Notre Dame Sociology Professor Elizabeth McClintock said she speculates that larger changes in society could have an impact on the lives of religious members of a culture. While most of her experience comes from studying broader culture, rather than religion specifically, she said she can speculate some possible trends.
“I think it has to do with attitudes toward gender, specifically with anxiety over changing gender arrangements between spouses,” McClintock said. “Homosexual couples are seen as a threat because they undermine the gendered basis of marriage and parenting. A couple that does not differ on sex or gender cannot divide household, employment or parenting responsibility according to gender.”
McClintock, whose research focuses primarily on gender, sexuality and inequality in context of romantic and sexual relationships, said these feelings might be exacerbating by women’s increasing employment and emphasis on men functioning more as homemakers. Those feeling this emphasis in a negative way may feel threatened by homosexuality and gay marriage, she said.
“Similarly, because many homosexual couples are childless, they may be seen as a threat to those who feel that marriage should be for procreation (as opposed to those who think marriage is for companionship and love) or to those who feel that women are obligated to have children,” she said.
In terms of religious and Scriptural interpretation, Graber Miller said the homosexuality issue is a case study on what people take from the Bible.
“(This shows) what grids or interpretive views we take to Scripture,” he said. “I think we do ourselves a disservice if we say we interpret it all flatly or literally. People feel like it’s a test case for whether we can take the Bible seriously or not.”
Graber Miller said other contentious topics are female leadership in the church and slavery.
“Some people get frustrated that the church is following the culture,” he said. “To me, it seems like the church should be leading the culture. That might have an affect on how we treat the marginalized.”