Christian scholars rip psychology study claiming that LGBTQ activism poses no threat to Christians

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Psychologists seeking to explain evangelical Christians’ opposition to LGBTQ activism attributed this suspicion to “zero-sum beliefs” (ZSBs), the sense that as anti-LGBTQ bias decreases, anti-Christian bias increases. While the psychologists concluded that Christians’ fears are baseless, Christian academics disagreed.

In “Is LGBT progress seen as an attack on Christians?: Examining Christian/sexual orientation zero-sum beliefs,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Clara Wilkins, associate professor of psychological & brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and her team of five other psychologists concluded that Christians’ zero-sum beliefs about “conflict with sexual minorities” trace back to their understandings of Christian values, social change, the Bible, and religious institutions.

“Heterosexual cisgender Christians endorsed ZSBs more than other groups,” the authors wrote. “Christians reported perceiving that anti-LGBT bias has decreased over time while anti-Christian bias has correspondingly increased.” 

Those results came from the first of five studies. The other studies found that Christians’ ZSBs increased after they reflected on religious values and after they reflected on the waning influence of Christianity in America’s broader culture. When researchers used “Biblical scripture to encourage acceptance” of LGBTQ people, the tactic “lowered zero-sum beliefs for mainline but not fundamentalist Christians.”

The psychologists dismissed the idea that conservative Christians face increasing hostility.

“Although Christians perceive increasing bias against their group, there is little evidence to support those perceptions,” the authors wrote. They cited comparatively low hate crime data against Christians and claimed that “there is inconsistent evidence of objective favoritism of atheists over Christians (evidence in one study but not another)” in scientific fields.

In supporting this conclusion, the psychologists cited George Yancey, a professor of sociology at Baylor University and author of the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? That book explains that Christianophobia, animus against conservative Christians, is just as real as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The authors cited Yancey’s analysis of 40 years of attitudes toward conservative Christians based on the American National Election Studies (ANES) survey, claiming the study “provides no evidence of increasing negativity toward Christians over time.”

Yet Yancey told Fox News that the authors excluded an important aspect of his study.

“They accurately cited that I did not find anti-Christian sentiment increasing but did not cite that I also found that those with anti-Christian sentiment have grown more powerful in society over the past few decades,” Yancey told Fox News. “Needless to say even if those with anti-Christian attitudes do not increase in numbers, if they increase in power then they have more of an ability to act on their religious bigotry.”

Yancey also faulted the study’s authors for only mentioning one study on anti-Christian bias among scientists, despite the fact that “there is a lot more out there” on the subject. “So they, intentionally or unintentionally, distort the evidence of anti-Christian bias to make their case that Christians are incorrect in their assessment of anti-Christian bias.”

Yancey wryly noted that “when scholars assess groups they do not like,” they often fail to include “real control groups” in their studies. “For example, it seems that they only primed Christians to see if they feel more threatened. It is not surprising that they found higher symbolic threat after the priming but you would probably find that with any other group.”

“A lot of concepts such as right-wing authoritarianism and Christian nationalism are true but are presented as if they are unique to conservative Christians,” Yancey added. “Without relevant tests with other social groups, such claims are unfounded. I think the linking of ZSB to Christians by the authors is also premature given the lack of control groups.”

“SPLC has never apologized, and we are still listed on their hate map as a hate group,” Closson said. “It’s ironic that a group like SPLC that positions themselves as an arbiter of what is hateful or not is one of the greatest purveyors of hate in our public discourse.”

The SPLC did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment about the study or Closson’s claim that its “hate map” is evidence of anti-Christian bias.

Mohler said he would encourage Christians to “be respectful but always convictional, never apologizing for biblical truth. We seek to be winsome but never at the cost of theological compromise.”

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ activist group that has published guides for “LGBTQ Christians,” did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the study. 

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