In April, news headlines reported that the American public opinion polls show all-time high support for two issues: same-sex marriage and marijuana use.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, recently pointed out that the poll numbers related to these two social issues have corresponded a great deal over the last two-plus decades.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. According to Gallup, one of the leading polling groups, in 1995, only 25 percent of adults nationwide said “yes” when asked, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” A whopping 73 percent said “no.”
During that same time frame, in 1996, when asked “Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid,” a mere 27 percent said “yes” and 68 percent said “no.”
Fast forward to 2017, and Gallup shows the polls have completely reversed on each issue. A full 64 percent want marijuana legal and only 34 are against, while a full 64 percent view same-sex marriage as equally valid as traditional marriage, versus 34 percent against.
Going further into the details, you will see the trend lines start to reverse around 2005 and fully swap places in 2011 and 2012. Mohler’s point was not to say the correlation between the two means one causes the other.
His point was that moral laxness and socially-liberal viewpoints behind them is gaining favor at the same time and in the same way. The same moral fiber (or lack thereof) that would cause someone to compromise on one of these issues seems to affect the other.
Perhaps the greatest point to consider is the break-neck speed at which social change happens, how fast we can see a “moral revolution,” to borrow a Mohler phrase, in just a few short years.
If there’s one thing we know about public opinion polls, though, it is that they can change and change quickly. There is no reason to believe approval numbers on any given issue, whether marriage or drug use laws, will stay stagnant.
At the same time, this poll reversal can provide a wake-up call for Evangelical Christians. We are living in different days, but God has assigned us to this mission field. Moreover, we no longer can assume society will reinforce biblical notions on sexuality and avoiding drunkenness—or any issue for that matter.
We must become more persuasive with our lives and our lips. If we cave on our convictions, we lose. If we live hypocritically, we lose. If we take too harsh an attitude that chases people away, we lose. We must instead be like the Lord Jesus, who came “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
In the end, we are not trying to reverse Gallup opinion polls. We are trying to share the Gospel with one individual and one family at a time. Through a change of heart and renewing of their mind, we will see attitudes on key issues change.
When Christians are no longer in the “moral majority” that previous generations envisioned, we can either turn into grumpy worry-warts, complaining about the rotten times we live in and longing for yesteryear. Or we can renew our sense of mission and promote the Faith, which was delivered “once and for all to the saints” (Jude 1:3)—the Faith that God, not Gallup, gifted to us.