Here’s an article from The American Conservative, by moderate conservative Rod Dreher, dated April 2013.
Twenty years ago, new president Bill Clinton stepped on a political landmine when he tried to fulfill a campaign promise to permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Same-sex marriage barely registered as a political cause; the country was then three years away from the Defense of Marriage Act and four years from comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s prime-time coming out.
Then came what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution. Now we’re entering the endgame of the struggle over gay rights and the meaning of homosexuality. Conservatives have been routed, both in court and increasingly in the court of public opinion. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons, neither of which—the argument goes—has any place in determining laws or public standards.
The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.
[…]When they were writing the widely acclaimed 2010 book American Grace, a comprehensive study of contemporary religious belief and practice, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell noticed two inverse trend lines in social-science measures, both starting around 1990.
They found that young Americans coming into adulthood at that time began to accept homosexuality as morally licit in larger numbers. They also observed that younger Americans began more and more to fall away from organized religion. The evangelical boom of the 1970s and 1980s stopped, and if not for a tsunami of Hispanic immigration the U.S. Catholic church would be losing adherents at the same rate as the long-dwindling Protestant mainline.
Over time, the data showed, attitudes on moral issues proved to be strong predictors of religious engagement. In particular, the more liberal one was on homosexuality, the less likely one was to claim religious affiliation. It’s not that younger Americans were becoming atheists. Rather, most of them identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Combined with atheists and agnostics, these “Nones”—the term is Putnam’s and Campbell’s—comprise the nation’s fastest-growing faith demographic.
Indeed, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the Nones comprise one out of three Americans under 30. This is not simply a matter of young people doing what young people tend to do: keep church at arm’s length until they settle down. Pew’s Greg Smith told NPR that this generation is more religiously unaffiliated than any on record. Putnam—the Harvard scholar best known for his best-selling civic culture study Bowling Alone—has said that there’s no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age.
Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they did point out that as gay activism moved toward center stage in American political life… the vivid public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay rights alienated young Americans from organized religion.
In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.
It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.
That’s why I am somewhat underwhelmed with the pure apologetics approach of most apologists.The real reason that drives atheist “apologetics” is, to be frank, the desire to dispense with rules around sexuality. The sexual freedom comes first, and then the speculative smokescreens follow. Close behind the sexual freedom is leftist economic policies (which are seen as more “fair”) and anti-business environmentalist policies. So there’s more turf to defend here than just the existence of God, the resurrection and the reliability of the Bible. That’s not what’s behind the drift of young people away from Christianity.
That’s why on this blog, you get a ton of politics and tons of studies and arguments against premarital sex, no-fault divorce, single motherhood by choice, same-sex marriage, and everything else that comes before traditional apologetics. (And you also get lots of apologetics, too!) We need to get better at defending Christian sexual ethics using purely secular arguments and evidence, e.g. – showing people how premarital sex undermines marital stability or how gay parenting harms the well-being of children. There are reasons for these rules we have, and we have to go beyond “The Bible Says…” if we expect to be convincing to young people.
And when we go against the Sexual Revolution, we have to bring secular arguments and secular evidence and bring it to bear squarely against radical feminism, and the Sexual Revolution. In particular, we have to put the burden of responsibility for poor sexual decisions back on the shoulders of young people. Young men must reject a cultural standard of what a “good” woman is. Young women must reject a cultural standard of what a “good” man is. Men and women who reject traditional Christianity, traditional morality, and traditional notions of male leadership and male roles are bad people to have relationships with. We have to persuade both men and women about the harm that poor choices cause – abortion, divorce, fatherlessness, expensive welfare programs. There is no point in blaming bad men and women – they are already bad. We have to teach young people to choose good men and good women. We have to teach them that choosing mates poorly, and making poor sexual choices, is their responsibility. They are not victims! And we shouldn’t be blaming one sex for the others poor choices, i.e. – we should not be blaming bad men when women chose them and make bad choices with the bad men. Those men were bad before the women chose them, and those women are only victims of their own poor choices.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, we have to defend traditional marriage using secular arguments and secular evidence. We have to show how same-sex marriage undermines religious liberty. We have to show how same-sex marriage undermines marital norms like exclusivity and permanence. We have to show how same-sex marriage harms children by depriving them of a mother or a father or both. And so on. We have to defend the goodness of traditional marriage.