Moral bar slipping in U.S., Gallup poll finds
WASHINGTON (BP) – Homosexuality, premarital sex, divorce, marijuana and pornography are approved by a growing percentage of Americans, Gallup found in
an annual poll including nearly 20 behaviors placed on its morality scale.
Adultery draws disdain from 88 percent of Americans, Gallup said, and Americans are almost evenly split on the morality of abortion.
"Gallup's trends on many of these items date back to 2001. On most, Americans have adopted more permissive views over time," Gallup said of its 2018 poll results. "Americans are least likely to regard married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy and suicide as morally OK. Their opinions are most closely divided on morality of abortion – 43 percent believe it is morally acceptable and 48 percent believe it is not."
Christians, though not the focus of the poll that included a cross section of Americans, have a role to play in reversing the trend toward permissiveness, Southern Baptists told Baptist Press.
Barrett Duke, a former executive of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the influence of Christians has never been more needed.
"As our citizens are jettisoning biblical morality, we are seeing the effects in every area of life, but especially on our families. And our churches are struggling to keep up with the brokenness," said Duke, executive director of the Montana Baptist Convention since 2017. "The country has never been so rudderless. The challenges here have never been greater. The church has never been needed more."
In engaging the culture, Christians must be watchful not to embrace immoral behavior, Duke told BP.
"Without revival in our churches that spreads out into our communities, we can expect to see more acceptance of destructive values and lifestyles among our own members and in our communities," he said. "The church must equip itself to minister in this brokenness and love their neighbors with a sacrificial love."
Christian speaker, writer and professor Rhonda Kelley, managing editor of the Study Bible for Women, said the Christian worldview is becoming unusual.
"Our American culture has lost its moral and ethical roots; we are no longer a Judeo-Christian country," said Kelley, wife of New Orleans Baptist Theological President Chuck Kelley and an NOBTS adjunct professor. "Unfortunately, many Christians are becoming more like the world than previous generations of Christians who were set apart by their godly lifestyles."
The study did not isolate the behavior of Christians in particular, but found differences among gender, age, race and political groups aligned with church attendance.
"For example, nonwhites, women, older Americans and [political] conservatives are more likely to attend church," Gallup said in its findings, "[and] less likely to say smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol are OK."
Overall, 78 percent of Americans approve of drinking alcohol while 19 percent say it is morally wrong. Smoking marijuana is approved by 65 percent of Americans, with 31 percent opposing it. All practices were not included in the first poll conducted in 2001, but were added as the practices became more hotly debated in the public arena.
Indicating trends, 67 percent approve of homosexuality, compared to 40 percent in 2001; 69 percent approve of premarital sex, compared to 53 percent in 2001; 76 percent of Americans say divorce is morally acceptable, compared to 59 percent in 2001; and 65 percent of Americans approve of childbirth outside of marriage, compared to 45 percent in 2002 when Gallup added the practice to its poll.
While a majority of Americans, 55 percent, oppose pornography, the 43 percent who say it is morally acceptable has increased from the 30 percent who approved of it in 2011, when Gallup added the question.
Christians must exhibit the peculiarity described in Scripture in order to positively reverse such trends, Kelley told BP.
"In order for Christians to influence the world with the Gospel, our lives must be different in all ways from those around us," Kelley said. "A renewed commitment to biblical marriage and godly living is needed by Christians. Only the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives can make a difference in this world filled with people without moral compasses."
Gallup also queried Americans this year on birth control (drawing 91 percent approval), gambling (69 percent approval), medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos (66 percent), the death penalty (62 percent), buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur (60 percent), medical testing on animals (54 percent), doctor assisted suicide (54 percent), and teen sex (42 percent).
Complete poll results, based on a May 1-10 telephone poll of 1,024 randomly sampled adults, can be viewed at http://news.gallup.com/poll/235250/say-consuming-alcohol-marijuana-morally.aspx?.