The Big Two: The changing attitudes of Millennials on abortion, marriage
It has been said that today’s young adults tend to be more conservative on the pro-life issue and more liberal on the marriage issue. Millennials would be likely to have had a rainbow flag with their online profile after the Supreme Court ruling only to be railing against Planned Parenthood a few weeks later.
Opinion polls support this odd pair of views on the big two issues among young adults, as well. A recent Pew Research poll revealed that some 70 percent of people born after 1980 favor same-sex marriage, while another poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that in 2012, “only 37 percent considered abortion morally acceptable.”
In an interesting discussion on this subject at the 2015 Gospel & Sexuality Conference hosted by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), Southern Baptist leaders Albert Mohler, Jr. and Russell D. Moore agreed that the thinking behind their positions on these two issues is not deeply held (view their conversation here).
In other words, when pressed in the particulars about the “hard cases” in which some people claim abortion might be justifiable, young adults suddenly lose their “pro-lifeness.” Conversely, when you start talking about messy issues connected to same-sex marriage such as homosexuals adopting children, likewise, the young adults lose their enthusiasm for support.
What gives? Some say young adults believe this way, not because of arguments or what they have been taught; it is because of what they have caught, meaning what they have observed in real life.
For example, most people born after 1980 grew up seeing ultrasound photos of their brothers and sisters, cousins and friends on a refrigerator, as Moore has pointed out. Related to the marriage issue, they have lived through a total meltdown of marriage, through casual divorce, family breakdown and widespread cohabitation. What’s more, many young adults have a friend who is gay, which greatly affects their views on same-sex marriage.
Of course I am not saying all young adults come to their views this way. Many of the millennials and young adults I know are some of the most hard-thinking, biblically-serious people I’ve ever met.
Will this paradox of views on abortion and marriage be permanent for the millennial generation? It is highly doubtful. If history teaches us anything, it is that people, even groups of people, change over time.
The Baby Boomer generation, for example, embraced and embodied the sexual revolution to their own detriment. Yet the sexual revolution will never keep its promises, and so many fled from it back to God.
Similarly, we know that the glowing promises of same-sex marriage will not fulfill the desires of the people involved and will not be as clear-cut and warm and fuzzy as every rainbow-flag-wearing person was promised.
With regard to the abortion issue, we remain hopeful that this generation of young people will not just think pro-life, but also will act like it. This includes, yes, working for laws that protect life in the public square; but also takes the form of personal action. The most pro-life thing a person can do is to bear and/or adopt children within the context of marriage.
Time will tell how Millennials grow and change on the issues of abortion and marriage. If the Lord tarries, their generation will not have the last word on the issue, either. So take heart and take time to invest in young people. For the young people of today are the mothers and fathers and leaders of tomorrow.