Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults say gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable while 38 percent say they are morally wrong, according to the poll conducted May 2-7 among 1,535 adults. The 59 percent is an increase from 54 percent last year and 49 percent in 2009, when the upward trend began. The trend is a dramatic reversal from 2004, a year in which 13 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That year, only 42 percent said such relations were morally acceptable and 54 percent said they were morally wrong.
On the question of homosexuality's origins, 47 percent say "being gay or lesbian" is "something a person is born with" while 33 percent say it is "due to factors such as upbringing and environment." Both numbers are records. The percentage of people who believe homosexuality is present at birth has increased or remained steady since 2009 when the upward trend began and a plurality of Americans (42 percent) said it was due to upbringing/environment and 35 percent said it was something with which people are born.
Bob Stith, former Southern Baptist national strategist for gender issues, said much of the growing acceptance of homosexuality can be blamed on the church's failure to prepare Christians "to understand and communicate God's original intent" on sexuality and "to do so in a redemptive and compassionate manner."
"Apart from a true spiritual renewal, I do not see this trend changing," Stith told Baptist Press, referencing the Gallup data.
No scientifically accepted study has found a "strictly genetic" cause for homosexuality, Stith said. But even if science does find such a genetic link, he said, Scripture's teachings on homosexuality will remain true.
Stith believes homosexuality is a product of "nature and nurture" and that it's a sin that can be overcome through Christ.
"I still hear Christians -- including leaders -- confidently state 'it's just a choice,'" Stith said. "Both science and those involved in ministry to same-sex strugglers recognize that both nature and nurture are involved. Again, we do great harm to our cause when we make that pronouncement."
The homosexual might not choose his temptations, but he does choose whether to act on them, Stith said.
"We are by nature children of wrath," Stith said. "It should not surprise us that not only are we predisposed to sin, we can be predisposed to specific sins. Various studies have shown a predisposition to obesity, anger and even alcoholism. But it is important to know that predisposition does not equate to predetermination.
"While I do not believe a strictly genetic causation will be found, it should not change our understanding of or our commitment to Scripture," Stith said. "God has made clear His view of the issue. He has also promised freedom to any who will truly seek Him. Today, thousands of men and women walk in freedom from the power of same-sex attractions."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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