Religion News Service (RNS) has released a poll indicating that most Americans believe religious messages about homosexuality drive gay youth suicide. The findings have huge ramifications for our Christian witness to gay people.
The RNS poll, released October 21, 2010, found that 72% of Americans believe religious messages about homosexuality increase negative opinions about gay people. Notably, 65% of Americans believe that these negative opinions are directly connected to the higher rates of gay suicide we are now seeing.
Interestingly, 40% of Americans give “places of worship” a D or F in how homosexuality is handled; yet only 17% give their own place of worship a D or F. On average, 45% of Americans give their own church an A or B. By comparison, 75% of white evangelicals give their own church an A or B. Catholics were – how shall we say – more humble with nearly 33% of them giving their own church a D or F. Women and younger people were more likely to have gay friends, and accordingly, they expressed a stronger belief that religious messages about homosexuality drive gay youth suicide.
These findings impact how “we” are perceived and threaten to harm our effectiveness in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with LGBT+ persons. Thus, I want to share a few thoughts that will challenge us as a church. Before I do that (on Monday), consider the following:
While suicide rates in nearly every age group over the period 2000 to 2007 are rising (here), suicide since 2004 in the 10 to 19 age group has steadily declined. Every single recent gay teen suicide falls within this declining 10 to 19 age group. The recent surge may mean we are heading back into the upper range of long-term historical teen suicide rates. Due to the 18-24 month delay in annual Centers for Disease Control data, it will be some time before we know for sure.
This we do know: assuming there is a reliable correlation between “religious messages” about homosexuality and gay youth suicide, this declining trend in teen suicides since 2004 fits right in line with the well-known fact that most evangelical churches have dramatically cut their pulpit coverage of homosexuality over the past 5 years. Further, when it is discussed, it is handled with much greater sensitivity compared to a decade ago. What does this suggest?
For one: the views of roughly 1,100 people in this poll suggest that gay teen suicide is rising while general teen suicide and evangelical coverage of homosexuality have both been declining for several years. Something does not make sense: there must be other factors impacting the poll results. Join me on Monday when we will look at various factors that may be driving these results.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: How would you rank your church’s handling of homosexuality?To add your feedback, simply use the comment form below. You may elect to comment as “Anonymous.” Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Buzz or by email. Share Lead Them Home with others today.