Anyone who follows Christian nationalist organizations, as I’ve done for more than 30 years, can’t help but be struck by the hateful rhetoric they unleash against LGBTQ people. It can be difficult to sit and listen to it during a meeting of a Religious Right group or read it online.
This same ugly language emanates from pulpits in ultra-conservative houses of worship all over America. It’s worth asking: At a time when growing numbers of Americans have family members, coworkers or friends who are LGBTQ, how can so many people sit in pews and listen to such hate?
The good news is that they might not be listening to it for much longer. A new poll indicates that Generation Z, defined as people born between 1995-2010, are weary of religious leaders who don’t share their pro-LGBTQ values – and it may be keeping them away from churches that espouse it.
Springtide Research Institute released a wide-ranging study of Gen. Z’s religious views last week. Much of it is about how members of this generation view questions of faith and theology; there’s a lot here to chew on for any scholar of religion or anyone who’s interested in religious trends in America.
At Americans United, we support every person’s right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose – which includes attending the house of worship of their choice or refraining from attending any. The question of why a certain part of the population may be becoming less attached to organized religion is interesting to us only when there’s a political dimension – and in this case, there may be.
A high percentage of Gen. Z, 71%, said they care about LGBTQ rights, and 77 percent said they care about gender equality. Yet many members of this cohort don’t see their values reflected in religious communities. Only 44% said they believe churches care about LGBTQ rights, and 52% said they perceive churches as being interested in gender equality.
Other polls have shown that Gen. Z isn’t just LGBTQ friendly – its members are often LGBTQ themselves. A Gallup survey taken early this year found 1 in 6 members of Gen. Z identify as LGBTQ.
Make no mistake, Christian nationalists and the clergy entangled in this movement will continue to spew hurtful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. But if Gen. Z’s attitude continues to grow, dwindling numbers of Americans will be listening. More importantly, politicians may learn there’s nothing to be gained and quite a bit to lose by allying themselves with religious extremists who want to force everyone else to live by their beliefs and deny members of the LGBTQ community of their basic rights.
Gen. Z is leading the way. Let’s hope millions of Americans from other generations are ready to follow.