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“I don’t want to communicate that I, personally, think these are equally valid options,” he said during Gushee’s panel.

Attendee Evan Rosa, an editor and “communicator” for the Center for Christian Thought at Biola University, an evangelical school in Southern California, wrote in an email a few days after the conference concluded that it took “some guts and some humility” for Lyons to invite Gushee and Vines to speak.

Data from the Online College Social Life Survey shed light on students’ evaluation of casual sex, or “hooking up.” In addition to exploring gendered attitudinal patterns, we use gender structure theory to explore how individual characteristics and normative expectations of campus group affiliations shape attitudes.

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“Whether it’s intended to or not, it’s a function of the increasing mainstreaming of this conversation in the evangelical world,” he told me.

“If the host says he agrees with one perspective and not the other, well, I’m still here and I’m still speaking.” Vines’ optimism is warranted.

Individual characteristics, including age, religion, race, social class and sexual orientation are frequently related to sexual attitudes, as are number of hook ups, fraternity/sorority affiliation and varsity athletic participation.

As speakers take the stage at Q Ideas, an annual conference for Christian “culture-makers,” a large digital timer facing the audience starts to tick down the time remaining in their nine- or 18-minute talks.

Acknowledging that it would have been gutsier to give them their own speaking slots, and humbler for Lyons to have remained more neutral as a moderator, Rosa was still impressed: “That takes a dose of fearlessness; and it wasn't reckless,” he wrote, contrasting Lyons’s approach with the “fear and insecurity” expressed by those petitioning him to disinvite those who don’t follow the party line.

By Friday afternoon, about halfway through the conference, Vines himself sounded encouraged, too.

Gushee and Vines were not given their own speaking slots but were each placed in two-person panel discussions with challengers to their views.

Meanwhile, other speakers given much less qualified welcomes included Dreher, who, within a few days, would blog nastily that Bruce Jenner wants “to wear a frock and amputate his penis,” and consultant Dee Allsop, who presented survey-validated advice on how to frame discussions about gay issues with more liberal friends (Tip: “Use metaphors cautiously.”) The president of the international nonprofit World Vision, Richard Stearns, discussed his organization’s quickly reversed decision last year to hire married gay people: “We made a mistake,” he said, sounding thoroughly chastened.

Gabe Lyons, a onetime mentee of evangelical icon Chuck Colson, founded Q as a “learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society”; the first conference took place in Atlanta in 2007.

As a public figure, Lyons makes a point of positioning himself against the old-school religious right, with what the writer David Sessions has called “an aura of progressivity.” A 2007 book Lyons co-authored with pollster David Kinnaman, un Christian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity ...

and Why It Matters, laid out a sort of manifesto for supposedly post-political evangelicals: “Christianity has an image problem,” the introduction declared, and Christians “have a responsibility to our friends and neighbors to have a sober, reasonable understanding of their perspectives.” The book spent an entire chapter on Christianity’s reputation as “antihomosexual.” According to Q’s own survey, the typical conference attendee this year was a thirtysomething church employee with at least a master’s degree.


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