It’s one of the oldest political tricks in the book. Create such an impression of momentum behind a certain candidate or policy that everyone else jumps on board to avoid being left out or left behind. It’s a deception that plays on common human weaknesses; the desire to be on the winning side, the fear of being on the “outside,” the instinct to avoid unpopularity, and the yearning for approval.
And Time magazine is attempting to pull off this sneaky ruse on Evangelical Christians with an article headlined, How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds On Gay Marriage (full article requires subscription). In it, Elizabeth Dias (sexual orientation undisclosed, as usual), marshals multiple pieces of “evidence” for this revolution in Evangelical morals and ethics. She begins:
“If evangelical Christianity is famous for anything in contemporary American politics, it is for its complete opposition to gay marriage. Now, slowly yet undeniably, evangelicals are changing their minds. Every day, evangelical communities across the country are arriving at new crossroads over marriage.”
So, what’s the evidence for this unstoppable tsunami of change among evangelicals?
1. One poll
Dias quotes one poll of young people which claimed to show that among young evangelicals, “support for gay marriage jumped from 20% in 2003 to 42% in 2014.”
2. One megachurch
She cites one megachurch, EastLake Community Church outside Seattle, which she says is “one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to support full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people.” And she claims, “It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of this move” given that “EastLake is in many ways the quintessential evangelical megachurch.”
Much later in the article Dias admits that “EastLake has lost 22% of its income and 800 attendees in the past 18 months, and it anticipates that those numbers may continue to climb.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement from even Eastlake’s evangelicals.
3. Anonymous leaders
She portrays evangelical leaders as accepting of gay marriage in private, yet still maintaining opposition in public.
“[My article] is a deep dive into the changing allegiances and divides in evangelical churches and communities over homosexuality. In public, so many churches and pastors are afraid to talk about the generational and societal shifts happening. But behind the scenes, it’s a whole different game.”
But she doesn’t give any names.
4. Two discussions
She references discussions between two evangelical leaders (Andy Stanley and Bill Hybels) and their congregations “about how to navigate the changes they are seeing in their pews.”
5. Two meetings with LGBTQ “Christians”
She says “Hybels has been meeting privately for the past year with LGBTQ congregants to learn to better understand their stories,” and “Stanley met together with both LGBT evangelical advocates and SBC leaders for a closed-door conversation about whether their different views on gay marriage put them outside the faith.”
6. One friendship
She points to Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, who “has developed a friendship with LGBT activist Ted Trimpa and the Gill Foundation, and they are working together on topics like passing anti-human-trafficking legislation.”
7. One college hire
Wheaton College’s hire of a celibate (underline that) lesbian as a student counselor is also said to herald significant change. In fairness, Dias does acknowledge that Wheaton also allowed converted ex-lesbian Rosaria Butterfield to speak to the student body, although Dias presents this as contradicting the hiring policy!
By the way, #4-7 above should be a solemn warning to us about how gay activists will wickedly distort our best intentions and twist our sincere attempts to reach out to gays and lesbians. Doesn’t mean we should stop talking and end friendships, but be aware of how our love and goodwill may be turned against us.
8. One gay choreographer
I know, this is getting ridiculous, but apparently “Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University hired an openly gay choreographer to assist with a campus production of Mary Poppins last spring.” Dias admits that the University defended itself “by saying he was an independent contractor, not an official employee.”
9. Three “Gay Christian” activists
The well-worn names and well-refuted teachings of gay activists, Matthew Vines, Brandan Robertson, and Justin Lee, are presented as the clinchers in this case for an evangelical revolution.
Yep, that’s it. One poll, one megachurch, unnamed leaders, two congregational discussions, two meetings with LGBTQ’s, one college hire, one gay dancer, and three gay activists.
That’s Dias’s strongest case for this alleged bandwagon of evangelical change. Rather unimpressive bandwagon isn’t it?
I don’t buy it, and neither should you. Yes, there are some worrying signs here and there of evangelical capitulation. No doubt, some evangelical leaders will jump the shark to maintain popularity with the world. However, don’t fall for this trick of “Everybody’s doing it (or thinking it).”
We don’t let our children off with such arguments, especially when the evidence is so flimsy. So let’s not allow this childish case to shake our commitment to biblical morality.
Not now. Not ever.
But there’s one line in Dias’s piece with which we can all agree: “For everyone on all sides, the Bible itself is at stake.”