Chilling research into perceptions of religion and homosexuality show many Americans believe the messages propounded from pulpits may just be exacerbating the issue of suicides among gay and lesbian youth.
A Public Religion Research Institute survey asked point-blank, "How much, if at all, do you believe messages about the issue of homosexuality coming from places of worship contribute to [higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth]? Would you say a lot, a little or not at all?" Two-third of respondents either replied "A lot" or "A little".
According to PRRI's numbers, there's a troubling disparity: while Americans may think the issue is being handled poorly in churches at large, they can't possibly think it's happening at their own houses of worship.
“The survey shows that a significant number of Americans are aware of and concerned about the negative impact of messages about homosexuality from places of worship, particularly with regard to gay and lesbian youth,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Notably, despite the negative evaluations of places of worship in general, Americans are more likely to give their own places of worship high marks; nearly half Americans give their own place of worship either an “A” (28%) or a “B” (17%) on their handling of this issue.”
Of all religious groups, white evangelicals are most likely to give their own church high marks for handling the issue of homosexuality. Three-quarters of white evangelicals give their church an “A” (48%) or “B” (27%). Among white mainline Protestants and Catholics, only about 4-in-10 give their church an “A” or “B.” Catholics were most likely to give their churches negative marks, with nearly one-third giving their churches a “D” (15%) or an “F” (16%).
“A majority of Americans agree that messages coming from places of worship about the issue of homosexuality are not positive,” said Daniel Cox, Director of Research for Public Religion Research Institute. “Americans are six times more likely to say that messages coming from places of worship are negative as they are to say that they are positive."
Gay rights campaigner Dan Savage points a clear and accusatory finger at the correlation.
Leaders of the Christian right "have redefined Christianity so that it is about being anti-gay," he said.
And he cited other poll findings that suggest more Americans than ever before define themselves as having no religion.
"When you dig down, you found people who said they were Christians who didn't want to be identified with being anti-gay," he argued.
Think this is all smoke and no fire? Here's a compelling quote from a respected researcher and author found within a story we linked to just today.
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam argues in a new book, "American Grace," that organized religion is suffering - particularly among people in their 20s and 30s - from being too closely tied to divisive political issues, and that it will take decades for that association to wear off.
"The marketplace for religion has changed very dramatically," he said, "and I don't think new sermons or new hymns or new seating will help until the overall public association between intolerance, as young people see it, and religion fades."