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The Gay Gap
Generations Divided Over the Issue of Homosexuality
An article from David R. Smith at

Seniors send faxes; Millennials send texts. Seniors get their coffee in their kitchen; Millennials grab theirs at Starbucks. Seniors watch TV Land; Millennials watch MTV.

But one of the biggest differences between Millennials and Seniors is their view on homosexuality.

It seems this is the 98th article I’ve written about the issue of homosexuality in the last twelve months. When there was a rash of suicides by young people who had been bullied – many over their sexual orientation – I wrote about it in this article. When Lady Gaga released her “manifesto” Born This Way, a very pro-homosexual song, Jonathan and I addressed it in this article. Finally, when droves of young people supported Gay Pride Month (June), I offered my thoughts here.

And now, with the publication of a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) on American’s beliefs about homosexuality, it’s time to do it all over again.

In their Executive Summary, researchers from PPRI point out a blaring reality about Americans’ perceptions on homosexuality: “there is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) and Seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people.”

Whoa baby! The Grand Canyon has nothing on that gap!

The study’s full report explains that 3,000 adults were interviewed during July 2011 in this study. It also admits that the study was funded by The Arcus Foundation, a pro-gay group, which, according to their website, “works to advance LGBT equality.”

The study shows that there are a lot of gritty differences between the generations. For example:

  • 62% of Millennials favor allowing gay/lesbian couples to marry one another (compared to 31% of Seniors)
  • 69% of Millennials think gay/lesbian couples should be able to adopt children (compared to 36% of Seniors)
  • 69% of Millennials think that religious groups alienate young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues (while only 37% of Seniors agree)

Confirming this report from the PPRI is one from Gallup. For years, Gallup has tracked Americans’ views on homosexuality, and in May of 2011, they reported that for the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) believe “same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid.”

If you’re thinking that Gallup’s poll doesn’t reveal the huge disparity between ages, just wait. Gallup also offers a breakdown of their findings by age…and it’s the exact same story all over again. In the 18-34 year old range (Millennials), 70% supported legalizing same-sex marriage. But in the “50+” age group, a mere 40% of Seniors wanted same-sex marriage legalized.

These reports have some interesting insights about the homosexual issue, but without a doubt, the inescapable observation is that older Americans think very differently about homosexuality than do younger Americans.

A Future Dominated by the Issue
I don’t want to get sidetracked, but I think it’s important to note that homosexuality isn’t the lone iceberg that threatens to sink the ship of harmony between older and younger Americans when it comes to matters of sex. For example, the Guttmacher Institute revealed that there are gaps between generations when it comes to “defining” sex, too: in 2007, only 20% of college students (Millennials) thought oral sex constituted sex compared to 40% of college students in 1991 (Gen X).

Yet another “gap” in sexual issues is identifiable in the argument over cohabitation. According to the National Marriage Project, cohabitation (living together outside of marriage) has increased twelve-fold since the 1970s. This represents another huge difference between generations, but the executive summary of their report highlights the various negative impacts this reality has on children.

These kinds of gaps make for an easy prediction: today’s young people will live in a future that is dominated by conversations about homosexual matters.

It’s not just “reports” that drive my assumption; it’s also current news. In the wake of 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer’s suicide, a homosexual who experienced profound online bullying, Lady Gaga, the idol of the deceased young man, asked President Obama to intervene with laws to make bullying a crime. And speaking of presidents, the GOP presidential debates are also addressing the homosexual issue since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was recently overturned.

Homosexuality has been a hot button issue, and will be, for a long time to come.

Questions About the Question
If my prediction proves correct, what can youth workers and parents do to address such a profound piece of teenagers’ future lives?

We can repeat two mistakes of religious people: judgmentally condemn all homosexuals to Hell, and then turn 180 degrees to declare that homosexuality isn’t even a sin. Or we can teach all that the Word of God reveals on the issue, namely that homosexuality is a sin, and that we are to love homosexuals.

But how do we do that?

We’ve written a helpful – but long – article at The Source for Youth Ministry about this issue and how it relates to the church. I strongly recommend reading through that before you address the issue with your teenagers.

But then, when you start talking about homosexuality, begin with lots of questions. This will accomplish two things: first, it will give you an assessment of where they are, and secondly, it will show them that you are interested in listening, not just lecturing. Here are several questions to get you going:

  1. Why do you think these big gaps about homosexuality exist between generations?

  2. Who do you think is right…and why?

  3. What do you think about homosexuality?

  4. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

  5. In every instance that homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, it’s condemned as sin. Why do you think that is?

  6. If something was really true 2,000 years ago (like the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality), is it still true for us today?

These are just a few aids to get you going. No doubt, those conversations between you and your teens will raise more in-depth questions about this issue. (That long article linked above will help in almost every instance.) But this is a conversation worth having. So have it over and over again if necessary.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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Comments on this post

   Donald Wood         10/16/2011 4:13:14 AM

Great article again. Thanks for keeping us informed. Blessings.

   Sean         10/7/2011 10:07:58 PM

Homosexuality again? I read these articles, and I see the same thing over and over. Which is Christians having no clue what to do about gays and lesbians. Your not going to convert them. That's out, so what next? Maybe you can tell them you love them, but also tell them that what they are doing is wrong at the same time. Hmmmmmm, then again that's just a much nicer way of doing what they did in the old days, except they ridiculed and maimed. Same thing if you ask me. My guess is that these articles are for Christians only. They speak to a crowd which gets smaller and smaller every year. Mostly aimed at the Christian who "STRUGGLES" with being gay. Must be something being a Christian knowing you love in a certain way that's sinful to the big man upstairs. Now if the new strategy is to treat homosexuality as a sin, just like every other sin. Then what's the point of making a big deal about it? What's the point of all these articles and all the pulpit talk? Homosexuality is just the flavor of the month. It's just been a very long month and soon it'll finally come to and end. I mean really, do and articles on the sin of unmarried couples living together in todays age, and see how that goes over. Highly doubt that one won't get as many hits as these do.

   Adam Wormann         10/7/2011 7:19:44 PM

Jon [Jolly] - I think the place to start that would be "What place would a dude that's living with and hooking up with his girlfriend have in our church." That's a starting point anyway.

   Jon Jolly         10/7/2011 3:04:23 PM

Hi guys, I fully agree that there's a big divide in attitude towards homosexuality between generations. The problem I see is application. If we accept that homosexuality is a sin (as the commenters here seem to, although this is by no means agreed across church traditions), how do we then apply this? What does it mean to 'love' someone practically while also acknowledging their sin? What roles can gays legitimately have in church if we consider them "living in sin"? I'm not looking to argue a particular case, but I wonder how we can outwork this while remaining honouring and supportive of those with alternative sexuality.

   Joanna Vanderkooi         10/7/2011 10:23:18 AM

I agree with you 100%, Jonathan. Sin is sin, not to be condoned or divided into categories, but just known to be wrong...every sin. My sin is no better or worse than anyone else's. It IS true that God hates sin, but loves the sinner (for which I'm thankful), and we should hate sin, but love sinners! :D

   Adam Wormann         10/7/2011 10:19:45 AM

I'm going to get myself into trouble on this one because I haven't thought through this in its entirety, and am kind of thinking out loud with you on it. I think this issue is a good case of us reading our culture into the scriptures. For many many years, society and Christianity were in unison regarding the issue. Over time that started to change, probably gradual at first, pretty quickly over the last 20 years or so. However, Christian tradition had always felt one way, without looking too hard into it because society always concurred. It wasn't something we had to look into very strongly. It could be a battle to fight strongly without thinking about it because society agreed. So, we were strong against homosexuality. Then society started to be more open. The gap grew. It is now accepted, sometimes encouraged in society. What I think Christians do now is play off the culture they were a part of (hence generation gaps even in the church on this issue), and continue to fight it in the same way. They're fighting something that is more cultural than Biblical. I will clarify, I take the same stance as David and Jonathan had both indicated. When I talk about fighting in the last paragraph, I mean in terms of singling out. Free sex was acceptable earlier than homosexuality. I would guess that studies on that a generation earlier would reap similar results, because we're fighting something that was unacceptable in our culture and society. We fight those things more strongly. I think that's where the adamant views against homosexuality come from. So, to bring that here and now, I ask the question: If we fight to not allow homosexual marriage, should we also fight against common law marriage? Or unwed cohabitation? I think that you even have younger audiences that would now say homosexual marriage is wrong (from Christian standpoint), but if that's what someone wants to do, I'm not going to stop you like I'm not going to stop my straight friend. Sorry for the diatribe. I'll shut up now. Unless provoked.

   Jonathan McKee         10/7/2011 9:55:04 AM

Mark... I agree that many from the church have been "sinful" in the way they have treated homosexuals, although I can't say that I agree with you that Paul's clear teaching on the subject is debatable. As for Jesus' silence on the issue... did Jesus talk about porn? Did he talk about pedophiles? Jesus was silent about a lot of issues... that doesn't mean they are okay. God's plan was pretty evident from the beginning. We addressed this in detail in our article OUT OF THE CLOSET AND INTO THE CHURCH (which is the last article linked above). I encourage you to take a peek at that article as we address the Biblical stand on the subject line by line. In short, we stand firmly on two points: 1. Christians need to show love to the gay community and stop singling homosexual activity out as a unique sin (when we are all sinners). 2. Homosexual activity is a sin, just like lust is a sin, just like premarital sex is a sin, just like gossip is a sin...

   Dave         10/5/2011 5:21:38 AM

Great resource article. All the links brought together on the subject and the things that brought each about. Very useful. Also, spot on with the mixture of God's Truth (it is a sin) and His love. Press on...

   mark         10/4/2011 8:17:56 PM

Take away the Old Testament diatribes that also claim shellfish to be an abomination and the Bible shrivels down to a couple of references from Paul that have debatable contextual and linguistic issues. What did Jesus say on the subject(cue crickets chirping)? What is sinful is the way most Churches treat their gay brethren.


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