Christian Views of Homosexuality
The goal of this research was to answer two questions. First, how did Christian attitudes in the Tuscaloosa area toward homosexuality change over time? Second, how did Christian attitudes in the Tuscaloosa area toward homosexuality compare to national Christian attitudes toward homosexuality? The queer southern experience is fundamentally influenced by Christianity, so it’s important to see how that influence changes over time.
To find the answer, 46 documents (1983-2009)  from around the Tuscaloosa area were gathered from the Miller-Stephens collection. The majority of these were letters to the editor from local newspapers and columns written by locals. Each expressed an attitude toward homosexuality through the lens of Christianity. After these were gathered, they were divided by whether or not the writer expressed the belief that homosexual behavior is a sin.
National surveys that asked, “Is homosexual behavior a sin?” were also gathered using the iPoll distribution service. These were from 1987, 1998, and 2013.
These documents and surveys were then charted to see trends over time and to compare the local and national trends. See the chart below.
On both a local and national level, there was a significant increase in the percentage of acceptance of homosexuality over time. By the late 2000s, the Tuscaloosa area had both a higher percentage of pro-gay sentiments and a lower percentage of anti-gay sentiments than national samples, despite being a stereotypically conservative area.
This is likely due to two things. First, college towns. They generally tend to be more liberal than other places in the South and throughout the nation.
Second, the work of local queer organizations, like the University of Alabama’s queer student organization and the Tuscaloosa Community Gay/Lesbian Organization. Just by existing these organizations brought more visibility to the queer movement. They also fostered a more accepting environment through efforts like forming a religious affairs committee and holding events like a queer conference in 1996.
This research shows the importance of local queer organizations. It also shows that there is hope for a queer-inclusive Christianity in the future.
1 W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, the Miller-Stephens Collection (https://www.lib.ua.edu/libraries/hoole/)
2 Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times Poll, Aug, 1987 [survey question]. USLAT.128.R64. Los Angeles Times [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Mar-15-2019.
3 Newsweek. PSRA/Newsweek Poll, Jul, 1998 [survey question]. USPSRNEW.080198.R11. Princeton Survey Research Associates [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Mar-15-2019.
4 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Political Survey, May, 2013 [survey question]. USPSRA.060613.R72. Princeton Survey Research Associates International [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Mar-15-2019.