Youth Culture Window
Seniors send faxes; Millennials send texts. Seniors get their coffee in their kitchen; Millennials grab theirs at Starbucks. Seniors watch TV Land; Millennials watch MTV.
But one of the biggest differences between Millennials and Seniors is their view on homosexuality.
It seems this is the 98th article I’ve written about the issue of homosexuality in the last twelve months. When there was a rash of suicides by young people who had been bullied – many over their sexual orientation – I wrote about it in this article. When Lady Gaga released her “manifesto” Born This Way, a very pro-homosexual song, Jonathan and I addressed it in this article. Finally, when droves of young people supported Gay Pride Month (June), I offered my thoughts here.
And now, with the publication of a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) on American’s beliefs about homosexuality, it’s time to do it all over again.
In their Executive Summary, researchers from PPRI point out a blaring reality about Americans’ perceptions on homosexuality: “there is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) and Seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people.”
Whoa baby! The Grand Canyon has nothing on that gap!
The study’s full report explains that 3,000 adults were interviewed during July 2011 in this study. It also admits that the study was funded by The Arcus Foundation, a pro-gay group, which, according to their website, “works to advance LGBT equality.”
The study shows that there are a lot of gritty differences between the generations. For example:
- 62% of Millennials favor allowing gay/lesbian couples to marry one another (compared to 31% of Seniors)
- 69% of Millennials think gay/lesbian couples should be able to adopt children (compared to 36% of Seniors)
- 69% of Millennials think that religious groups alienate young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues (while only 37% of Seniors agree)
Confirming this report from the PPRI is one from Gallup. For years, Gallup has tracked Americans’ views on homosexuality, and in May of 2011, they reported that for the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) believe “same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid.”
If you’re thinking that Gallup’s poll doesn’t reveal the huge disparity between ages, just wait. Gallup also offers a breakdown of their findings by age…and it’s the exact same story all over again. In the 18-34 year old range (Millennials), 70% supported legalizing same-sex marriage. But in the “50+” age group, a mere 40% of Seniors wanted same-sex marriage legalized.
These reports have some interesting insights about the homosexual issue, but without a doubt, the inescapable observation is that older Americans think very differently about homosexuality than do younger Americans.
A Future Dominated by the Issue
I don’t want to get sidetracked, but I think it’s important to note that homosexuality isn’t the lone iceberg that threatens to sink the ship of harmony between older and younger Americans when it comes to matters of sex. For example, the Guttmacher Institute revealed that there are gaps between generations when it comes to “defining” sex, too: in 2007, only 20% of college students (Millennials) thought oral sex constituted sex compared to 40% of college students in 1991 (Gen X).
Yet another “gap” in sexual issues is identifiable in the argument over cohabitation. According to the National Marriage Project, cohabitation (living together outside of marriage) has increased twelve-fold since the 1970s. This represents another huge difference between generations, but the executive summary of their report highlights the various negative impacts this reality has on children.
These kinds of gaps make for an easy prediction: today’s young people will live in a future that is dominated by conversations about homosexual matters.
It’s not just “reports” that drive my assumption; it’s also current news. In the wake of 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer’s suicide, a homosexual who experienced profound online bullying, Lady Gaga, the idol of the deceased young man, asked President Obama to intervene with laws to make bullying a crime. And speaking of presidents, the GOP presidential debates are also addressing the homosexual issue since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was recently overturned.
Homosexuality has been a hot button issue, and will be, for a long time to come.
Questions About the Question
If my prediction proves correct, what can youth workers and parents do to address such a profound piece of teenagers’ future lives?
We can repeat two mistakes of religious people: judgmentally condemn all homosexuals to Hell, and then turn 180 degrees to declare that homosexuality isn’t even a sin. Or we can teach all that the Word of God reveals on the issue, namely that homosexuality is a sin, and that we are to love homosexuals.
But how do we do that?
We’ve written a helpful – but long – article at The Source for Youth Ministry about this issue and how it relates to the church. I strongly recommend reading through that before you address the issue with your teenagers.
But then, when you start talking about homosexuality, begin with lots of questions. This will accomplish two things: first, it will give you an assessment of where they are, and secondly, it will show them that you are interested in listening, not just lecturing. Here are several questions to get you going:
- Why do you think these big gaps about homosexuality exist between generations?
- Who do you think is right…and why?
- What do you think about homosexuality?
- What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
- In every instance that homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, it’s condemned as sin. Why do you think that is?
- If something was really true 2,000 years ago (like the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality), is it still true for us today?
These are just a few aids to get you going. No doubt, those conversations between you and your teens will raise more in-depth questions about this issue. (That long article linked above will help in almost every instance.) But this is a conversation worth having. So have it over and over again if necessary.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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