Insights into the Spiritual Profile of Homosexuals
The Barna Group recently interviewed over 8,500 heterosexual adults and 280 homosexual adults. The point of the research was to compare the spirituality of both groups. Barna’s findings included some results that would be expected, but also some surprising insights. You can read the full report here. I’ve listed below some highlights.
In any given week the research discovered that heterosexuals are the more likely of the two groups to attend a church service, attend a Sunday school class, pray to God, or read the Bible. Gay adults are 50% more likely than straight adults to be unchurched (42% versus 28%). Overall, heterosexuals are twice as likely as homosexuals to attend a church service, read the Bible and pray to God during a typical week (31% vs. 15%).
Although most adults affirm the importance of faith in their life, regardless of their sexual orientation, straight adults (72%) were more likely than gay adults (60%) to describe their faith as “very important” in their life. And even though most Americans consider themselves to be Christian, there is a noticeable gap between heterosexuals who self-identify that way (85%) compared to homosexuals (70%). Another gap was then noted among those who say they are Christian: about six out of ten heterosexuals say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith, compared to about four out of ten among homosexuals.
One of the most basic beliefs has to do with one’s understanding of God. This proved to be one of the biggest differences noted in the study. While seven out of every ten heterosexuals (71%) have an orthodox, biblical perception of God, just 43% of homosexuals do.
George Barna commented on the data:
The data indicate that millions of gay people are interested in faith but not in the local church and do not appear to be focused on the traditional tools and traditions that represent the comfort zone of most churched Christians. Gay adults clearly have a different way of interpreting the Bible on a number of central theological matters, such as perspectives about God. Homosexuals appreciate their faith but they do not prioritize it, and they tend to consider faith to be individual and private rather than communal.
It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.
As expected, most within this community are just as confused about a true relationship with Christ as any other unchurched group. While the data does not reveal what type of church, a small minority from the gay community is at least attending a local assembly. And many are not totally turned off by faith or talk of spiritual things. Like everyone else, however, they don’t have true spiritual life unless they know Jesus.
So how should the church interact with the gay community? Unfortunately, some within the church community have treated them as enemies. Jesus calls His Kingdom servants to love all people, even a segment of the population many Christians have an inclination to dislike (or hate). Sin (ours or theirs) should never be condoned, but we must love those outside our circle. As Jesus states in Matthew 5:46-47, it’s one thing to love people who are just like you; it’s another thing to love people quite different from you.
I’ve had a few opportunities to reach out to gay individuals. I enjoyed my conversations with them. As with many groups, it’s a tough balance between serving with the love of Christ and also sharing a message of repentance and faith. Barna reports that this community comprises about 3% of the U.S. adult population. It’s small, but significant. Do any of you have success stories in sharing the gospel and serving the gay community? How can Barna’s research help in reaching outward to this community?