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Shift in the Moral Landscape

New Gallup research indicates Americans are more accepting of long-held taboo behaviors.

In the wake of a recent Pew Research Center report showing the percentage of Christians declining as the number of professed atheists rises, a series of new Gallup polls indicate that Americans are becoming more accepting of long-considered taboo behaviors. Based on scriptural principles, such conduct covered by the polling is considered sinful by the Assemblies of God.

For instance, in an analysis issued Monday, nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) called suicide "morally acceptable," the highest rate since the polling firm began tracking the issue at the beginning of the century. Five years ago, the AG adopted a position paper opposed to the taking of one's own life or aiding in the death of another. 

Likewise, polygamy is now viewed as tolerable by 16 percent of U.S. adults, up from 6 percent when Gallup began asking the question in 2003. The Fellowship contends only monogamous heterosexual marital relationships are appropriate. 

While the Pew Research report found that Americans are leaving organized religion in droves, the survey found that religiously conservative groups such as the AG are holding steady. AG Superintendent George O. Wood believes that's no coincidence. 

"It's imperative for our Fellowship to hold to biblical standards on issues that courts, entertainment, and news media are pushing to change," Wood says.

Wood believes the AG is retaining young people, in part, because they are searching for clear moral guidance in a society awash in shifting values.

"When any nation looks to itself rather than to God's Word to establish moral absolutes, moral decline is inevitable," Wood says. "However, the body of Christ must continue to hold fast to scriptural truth and not be swayed simply because 'culture' has determined something reprehensible to God is now somehow morally acceptable." 

One of the biggest jumps in terms of societal approval is in terms of out-of-wedlock births. When Gallup first asked the question in 2002, a minority of 45 percent found having a baby outside of marriage to be morally acceptable. In the latest annual Gallup Values and Beliefs poll last month, a record 61 percent gave consent to illegitimacy as OK.

Yet another peak in acceptability comes with doctor-assisted suicide. In Gallup's initial query of whether doctors should be legally allowed to assist terminally ill patients in committing suicide, 52 percent of Americans approved.

Unsurprisingly, the most momentous shift in moral acceptability is evident in views on gay and lesbian relations. In the latest Gallup survey, 63 percent of Americans believe homosexuality is reasonable, compared to just 40 percent 14 years ago. 

In the shifting cultural landscape, the AG hasn't wavered in the conviction that homosexual behavior is sin.

Another noticeable change is evident on sexual relations between an unmarried man and women, now deemed acceptable by 68 percent, a rise from 53 percent in 2001.

The highest acceptability rating of 19 behaviors in the Values and Beliefs poll is for divorce -- currently at a 71 percent acceptance rate, versus 59 percent 14 years ago. The Fellowship has an extensive, biblically based position paper on divorce.

The conduct still considered the most offensive, as in 2001, is adultery. Only 8 percent of adults say married men and women involved in infidelity is permissible, virtually unchanged from the start of the millennium.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.