Facebook, "Christianese", and Same-Sex Marriage

By Abby SkeansI’m often grateful that I’m not a Facebook user. I think social media is a huge gift and Facebook is no exception. But I’m a private person and having my life headlined for hundreds (or thousands) of people with second by second updates sends waves of anxiety through my soul. I prefer email. Or text message. But mostly email – where one can digest the information and craft a thoughtful and conscientious response to demonstrate to the sender that you value them reaching out to you with a note. And although I’m often grateful that I’m protected from the fray of Facebook, I was especially cognizant of this on June 26 – the day the Supreme Court released the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. One friend texted me early that morning expressing exasperation with the abundance of harsh, pointed, sentence-long opinions flying across social media almost immediately after the decision was made public. “How could all of these people have already read and analyzed the opinion?” she wondered. But as soon as she texted it and I read it, we both knew the answer to her query. Overstating our opinions and underutilizing productive solitude and reflection seems to be an unfortunate hallmark of the millennial generation. Regardless, there was much disappointment, and even disdain, for the decision and its inevitable social consequences among the millennial Christians who fill my friend’s Facebook friend list. On July 1, shortly after the decision, The Barna Group released a report entitled, “Christians React to the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: 9 Key Findings.” One of the findings described how younger Christians, those who are a part of my social media network, are reacting to the decision:

Younger practicing Christians more closely align with older practicing Christians than with others under 40.

Age has been—and continues to be—a defining fault line on this issue. Younger practicing Christians, however, have more in common with their older counterparts than they do with the general population. One-third of practicing Christians under 40 favor the ruling (35%), compared to six in 10 among all adults in their age cohort (61%)—a gap of 26 percentage points. By comparison, there is only a nine-point gap between younger practicing Christians and those 40 and older (26%).

Many Christians have felt divisions in their own tribe over this issue, and nowhere are those divisions more clear than between practicing Christians under 40 and non-practicing Christians in the same age group. On nearly every question, deep divides emerge between these two groups of younger Christians. While only one-third of practicing Christians under age 40 (35%) are in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision, three-quarters of non-practicing Christians of the same age support the decision (73%).

Yes, you read that data correctly. The deepest divide for millennials on this issue is within their own religious community – within the church. Practicing and non-practicing Christians are the most polarized groups under the age of 40 on this issue. Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising news to me. It’s angering and saddening, but not surprising. As the church our call can be reduced into one phrase  – love God, love others. But instead of actualizing that call, we often react to a complex social issue by running into our otherworldly armories, selecting the most bulky, antiquated weapons possible, lugging them to the battlefield of social media, and assaulting one another. In doing this, time and again, we both miss the point of the gospel and make the church more irrelevant. Because, on June 26, while Christians were verbally assaulting one another on Facebook with Bible verses and clever uses of “Christianize,” all of my non-Christian friends were partying. They were developing catchy hashtags, preparing for public celebrations, and taking happy photos of themselves.The good news is, although the church may sideline herself with silly social media debates, Christ doesn’t become less relevant in these conversations. In fact, he takes center stage. Jesus is sovereign like that and already knew this decision would be made. He’s not surprised – he always gets an advance copy of the news because, well, he’s always existed and all created things resulted from him. That’s the encouraging part of all of this – God’s story is much vaster than ours. We’re a part of the story, but he is the author and goes behind us and before us with his beautiful, creative, and masterful pen, sketching out the story of grace and redemption on the world.His story, the gospel (the good news of his grace for all mankind), is much more nuanced and complex than I think many of us could even imagine. The gospel isn’t ill-fitting whenever it encounters the complexities of modernity, like the Obergefell decision, rather, it has already accounted for them. Now, the church must abandon the infighting on the battlefield and engage wholeheartedly with those outside the Christian tradition on this issue. The gospel is equipped to engage this issue, Jesus is more than enough, but are Christians ready and willing? Fellow millennial believers, please be brave. Let’s start by affirming that #lovewins. Because Jesus is love. And He always wins. That’s the starting point. Now, how do we continue the conversation?

FeaturedMark Rodgers