Evangelicals in the mist

fieldguidetoevangelicalsEight years ago, more than 60 percent of California voters banned same sex marriage. It was this majority vote that was overturned by the California Supreme Court. So I like the basic idea behind Susannah Rosenblatt's story for the Los Angeles Times. She wrote about some people who believe that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman:

Besides her faith, family is at the center of Cathi Unruh's life.

That is, family as defined by their understanding of God's will: a husband, a wife and their children. The El Segundo native even home-schooled her four children to more firmly root them in the family's evangelical Christian faith.

So for Unruh, the quick translation of Thursday's ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage is simple. It goes against God's plan. A union between a man and a woman is "God's standard of what is best, what's most healthy, physically, spiritually and emotionally," she said.

She and her husband, Kris, who met while touring with an evangelical music group, believe homosexuality is akin to sins such as adultery and stealing. Although the couple would readily vote for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, they don't support bullying those who don't share their values.

"I don't sit and smack them upside the head with what I believe," Unruh said Thursday in her home. "It comes down to a personal relationship, just caring about them as an individual. I would share what I believe."

The only people profiled for the entire story, by the way, are the Unruhs.

Why choose only one couple to write about? Why make them evangelical Christians? Why this one couple, with no real reason given for why these people are typical or atypical?

Permit me to quote a relevant quotation from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association:

Widen your source base. When reporting on same-sex marriage, avoid the stereotypes trap.

As the NLGJA notes, not everyone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual supports same-sex marriage. And not every religious adherent opposes same sex marriage. Considering that such a significant majority of voters in California oppose same-sex marriage, I think the reporter could have included much more diversity.

To be fair, Rosenblatt does concede that the Unruhs aren't necessarily representative:

The Unruhs are hardly alone in their thinking. They are among the 61% of voters who decided eight years ago to ban gay marriages in California, a sentiment shared by a broad cross-section of people for a range of reasons.

For the Unruhs, it's religion. More recent polls show the state is much more evenly drawn on the matter.

This is one of my pet peeves. I'm not saying that recent polls don't show the state is much more evenly drawn, but is that a poll of the general public, of voters, or of likely voters? How statistically reliable is the poll? We have no idea because we're not given any information. Not to mention, what does "much more" mean? Why not just use the actual numbers and actual poll? Otherwise, it seems like it's dismissing the Unruhs and the 61 percent of other voters in California.

The rest of the article reads like a typical anthropological study of a bizarre species. For people who have actually met Evangelical Christians, it's ridiculously boring. Did you know, for instance, that people can oppose same-sex marriage while still welcoming gay people into their home? And did you know that in addition to learning about Christianity, Evangelical Christian homeschoolers assign philosophical works by Plato and Nietzsche?

weddingbands 01Still, the piece doesn't really delve into anything interesting. They mention their reliance on Scripture but no Bible passages about marriage are mentioned. This line also struck me as weird:

And they believe heterosexual marriage is supposed "to give us a picture of the relationship [God] desires to have with us," Kris Unruh said.

Putting the word "God" in brackets is bizarre. I wonder if the Unruhs said "He" and were referring to Ephesians 5:22-33 where the Apostle Paul describes marriage as a picture of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church.

Even if the story wanted to limit sources to voters who oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds, this article could have been so much more interesting.

Why just portray this couple? Why act as if this is a story about conservative evangelicals fighting against the rest of California? Why not talk to any traditional Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or any of the other multitudes of religious groups that believe marriage should be preserved as an institution between one man and one woman?

Why write about this one family? All. Alone. And. Bizarre.

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