For Christians who are paying attention, the culture has shifted under their feet and is becoming unrecognizable. The America of even a decade ago no longer exists. In terms of human sexuality and gender, for example, the so-called “Gay Pride” and transgender movements seem everywhere ascendant. How did this happen?
Between the inception of the homosexual civil rights movement in 1969 and the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the gay and lesbian community saw little progress in altering the way most Americans saw homosexuals.
However, there were brilliant minds within that community, fashioning a blueprint for change. In 1985, two homosexuals, Marshall K. Kirk and Hunter Madsen, wrote “Waging Peace: A Gay Battle Plan to Persuade Straight America.” Written for the now-defunct homosexual magazine Christopher Street, the article was turned into an important book four years later. Titled After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s, it was controversial within the gay and lesbian community because it criticized then-current, failed strategies among homosexual activists.
It called for a clear shift to something different. Rather than continue trying to gain the sympathy of a politician here or there, Kirk and Madsen boldly admitted their intent to manipulate American sensibilities by using pro-homosexual propaganda. They advocated using TV, radio, the mainstream press, and the power of advertising to get the message out.
“At the core of our program is a media campaign to change the way average citizens view homosexuality,” they said.
The goal was to enter the living rooms of the average American, especially via television, and propagandize them. Kirk and Madsen said TV is “the most graphic and intrusive medium for our message. In everyday life, intrusiveness is considered impolite; but not in public communications, where nine-tenths of the challenge is simply getting people’s attention. … [T]elevision is the most cogent medium, combining sight, sound, and motion to make new pictures so vivid that they can displace the old.” (Emphasis in the original.)
What messages would Americans see and hear as the propaganda reached them? After the Ball advocated portraying homosexuals as victims of bigotry while vilifying Christians who opposed the movement. Who can doubt that, for the last three decades, those drums have been beaten steadily?
While many, if not most, Christians were disinterested in the homosexual movement for many years, the people all around them have been increasingly convinced by decades of propaganda to embrace homosexuality as a normal, natural, and healthy variation of human sexuality. The culture is also being rapidly convinced that Christians who disagree with these sentiments are, indeed, villains.
Power of propaganda
The changes have been dramatic over time. For example, according to Gallup, public opinion on homosexual marriage has almost completely reversed itself. In 1996, only 27% of Americans favored the legalization of same sex marriage, while 68% opposed it. By 2017, the numbers had flipped – 64% were in favor, with only 34% opposed.
Americans have rather speedily absorbed other aspects of the pro-homosexual message. For example, in 2001, Gallup asked respondents about the morality of “gay or lesbian relationships.” A clear majority (53%) thought such relationships were morally wrong, while 40% said they were morally acceptable. Once again, last year, Gallup found numbers indicating a complete reversal: 63% said homosexual relationships were acceptable, with 33% disagreeing.
On no subject was the power of propaganda more impactful that the issue of what causes homosexuality. In 1977, 13% said gays and lesbians were born that way; 56% said it was environmental, and 14% said it was a combination of both factors. In 2016, the numbers indicated that Americans had clearly begun changing their minds: 46% answered born that way; 33% said environment, and 12% said both.
The visibility and prevalence of gays and lesbians in the media have led to an interesting, although not unexpected, phenomenon. While studies have consistently shown the homosexual population in the U.S. to be just over 2%, Gallup tried to measure Americans’ perceptions of the size of the gay and lesbian community. Amazingly, 53% of Americans thought that homosexuals made up 20-25% of the population or even higher. In fact, only 9% correctly answered “less than 5%.”
In terms of public opinion, there is at least one issue that still reveals a fairly even divide – the question of which bathrooms transgendered individuals should use. Last year Gallup found that, by a 48-45% margin, Americans thought transgendered individuals should use the bathroom corresponding to their birth (biological) gender rather than their self-identified gender.
Nevertheless, there might be a slight trend developing even at this early stage of the growing controversy. Gallup’s 2017 results indicated a rapidly shrinking margin for the traditional view, as 2016’s poll showed a 10-point margin (50-40%) for those who said birth gender should be the determining factor.
These trends pose a serious challenge to Christians who will increasingly face a culture – including family, friends, and co-workers – that rejects a biblical view of sexuality, marriage, and family. Moreover, gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals are literally coming to a family – and a pew – near you. How should Christians respond? What should parents tell their children and what should pastors tell their flocks?
The body of Christ can start by paying attention to what is happening around them, and, if they’ve been ignoring these powerful movements up to now, to stop doing so.
Next blog: What should we do?