, 40 percent opposed.
— A February Newsweek poll showed that 47 percent of Americans favored either same-sex “marriage” or civil unions (23 percent marriage, 24 percent civil unions). But 58 percent of 18-29-year-olds favored some form of recognition (39 percent marriage, 19 percent civil unions).
The million-dollar question is this: Will those same teenagers and young adults stick with those beliefs?
“[O]ne would have to question, ‘Well, when they grow up and get older will they be like today’s older people, or will they carry with them these attitudes throughout their lives?’” political analyst Michael Barone told Baptist Press. “I could make a plausible argument for either position. I don’t know which one is right.”
The generation gap has been influenced by everything from television to academia to parenting, leaders say.
“I attribute it to the unrelenting pro-homosexual propaganda that they’ve grown up with,” said Peter Sprigg, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Marriage and Family Studies. “I think that although the majority of Americans overall still oppose homosexual marriage and oppose homosexuality, there is an overwhelming pro-homosexual bias in some of our major cultural institutions, such as academia, such as the news media and particularly the entertainment media, which is very influential with young people.
“I think we have a whole generation that has been raised on pro-homosexual mythology.”
Sprigg says higher education has been a big culprit, with public schools playing a smaller role. He notes that polls show that those with a college education are more likely to support same-sex “marriage.”
“That’s not because they’re more intelligent,” he said. “It’s because they’ve been subjected to this kind of teaching.”
Young people also have been raised on MTV, which promotes homosexuality through such programs as the “Real World,” and network television, which increasingly has added homosexual characters to its programming in recent years.
“The gay character is always depicted as the wisest, the funniest, the best dressed, the most stylish, the most reasonable,” Sprigg said. “That’s a very subtle but effective form of propaganda, I believe.”
In addition to television and academia, the breakdown of the family also has played a large role in shaping the attitudes of teens and young adults, some say.
“Since the late 1960s there has been an increasingly smaller percentage of parents rearing children from a uniquely biblical perspective,” said Richard Ross, professor of student ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and spokesperson for the abstinence-focused True Love Waits program for teenagers.
“Until this present generation of teenagers came on the scene, we were seeing — reflected in each succeeding group of teenagers — a smaller percentage embracing biblical values. Interestingly among teenagers in 2004, on some measures we are seeing teenagers more conservative than their parents.”
But same-sex “marriage” is an exception. Ross quoted a yet-to-be-published study by University of North Carolina researchers showing that teens have what he termed an “absolute resistance” to passing “judgment on any faith, philosophy or lifestyle.”
“We have trained the teenagers to believe that truth is relative and to believe we must be tolerant to all,” he said. “And that teaching has been uniformly successful.”
Sprigg called the current homosexual movement the “culmination” of the sexual revolution that began in the mid-20th century that taught “you should be able to have sex with anybody you want, whenever you want.”
Many people become more conservative when they marry and have children Sprigg said, adding that that could happen to the younger generation.
“[I]f they had a child in first grade and suddenly discovered their child was being taught about homosexuality in their first-grade public school classroom, I think it would give them pause, and they would say, ‘Wait a second, this is going too far,’” he said.
Ross isn’t so optimistic.
“I think instruction in tolerance has been so pervasive that teenagers will likely carry this perspective into adulthood unless there is very quick and very clear teaching in an opposite direction,” he said. “I am not hopeful, though, that this will take place. The vast majority of faithful parents in the church have abdicated Christian instruction to the church. Parents have come to believe that faithfully taxiing teenagers to and from the church fulfills their responsibility. This grieves me because parents have the power to shape lifetime values within their teenagers.”
One reason teens and young adults have different views, Sprigg said, is because they confuse what he believes are two very different issues. One concerns the victimization of homosexuals, the other the definition of marriage.
“They don’t want to see [homosexuals] harassed and [be] the victims of violence,” he said. “We agree with that…. [But] I think it is possible to separate the marriage issue from other concerns. Just because you’re upset that some homosexuals are the victims of hate crimes doesn’t mean that you have to grant same-sex marriage rights. It just doesn’t logically follow.”
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