Change of Heart: Who is teaching Americans about gay marriage?

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia on magazine covers“She has been out for so long that it is no longer an issue—and older white women feel comfortable with her show. She normalizes LGBT people.” That’s one way a Pew research report summarizes Ellen DeGeneres’s influence across America.

Legalization of same-sex marriage seems inevitable, large majorities of Americans say in recent polls. This interactive map provided by Pew shows how big clusters of states that have legalized gay marriage are pressing across the U.S. from East and West coasts and the Midwest in mid 2014. But, you can re-set the Pew map to show the status in earlier years. Flip the date back to 2002 and you’ll see: Not one state allowed same-sex marriage.

Americans have had to adjust to this change at lightening speed. Research and media reports conclude: America’s most reliable, friendly, funny guide through this era of cultural change is—Ellen.

There’s no question that Ellen is the most famous gay American, Pew concludes in one study. Since she came out in 1997, Americans have watched her fall in love, mature in her relationships and get married to her partner Portia. Magazine cover stories and TV celebrity shows also have shown Ellen stumbling, problems arise in her marriage—and, this week, on the cover of Closer magazine Americans are watching them come through marriage counseling to renew their vows.

Pew concludes: “More than anyone else, Ellen DeGeneres is the face of LGBT America. Still. That’s the verdict of two new Pew Research Center surveys, one of the general U.S. population and the other of LGBT Americans specifically.

“Not only was the comedian and television host by far the most frequently cited example of a gay or lesbian public figure in the general-population survey, she and President Obama were the leaders when LGBT Americans were asked to name a well-known figure who’s been important in advancing the rights of LGBT people.”

When Ellen first came out, the public backlash reportedly sent her deep into depression for a time. But the multi-talented star quickly recovered. Today, she ranks No. 46 on the new Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women. She also ranks No. 17 on Forbes’s list of “richest women in entertainment.”

Forbes reports: “Daytime’s most likable TV personality—at least according to industry-standard Q scores—keeps dancing her way up our list. She managed to set two records within 24 hours this year: first, the now-famous ‘selfie’ photo she took with a handful of A-list celebs as she hosted the Oscars became the most re-tweeted Twitter post in history—a record previously held by President Obama. The live post-Oscars episode of her popular syndicated talk show the following day became the most-watched in the program’s 11 years on air. Aside from the ratings success of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the 56-year-old CoverGirl is beefing up her producing roster. Her production company is working on pilots for the CW and NBC, and cable network HGTV will air a DeGeneres-produced design competition series next year.”

So, what do you think of Ellen?

Are there other important men or women who’ve taught you about gay relationships?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom

Change of Heart: Dramatic Change in the World’s Largest Church

Country by Country comparison of LGBT attitudes

Click this chart to read Pew’s entire report on “The Global Divide on Homosexuality”

The Catholic church often is cited in the debate over religious inclusion of LGBT men and women—even by evangelical leaders who not too many decades ago had no interest in working with Catholic allies. Critics of same-sex marriage often point out: The Catholic church will never allow it. And veteran Vatican watchers agree that an official blessing on gay marriage seems unlikely. Among the key reasons that the Vatican is central to this debate:

  • IT’S OLD AND BIG—The Catholic church is widely viewed as the world’s oldest Christian denomination and it certainly is the world’s largest organized religious group. The Vatican claims that more than a billion of the world’s men, women and children are Catholic, a group that represents half of all Christians on the planet. The Roman Catholic church is about the same size as Islam, which is not a single organized religious group.
  • MORE TRADITIONAL THAN PROTESTANTS—Catholic tradition and Vatican doctrine view marriage as a sacrament, setting the theological bar for change very high, while most mainline Protestants do not call the rite of marriage a sacrament. In fact, Catholic doctrine views marriage in a much more restrictive way than American Protestants. For example, divorced Catholics still are unable to remarry in the church without first going through a lengthy annulment process, discounting the authenticity of their earlier marriage. American Protestant churches have jumped past the biblical debate on remarriage after divorce and no longer regard the practice as controversial.
  • WEIGHT OF AFRICA—The Catholic church is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa, home to some of the world’s most anti-gay ethnic cultures.
  • POLITICAL FUNDING—The Catholic hierarchy has significant funds, at the discretion of regional bishops, that can be poured into anti-gay-rights campaigns.

HOWEVER, there is, indeed, dramatic change in the world’s largest church. Across several continents, the world’s Catholic population already is supporting LGBT inclusion in general—and a large portion of the church’s membership supports gay marriages or unions.

The chart with today’s story clearly shows the majorities in many of the world’s most populous Catholic countries supporting acceptance of gay men and women. This chart does not single out Catholic respondents, but a growing body of research does just that after extensive polling of Catholics.

The most complete to date is a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) report in 2011, drawing on surveys and other research in 2009 and 2010. If anything, this PRRI report understates the widespread Catholic support for LGBT inclusion. All other nationwide research on this issue shows American attitudes shifting to approve same-gender marriage in the last couple of years. Part 2 in this series shows Pew’s 2014 polling with 59 percent of Catholics approving of allowing such marriages.

The PRRI study found that Catholics have widely accepted their church’s call for compassion toward marginalized groups. The PRRI report concludes: “Catholics strongly believe that society should accept gay and lesbian relationships. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) agree that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society. One in four disagree, but less than 1-in-10 (9 percent) say that they completely disagree. Among the general public, roughly 6 in 10 (62 percent) say that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society, 12 points lower than support among Catholics.”

Are you surprised that Catholics are a leading group in many nations, urging LGBT inclusion?

Do you think the church’s leadership would ever consider changing church doctrine on marriage?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom

Change of Heart: Which religious groups are welcoming gay marriage?

Pew chart of change toward gays in American churches

CLICK this chart to visit the Pew website and read the entire report.

PEW research, published in the spring of 2014, concludes that America has flipped on gay marriage.

“In Pew Research polling in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin,” Pew reports. “Since then, support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown. Today, a majority of Americans (54%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it.”

Because the United States is distinctive among the world’s nations for the intensity of religion in our culture, this also means that the vast majority of Americans identify with religious groups. As “Americans” change attitudes on any issue, by definition, it means the members of America’s religious groups are changing their attitudes. That’s different than saying official church policies are changing, but the trend is powerful, Pew concludes.

Within that larger change, Pew finds:

  • AGE MATTERS—A majority of younger Americans, people who are under 30 now, have approved of gay marriage for more than a decade. Clearly, the cultural shift is driven by a dramatic generational change in attitudes.
  • POLITICAL AFFILIATION MATTERS—Not surprisingly, more conservative Americans are drawn to the Republican party. What is striking in Pew’s new report is the growing gap between Republicans and Democrats on this issue. In 2001, the parties were separated by 22 percentage points on this issue (with 21 percent of Republicans approving vs. 43 percent of Democrats). Now, the gap is 35 percentage points! (32 vs. 67 percent).
  • RACE MATTERS—As Americans have read in headlines nationwide, many black church leaders oppose same-sex marriage and black communities are resisting the idea that gay rights is an extension of the civil rights movement. Pew reports that an 11-point gap has emerged between white and black Americans on this issue (54 percent of white Americans now approving vs. 43 percent of black Americans).
  • GENDER MATTERS—Women always have been more sympathetic toward gay marriage. From 2001 to today, women as a group have been 6 to 10 percentage points more approving than men.

What do you see in these trends?

Why do these factors matter so much? For example, why are women more approving?

COMING WEDNESDAY: Dramatic change in the world’s largest church.

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom

Change of Heart: Who says American churches can’t change?

Radio Priest Father Charles Coughlin

At his peak, Father Charles Coughlin reached up to 30 million Americans each week. In the 1930s, he preached in favor of Adolf Hitler as a bulwark against Communism and he railed against Jews who he said were behind the Russian Revolution. Even after Kristallnacht in 1938, Coughlin went on the air still backing the German regime and suggesting that Jews themselves bore some guilt in the violence against them. He was not forced off the airwaves until after Germany invaded Poland in late 1939.

In 5 parts, this special OurValues series examines American churches’ changing attitudes on homosexuality and same-gender marriage. Many readers have asked us to gather in one place the latest findings on these issues by researchers and scholars, including the Pew Research Center, the Barna Group and the Public Religion Research Institute. In response, we are pulling together the latest data from these groups and other scholars. We invite you to read along and especially urge you to share these columns with friends.

We begin by looking at the basic question: Can American churches make major changes in the basic values they preach?

Answer: They can. And, they have many times. Here are a few examples—

SLAVERY—At the eve of the Civil War, about 150 years ago, pastors nationwide preached that slavery was entirely consistent with the Bible. After all, hundreds of Bible verses seem to approve of the practice. Even among the majority of Northern congregations, before the Civil War, abolition was not a popular cause. But today? No legitimate church in America preaches in favor of slavery and evangelical churches are active in popular campaigns to end modern-day slavery in the world.

RACIAL-ETHNIC PURITY—At the start of American involvement in World War I a century ago, some of the most famous preachers in America supported the eugenics movement and called for the forced sterilization of millions of Germans to wipe out their population (as documented in Philip Jenkins new book). Now, after the Holocaust and other genocides, no church in America would stand for such preaching that encourages wiping out entire populations.

ANTI-SEMITISM—On the eve of World War II about 80 years ago, anti-Semitism was common in American churches and leading preachers, especially the infamous Catholic “radio priest” Father Coughlin, whipped up so much anti-Jewish feeling that U.S. policy slowed the flow of Jewish refugees trying to escape the Third Reich. Even a written plea by Anne Frank’s father to escape to America was held up in the prevailing American antipathy toward European Jews. Anti-Semitism remains a problem around the world, but no legitimate American church preaches this hatred—and evangelical churches have become some of the strongest American supporters of the state of Israel.

ANTI-CATHOLICISM—Fifty years ago, anti-Catholicism was so rampant in America’s Protestant churches that a household name like the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, founder of Guideposts magazine, could feel confident leading a national coalition of pastors opposing John Kennedy’s election because he was Catholic. Peale warned the nation, “Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake.” Since then, anti-Catholicism hasn’t entirely vanished, but evangelical leaders now widely embrace Catholic allies nationwide.

What other basic values have changed in American churches?

What has changed in your lifetime?

What has changed in your church?

Care to read more?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom

Why wait? Do you know how to play Kick The Can?

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.

Spoonful website rules for Kick the Can

CLICK THIS SNAPSHOT of the “Spoonful” website to learn the rules of Kick the Can. It’s a variation on the familiar childhood game of Hide and Seek.

How did we come up with the phrase “kicking the can down the road” as a way of saying “to procrastinate”?

Apparently, it’s got nothing to do with the children’s game called Kick the Can, which is a mashup of Tag and Hide and Seek.

A note on Wikipedia says, “As outdoor and unstructured play of children continues to dwindle, the game of Kick the Can is becoming less and less known to each generation.”

No one in my neighborhood ever played it, and I bet my kids never heard of it.

But the politician’s game of “kicking the can down the road”? That looks like it will never go out of style.

In 2007, the phrase was featured in the American Journalism Review’s invaluable “Cliché Corner,” with citations from the Washington Post, Reuters, the Weekly Standard and others.

Last December, it was dinged in a column on the New York Times “After Deadline” blog written by Philip B. Corbett, the paper’s associate managing editor for standards.

After citing an instance of the phrase in a story about the budget standoff, Corbett said: “This colloquial ‘kick the can’ cliché has been rampant in Washington lately, but that doesn’t mean we have to adopt it. In fact, it’s a very good reason to avoid it.”

Avoiding the phrase might be a good idea. But it’s probably also time for political leaders to make some tough decisions, to stop kicking the can down the road.

So, what do you think of Kick the Can? The game—or the political process.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-”f” icons).

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Categories: Uncategorized

Why wait? Know what happens as soon as you quit smoking?

Quit smoking2

CLICK ONCE ON THIS POSTER, based on CDC data, to see a larger version. Then, you can click again to see the poster in even more detail.

Don’t wait! Do it now!

This week’s Our Values posts have looked at some of the benefits of waiting, and why it is sometimes better to postpone a tough decision.

But that’s definitely a wrong strategy when it comes to your health. If you’re a smoker and want to quit—and are waiting until the end of the year to make that a New Year’s resolution—you’ll miss out on months of better health between now and then.

Many long-term smokers think that they’ve already done permanent damage to their hearts and lungs, and underestimate what they’ll get out of quitting right now.

But the Centers for Disease Control says the benefits kick in nearly immediately. “Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years,” according to their studies.

As the poster explains, “Within 20 minutes—Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.” Click on the poster to read it in more detail.

Exercise has some of the same benefits, no matter how late you start. “It’s never too late to start exercising,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Exercise has benefits at any age.”

So let’s stop kicking this can down the road, unless we’re kicking an actual can down an actual road.

Know other life changes that shouldn’t wait?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-”f” icons).

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Categories: Uncategorized

Why wait? Why did Abe Lincoln wait to free the slaves?

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.

5.1.2

Click on Lincoln to visit our LINCOLN RESOURCE PAGE, which links to a lot of fascinating reading on Abe and the Civil War.

When is waiting the best policy? And when can we not wait any longer?

One of the most challenging questions for admirers of Abraham Lincoln (and there are many of them among OurValues readers) is why he waited so long to emancipate slaves.

Although he denounced slavery in his campaigns for the Senate and the presidency, Lincoln took no steps to end the oppression when he became president. When his generals freed slaves owned by rebels in their regions, Lincoln ordered them to stop.

He made his priorities clear: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

Most biographers agree now that Lincoln’s equivocation was a complex balancing act to keep slave-holding border states in the Union, to keep Britain from coming into the war in support of the Confederacy, to encourage enlistment among Northerners who supported the Union but not racial equality.

After the Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln felt the time had come when he could issue the Emancipation Proclamation. But even that was equivocal, freeing only slaves in rebel-held territories, and months away.

For the nation’s 4 million slaves, how much waiting was enough?

This song cited in his memoir by one-time slave Frederick Douglass provides a clue:
Run to Jesus — face the danger—
I don’t expect to stay
Much longer here.

During the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we’ve all seen and read a lot about Lincoln: What do you think about his decisions?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-”f” icons).

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Categories: Freedom