The Soul of the Christian South: Fundamentalist and Progressive Churches Square Off in Gay Marriage Debate
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Polls and denominational stances reveal demographic trends that resist easy categories. In January, the Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found that 56 percent of respondents to a poll favored the amendment, while 36 percent would vote against it. Ten percent were undecided. The most prominent Catholic leaders in the state, Bishops Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, support the amendment. On the other hand, the state’s Episcopal Diocese opposes it. Black Christians, among the most opposed to homosexuality, make up 13 percent of the state population (nearly twice as high as the national average). Yet the North Carolina NAACP, which includes thousands of African-American pastors across the state, is against the amendment.
When my dad was a kid in the small town of Winton, N.C., his Episcopalian family frowned on the idea of his bringing home a Presbyterian. The notion that the state's churches are now divided on the issue of whether partners of the same sex can marry attests to an astonishing transformation in just one generation. The values voters express on May 8 will say a lot about the direction of southern Christianity. In a state where religion plays a central role, questions about inclusiveness, tradition and openness to change will send a powerful signal throughout the nation. There is an awful lot at stake - maybe even the soul of the South.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.