Gallup poll records 'humbling' moral decline

by David Roach, posted Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (12 days ago)

NASHVILLE (BP) -- A Gallup poll indicating Americans are more "left-leaning" than ever on 10 of 19 moral issues has been called "humbling" and "chastening" by a Southern Baptist Convention seminary president. A Fordham University ethicist critiqued the poll as "deeply misleading" for suggesting moral permissiveness is limited to liberals.

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In its annual Values and Beliefs survey, the Gallup polling organization found that record percentages of U.S. adults believe it is morally acceptable to use birth control (91%), get divorced (73%), engage in opposite-sex sexual acts outside marriage (69%), engage in same-sex sexual acts (63%), have a baby outside of marriage (62%), commit physician-assisted suicide (57%), view pornography (36%) and practice polygamy (17%).

The only two practices to register record low moral approval were capital punishment (58%) and medical testing on animals (51%).

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. called it a "humbling, indeed chastening reality that on none of these moral issues has there been long-term change in a more conservative direction ever since the dawn of the 21st century."

That reality "is also very clarifying in terms of understanding what we're now up against" in the secularized culture, Mohler said May 16 in his podcast The Briefing.

Since the inception of the Values and Beliefs poll in 2001, according to a May 11 Gallup news release, researchers have noted "meaningful change in a liberal direction" on 13 of the 19 issues from this year's survey. Gallup added that "no issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions."

Approval of same-sex sexual acts has seen the greatest jump in approval, increasing 23 percentage points over the years to its current approval rating. The second greatest approval increase has occurred for having a baby outside marriage -- a 17 percentage point jump. Sex between an unmarried man and woman has seen a 16 percentage point increase in approval and divorce a 14 percentage point increase.

The 43 percent approval of abortion is virtually unchanged since 2001, as are 9 percent approval of extramarital affairs and 65 percent approval of gambling.

Mohler said the data evidences "the loss of the binding authority of biblical Christianity where it had once bound the consciences not only of individuals but of the general society, especially on issues such as the definition of marriage and the understanding of gender and, of course, the regulation of sexual practices."

Seven of the eight practices to register record-tying or record-setting approval this year are condemned in the Baptist Faith and Message, either directly or by implication. Birth control is the only one not mentioned, though the BF&M calls children "a blessing and heritage from the Lord."

A May 15 op-ed by Fordham ethicist Charles Camosy published by the Catholic news agency Crux critiqued Gallup's release for "radically simplify[ing] a complex nexus of beliefs and values." Gallup's "slapping moral positions with [the label] liberal or conservative is problematic," he wrote.

Some liberal feminists, Camosy claimed, oppose pornography while research suggests conservatives may consume more porn than liberals. Similarly, some traditionally liberal states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland "have rejected" physician-assisted suicide while some conservative libertarian states in the west have legalized it, he wrote.

On a positive note, Camosy said it is "remarkable" that a majority of Americans opposes abortion and "extraordinary" that a majority opposes pornography despite cultural pressure to affirm both.

Rod Dreher, senior editor of The American Conservative and author of "The Benedict Option," wrote in a May 12 blog post that the cultural trends noted by Gallup are "not going to turn around anytime soon." In response, believers must educate themselves in the fundamentals of Christian doctrine "to know what ... [the] love [of Christ] entails -- and what it excludes."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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