Several new surveys are showing that Generation Z overwhelmingly supports LGBTQ rights and desires more positive approaches from faith leaders on issues of gender and sexuality.
The National Catholic Reporter shared data from Springtide Research Institute’s “The State of Religion and Young People 2021” survey:
“[O]f the values that they cared about most, a recent report by Springtide Research Institute found, Generation Z believes their faith communities are most falling short when it comes to LBGTQ+ rights. In Springtide’s study, The State of Religion & Young People 2021, the largest gap between what respondents felt ‘I care’ about and ‘faith groups care’ about came in regard to LGBTQ+ rights, showing a 27% difference.
“Generation Z is coming of age at a time when the majority of Americans support gay rights, about half a decade after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. At the same time, a growing percentage of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ+, including one in six Gen Zers, according to a recent survey. In all 71% of Gen Zers told Springtide they care about LGBTQ+ rights.”
Generation Z is the cohort of people who reached adulthood in the 2010s.
Over seven out of ten young people support LGBTQ rights, but many of them do not feel that religious groups share these values. The study further showed that “[w]hen asked if they think faith groups care about LGBTQ+ rights, only 44% of them agreed.”
This data comes amid other studies conducted during the Covid pandemic that show a new decline in young people’s participation in organized religion. CNBC reports:
“It’s not uncommon for people to seek God during times of hardship. However, the opposite appears to have happened in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.
“A Pew Research Center survey, released earlier this month, found 29% of U.S. adults said they had no religious affiliation, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2016, with millennials leading that shift. A growing number of Americans said they are also praying less often. About 32% of those polled by the Pew Research from May 29 to Aug. 25 said they seldom or never pray. That’s up from 18% of those polled by the group in 2007.”
These trends remain in line with broader survey data showing disaffiliation rates with organized religions among young people. When Millennials and Generation Z do not see their values or lived experiences represented in the words and actions of religious leaders, they consider these religions hypocritical and hollow.
“I have no interest in uprooting my beliefs and values for the benefit of someone else feeling that they’re saving me,” Matthew Blasio, 22, shared with NCR.
LGBTQ equality in religion advocates such as Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, co-writer of the NCR article, believe that it is crucial for institutions to share their LGBTQ-affirming positions if they want to continue to minister to an increasingly skeptical generation:
“If faith groups can work toward taking concrete action to dismantle the systems that perpetuate the discrimination LGBTQ+ people continue to experience, it could make the difference between a generation that proceeds into adulthood turned off by institutions or a generation willing to pursue relationships within faith communities and allow faith leaders to walk alongside them.”
What Henderson-Espinoza highlights and what the data show is that Millennials and Gen Z want to be able to rely on a consistent ethic of care and justice from the religious institutions they inhabit. Catholic Church leaders who are inclined to be outspokenly homophobic and transphobic should seriously consider what this will mean for the church’s future moral relevancy.
—Barbara Anne Kozee (she/her), New Ways Ministry, January 13, 2022