Guest post: support for SSM correlates with support for other nontraditional social views

By Jonathan A. Cavender

Jonathan A. Cavender is an attorney working in Provo, Utah. He is an avid fan of C. S. Lewis and Japanese modern literature. He is the proud father of four children, and records his daily thoughts on the scriptures (along with other odds and ends) at

Those who oppose same-sex marriage often hear from those who are in favor of it, “why does it matter?” When we share the concerns we have about a slippery slope leading from support for same-sex marriage to other destructive influences on religion and individual belief, we are sometimes derided.

Now, a survey posted on “The Public Discourse,” and performed by Mark Regnerus, has shown just what the results of adopting the world’s standards of morality regarding same-sex marriage can be.

In a massive study, involving 15,738 Americans, representative nationally, the study showed a strong correlation between support for same-sex marriage and other beliefs in opposition to traditional Christian morality. Churchgoing Christians who supported same-sex marriage were 726% more likely than churchgoing Christians who do not support same-sex marriage to believe that viewing pornography was ok, 341% more likely to believe that premarital habitation was a good thing, 647% more likely to believe that no-strings sex is ok, only 64% as likely to believe that couples with kids should stay married except if abused, 577% more likely to believe that marital infidelity is sometimes ok, 602% more likely to support abortion rights, and an astonishing 1,292% more likely to say that 3+ adults living in a sexual relationship was ok.

What is even more alarming is the fact that in each of those categories, the active, churchgoing supporters of same-sex marriage were closer to the average views of the world at large than they were to the average views of the Christian population. In other words, the distinctiveness of traditional Christian beliefs on sexual morality are lost among those who support same-sex marriage. In fact, churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are actually more likely to say pornographic viewing is ok and that they support abortion rights (and equally like to say they believe marital infidelity is sometimes ok) than the general population at large.

There are questions raised by this study. Is it a correlation or causation issue? Is it that supporters of same-sex marriage tend to be politically liberal, and thus they acquire the panoply of beliefs typically associated with liberalism? Or is it that those who support same-sex marriage become more open to other forms of non-traditional sexuality (from a Christian perspective)?

Regardless of the reason, this broad study is certainly enlightening and demands notice from those who would advocate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopt the more worldly position of accepting same-sex marriage. We must always be different from the world, and it seems that adopting the standards of the world regarding same-sex marriage ultimately results in adopting the standards of the world in far more areas.

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'”
C. S. Lewis

The survey can be found at:

32 thoughts on “Guest post: support for SSM correlates with support for other nontraditional social views

  1. What liberal Christians mean is that they don’t judge people who make different sexual choices, not that they are all living in threesomes themselves.

    Liberals are saying that their own morality, their church’s morality, and the state’s morality, has no business in the bedroom. That is the essence of liberalism. Morals are not seen to be universal. The real question is, upon what basis do conservatives impose their particular moral code universally? Is cohabitation somehow against “natural law?” If it is, how do you demonstrate it and enforce it? Which moral code, of the diverse ones out there, is the correct one, and how do we collectively decide which one to embrace?

  2. If morals are not universal, why then become Christian? Christ was certainly not one to advocate adopting a flexible belief system. Yes, He said “Judge not,” but He also said that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” This is not a flexible morality, nor is it a doctrine that allows its adherents the capacity to claim that viewing pornography is ok. Your post actually strengthens the conservative point that liberalism sometimes serves to disconnect its adherents from the Gospel.

    If we are Christian, presumably we are Christian because we believe that Christ is the Son of God and we believe what He says. We believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light and that no man comes to the Father but by Him. Conservatives do not seek to impose their moral code universally — the moral law already universally exists, and conservatives simply speak up to point out that fact. We demonstrate it by advocating conversion to the Gospel, the teachings of the prophets, and so forth. We do not enforce it. And we do not collectively decide which one to embrace (even if we all collectively embraced the wrong moral law, the right moral law would still be right). Instead, we each individually have the opportunity to embrace the true moral law.

  3. Nate:

    “That is the essence of liberalism. Morals are not seen to be universal.”

    That may be the essence of the thing labelled “modern liberalism” (also known as progressivism), which derived from the social liberalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Classical liberalism, on the other hand, is rather tightly bound with the idea of natural law, and natural law posits a universal morality that is discoverable by human reasoning.

    Strangely, social liberalism also favored natural law and universal morality. It is actually somewhat odd that progressivism is considered a modern form of liberalism, since it has very little in common with any of the philosophies historically called “liberalism”.

    Although progressivism does pay lip service to individual rights and civil liberties, it does so as a stepping stone to greater state control – which is, of course, ultimately inimical to the individual.

    (As a classical liberal, it irks me that “liberal” has become a slur among those whose views largely agree with my own.)

  4. Nate, your very tired argument has been addressed repeatedly at every General Conference in recent history. CS Lewis also addresses this in several of his books, and your position has been refuted on this blog many times now. I would kindly ask you to take your argument elsewhere because you are turning into a “morality is not universal” troll. No matter how many times your argument is refuted you continue to repeat the same points over and over again. You are beginning to remind me of the Creationist blogger and commenter (I can’t remember his name right now) who for several years turned every discussion into “No Death Before the Fall.” Thank you for understanding that this blog is not the place for your one-note discussion.

  5. “Conservatives do not seek to impose their moral code universally — the moral law already universally exists, and conservatives simply speak up to point out that fact. We demonstrate it by advocating conversion to the Gospel, the teachings of the prophets, and so forth. We do not enforce it.”

    As a liberal, I agree with this statement. People are entitled to believe that their particular morals are universal, and they are entitled to advocate and invite others to adopt them.

    The issue I have with conservatives is that they assume that their morality is self-evident, and disregarding it represents some great sin against something that is an obvious given, rather than a strait and narrow way that few find. If God wanted everyone to obey his strait and narrow way, he wouldn’t have hidden it away in a book full of genocide, polygamy, slavery and implausible miracles.

  6. Sorry Geoff I posted the last comment before seeing your request to cease and desist. Feel free to remove it.

  7. Nate, read God in the Dock, by C. S. Lewis. The basic idea of the essay is that for the entire history of mankind, people judged themselves based upon how well they were following God’s law. Only recently, however, that has been turned on its head and mankind now presumes to judge God based upon how well He follows their self-generated morality.

    Christian supporters of same-sex marriage often fall into this trap — judging God based upon whether He agrees with what they believe socially or sexually or politically. Your comment shows a similar conceit, as though you seek to judge God based upon hiding His word “in a book full of genocide, polygamy, slavery and implausible miracles (are there any plausible miracles?).”

    The Bible is the word of God, and as I am reading in the Old Testament currently I can also say there is much there to teach us and much for us to learn for our modern day problems. But if we look at the word of God to judge it rather than to follow it, we become disconnected from the source of the Law (the God that is also the source of the Bible, the scriptures in general, and the head of our Church). This disconnection from authority (whether the authority of the scriptures for the general Christian population, the authority of the Pope for Catholics, or the Priesthood authority for members of the Church) is what, in my personal opinion, causes the deviation from traditional moral values from those who support same-sex marriage — having chosen to follow their politics rather than their religion, many lose touch with their religion.

  8. Jonathan, CS Lewis is right that pluralism is a relatively recent phenomenon, one you can see I have adopted to my definition of liberalism. I’m not a liberal in the classical sense. I also believe the Bible can be interpreted pluralistically, but that is a whole other thing and I’ve used up my good will here.

    Geoff, as you know I have an addiction to trolling here, and it would help me overcome it if you put me on permanent moderation. Sorry for the aggravation. You are doing a good work here and I don’t want to get in the way anymore.

  9. My comment did not post. Was it moderated out of existence, or did I do something on my end that evaporated it? If a comment is barred, is there a feedback via email to let me know what happened, or it simply a matter of awaiting moderation.

  10. I for one am so tired of the liberal versus conservative mantra as though it was the key to everything.

    In essence, the Gospel is made up of two key things:
    1. Obedience to God’s Laws
    2. Choice

    You can be completely in line with number 1, while respecting number 2.

    And while I completely agree that we’ve seen a decay in society in many levels, I cannot hinder anyone’s choice to made and be willing ( that’s also a key point) to accept the consequences of their choices.

    The fact that society dictates the acceptance of choice contrary to God’s laws is unfortunate. We need to stand up and set the example of right choices.

  11. But the tricky thing to allowing “choice” is that we legislate those choices by the laws we, as a society, enact. Being an example is great. But serving in the public sphere, whether at the local, state or national level, is important, too. I understand where Nate is coming from, and the notion that we (as Latter-day Saints) ought to let people make their own choices and mistakes. If that were taken at face value, we’d have no societal laws at all.

  12. This survey is novel because it asked for moral views (on the appropriateness of adultery, polyamory, porn, divorce, etc.) in light of what is normally interpreted as a political view (support for same-sex marriage).

    The results are fascinating because they strike a major blow against an assumption of liberalism: they give support to the idea that when you *tolerate* immoral behavior as a matter of law, you are much likelier to end up seeing that behavior as morally neutral. The public and the private are not so easily separated. I wrote about a similar idea in a different context this week:

    “As I discovered personally, a laissez-faire public attitude on human behavior is often accompanied by moral apathy in private. This is probably because the libertarian ethic is itself a moral judgment; one that supersedes for its adherents any other.”

    In other words, if you believe too strongly in liberal morality, it’s going to begin drowning out the rest of your morality. There is research on moral views by ideology that supports this idea.

    Let’s say what we’re all thinking and what the data is starting to bear out: people who make an ado about having Christian morals but not wanting to force them on others (while this is at *conceptually* possible) likely don’t really believe in those morals at all, or else they place them second to modernist liberal ethics. Or to make an even broader point, as National Review did this week: “Liberal sexual beliefs work, in the long run, to make fewer Christians.”

  13. Tom, good comment. However, you must consider is there a difference between declaring something immoral and saying the same thing should be illegal. Smoking is, in my opinion, immoral. However, making smoking illegal would only make it more popular. This is one of the lessons we learn from Prohibition. So, there will always be a balance in how we deal with morality and public policy.

  14. That’s true, there’s definitely a balance. But prohibition and laissez-faire (while *saying* to ourselves that it’s immoral) aren’t our only options. It’s good for society that the government actively discourages smoking (it does here in Canada, at least, by advertising bans and graphic labels) even though it doesn’t ban it–tobacco use has fallen by half over the last few decades. Likewise, I think our public policy should be explicitly geared toward a healthy sexual culture, without going as far as banning every immoral practice. There are many ways: porn could be opt-in, public schools could teach traditional sexual values, divorce could be more difficult, smutty media could be censored when it’s likely to be seen by children, the government could lead public health campaigns against promiscuity and cohabitation, etc. One of the ways that the government actually still does encourage healthy sexual values is by having a public marriage institution–which is why it would be unwise to redefine it in such a way that healthy sexual values aren’t central to it.

    As we’re doing our balancing act, though, I think we should all watch ourselves that our public permissiveness doesn’t become private apathy. It would really be sad if we cared so much about not stepping on anyone’s toes that we stopped crying repentance and promoting the truth about families. This isn’t just a hypothetical possibility, though. It’s actually happening to many of us–and it’s mostly children who are eventually paying the price.

  15. However, making smoking illegal would only make it more popular. This is one of the lessons we learn from Prohibition.

    Well, that’s one of the lessons we’re told we’re supposed to have learned from Prohibition; but in fact Prohibition did reduce alcohol use and alcohol-related illnesses and injuries. See, e.g.,

  16. The myth that Prohibition failed has fueled resistance to banning smoking entirely. The War on Drugs seems to demonstrate that organized crime will profit when laws force those who desire to partake of something dangerous or unhealthy to go underground. One tactic that has been useful in controlling behavior is public shaming. A pregnant woman seen smoking or drinking will be reproved by someone sooner or later. Smoking cigarettes has become less popular as it is ‘cast out’ of public places. There is a certain romance in defying law, but what is someone to do if it is their children chastising them? Unfortunately SSM and other manifestations of what was once considered dangerous or deviant behavior have taken on a gloss of propriety. A relative was accused of irresponsibility when she rejected abortion during a financial crisis. Another was chided by medical personnel when she chose to give birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome. Under the heading of ‘tolerance’ we are expected not just to maintain silence, but to actively support behavior that is against the laws of God. ‘Intolerance’ seems to have become the most serious sin.

  17. geoff, Nate either has me fooled, or else he is making an honest effort to explain the liberal take on the issue without actually advocating the liberal side.

    he raises some good questions about how we should present moral/gospel realted issues to the left withour offending their liberalism.

    in other words need to know the “enemy” and how to reach out to them in ways such that will listen and give consideration.

    there is a couple in my ward who are strong members of the church, and are also strong hard lefties. They, or at least he, hold stake and high ward callings, are temple workers, etc. So its possible to be a politicial leftie and support the gospel.

    Suggestion: could you and Nate have a phone call and work out a framework such that Nate can still give us the left/liberal/progressive’s take on whatever the M* post’s subject matter is, without coming across as _advocating_ that position?

    Jeff Spector has a point, we need to know how to communicate gospel principles, and the cause/effects of the matters, to those who need to learn/understand them without it sounding like we are trying to rob them of their political views.

    There were some good rejoinders to Nate in the above comments, but I think that at the end of the day, Nate is on the side of the Gospel, isn’t he? Have I not been paying close enough attention, or does he accept the foundational truth claims of the church?

    he may need to post some caveats/position-staements when he comments on a thread (just once per thread, not every comment) until we all get a better feel for where he is coming from.

    But I’m starting to like his questions because they make me think how best to reach out and convert leftists to the gospel without having to rob them, or even appear to be robbing them, of their political views.

  18. I think I’m going to side with bookslinger regarding Nate and his intentions, if only because I’ve been painted with the exact same colors as he:

    I definitely get the impression that Nate is, in fact doing the exact same thing as me, and that would not be trolling. Rather, it would be reiterating a point which he does not think the other side has not properly understood, acknowledged, internalized or in some way respected. I know that this is definitely the case in a strong majority of my own bloggernacle interactions.

    The reason why I think people like Nate and I fall into these groundhog day type of arguments is essentially the same reason for the strong correlation discussed in the OP: The differences in the ways that liberals and conservatives structure and prioritize moral values leads them to understand and evaluate moral claims and arguments in ways that are both systematic and to some extent predictable.

    Nate feels like he already addressed the issue at hand, while Geoff feels like he already addressed Nate’s perspective. I feel like I already refuted so many liberal positions and they feel like they already refuted my refutation. I think all such cases boil down to the difficulty that we all have in translating our own moral frameworks into a language that those with another framework can understand and internalize.

    Gary had a very difficult time articulating his rather subtle position in a way that we all could understand. Once I finally understood it, however, I realized he was completely right. Now, having internalized his perspective, I am much more careful to package my own position regarding evolution and the church in a way that doesn’t inspire Gary’s well-worn responses.

    I too struggle to get my rather subtle point across in some of the more liberal blogs, only to be greeted with the predictable dismissiveness. It would appear that Nate is experiencing the same thing, only heading in the opposite political direction. In all of these case, both sides are complaining that “we’ve been over this before and you still don’t seem to get it.” For what it’s worth, I think both sides are exactly right in this aspect.

  19. Not a threadjack. Planned Parenthood, the hero organization of many liberal Christians:

    “To put it bluntly, undercover video evidence shows that Planned Parenthood is willing to advise girls as young as fifteen years old on how to be whipped, beaten, and even defecated on during sex. Planned Parenthood counselors teach kids to access Internet pornography and visit sex stores, and to hide all of this from their parents. Staffers call all of this behavior completely okay, provided it’s “consensual.”

    Read more:

  20. Latter Day Saints jeopardize their own exultation by supporting same-sex marriage. If the person you encouraged into homosexuality never repents and they arrive at Judgment Day unclean, The latter day saints who supported them in that choice will be held accountable.

  21. One book currently being read at our house is Laura Sessions Stepp’s 2007 Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both.

    Sex as casual social activity with whoever or whatever is handy is becoming quite normal, particularly among young people. It will be interesting to see this rising generation when they themselves are old.

  22. “It will be interesting to see this rising generation when they themselves are old.”

    Interesting, in the Chinese curse sense?

  23. “It will be interesting to see this rising generation when they themselves are old.”
    Heh, you mean how will they continue to deal with the cognitive dissonance of demanding more choice and accommodation, and less accountability while someone else bears the consequences into their old age?

    Some how, I think they’ll manage…

  24. I won’t be here when they are old, unless my healthy living gifts me more years than my forebears. Though I may see this generation as it approaches retirement.

    Just wondering how many will realize that the “old-fashioned” behavior they eschewed resulted in perks they didn’t come to value until it was too late.

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