Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The view from aboard a sinking ship

It's been about a month since the Pew Research Center released results of a study entitled, "A Survey of  LGBT Americans: Attitudes, Experiences and Values in Changing Times."

The survey is unique because it's the first wide-ranging reputable undertaking of this sort that treats gay people as subjects (as in, what do you think?) as opposed to objects (as in, what do you think about those people?).

The results were interesting, but hardly surprising: "Compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, less happy with their lives, and more satisfied with the general direction of the country. On average, they are younger than the general public. Their family incomes are lower, which may be related to their relative youth and the smaller size of their households. They are also more likely to perceive discrimination not just against themselves but also against other groups with a legacy of discrimination."

Most of the "why's" behind most of the findings are self-evident, but it's interesting to speculate a little about some of the others.

"Younger" can be explained in part because LGBT people are making themselves visible earlier these days and thus fair game for pollsters, but also because so many gay men of my own and near generations died of AIDS. It's inaccurate to say an entire generation died, as some do now and then --- some of us dinosaurs still roam the land --- but certainly many if not most of our most influential and inspired did die --- although many continue to lead by remembered example.

"Less happy" is a little sad --- but hardly surprising. You'd be depressed, too, if gay and bobbing around in a sea of bland and frequently nasty heterosexuality. But there are positive aspects to "less happy" --- the natural inclination is to do battle with those who would impose unhappiness, a good spur toward activism.

"More likely to perceive discrimination not just against themselves but also against other groups with a legacy of discrimination" is entirely positive.

The Pew survey found that something like half of LGBT people are among the "nones" religiously --- claiming no affiliation to any religion. That compares to 19 percent --- and growing --- of the general population, if I'm remembering the results of other surveys accurately.

I got to thinking about that while reading a post earlier this week by Rachel Held Evans entitled, "Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony." Rachel is a youthful and progressive evangelical, working her way out of the fundamentalist quagmire she grew up in. She would be considered gay-friendly, probably more so than her sometimes carefully considered words suggest. The comments to her posts sometimes are more instructive than the posts themselves, and I see that there are 450 (and growing) to this one --- keeping in mind that Evans does delete those that are especially offensive.

Looking at the comments from a background in the more liberal mainline church, it's distressing to see that so many still are trapped in those darker, primitive and more horrifying corners of Christianity. But easier to understand why more and more, with LGBT people leading the way, are abandoning the whole cobbled together and largely hollow contraption.

I'm certainly still aboard what increasingly seems to be a sinking ship, held by music and liturgy and kind friends. Whether there's a future in that, I can't say.

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