Jason Collins, Chris Broussard, and me
Well, I am still here in blue state NY, miles from my red state NC home. I am continually struck by small cultural differences that I see. Most are not earth-shaking but I did note one thing, they cover news a little differently here.
Earlier this week NBA player Jason Collins “came out” as the first openly gay man active in one of the big-four team sports. Now, full disclosure here, I am not a follower of the NBA. I had never heard of Jason Collins until the big announcement. I thought it was an interesting announcement and, in its way, a sort of cultural milestone. It was not surprising that it got a lot of attention. It was big news both in NY and NC.
The news coverage of the actual story was factual in both states. Both NC and NY newscasts commented on the significance of “the first” and had similar tones of respect. It was after the story ended that there was a divergence of styles. Here in NY the news anchors went on to “chat” about the story commenting about Collin’s bravery and courage and say how happy they were for him. In NC, from what I saw online, they let the story stand for itself. I don’t see this, in either case, as “media bias” but rather a reflection of the audience. They clearly know they are serving blue or red states.
Shortly after, in a discussion program on ESPN, one of the commentators, Chris Broussard, made an observation. I’ve never heard of Broussard either but here is his controversial comment:
“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it is a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is….If your openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be…that’s walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ.”
When I heard of that my first thought was “uh-oh.” I was sure that Broussard was about to be deluged with hate mail and tweets and that ESPN would be pressured to fire him. I also assumed that any number of Christians, who had heretofore never heard of Broussard either, would rally to support him like a long-lost brother. This, of course, has come to pass. Nobody knows the eventual outcome but I’ve been pondering the whole mess as a Christian to see if there are things I can learn. Here is what I’ve come up with.
– It is a free country and both Collins and Broussard are entitled to say whatever they want. Neither man has done something wrong in that sense. I could make the case that Broussard has done a poor job in reading the cultural tea leaves but having an opinion, even one based on your understanding of what your faith teaches, is OK. As with all opinions, faith-based or otherwise, there are always consequences in what you say.
– Faith-based statements are hard to put into sound bites. I’d like to assume that Broussard would tell Collins that God loves him; that he respects him as an athlete and a man; that nothing will change in the way he covers him as an NBA player. Broussard learned, as others have before him, that distilled sound-bite comments don’t do very well in expressing a topic as rich and complex as God’s love and His desires for us.
– I’m not convinced that my faith calls me to express everything I believe at all times. In every situation, at all times, I want people to know and see the God I love to the best of my ability. Sometimes grace and peace call for me to be silent. Some might say that Broussard was taking a stand for his faith and perhaps he was. But we all have to make judgments on when to take a stand. If I am at the funeral of an unsaved friend grace should make me want to give comfort to grieving relatives more than pronouncement of eternal damnation.
– When we choose to confront that which we see as sinful we need to be consistent. I give Broussard credit for saying he believes that “all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman” is a sin. He bases his judgment on how he understands his faith and does not single out Collins purposely. But think about it. I don’t know the NBA but I have a hunch that, somewhere in the league, there is at least one man who is having heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Who knows? It might be that more than one is. In this sense he not only singles out Collins but elevates one aspect of what he sees as wrong above others that he chooses not to confront. We need to be careful when we do this.
Homosexuality is a trendy, explosive topic. If I say anything on this topic I will earn the enmity of some and the praise of others. For me however, the problem lies in the word “topic.” I am not called by God to live peaceably with all topics but rather with all men. I can think anything I want about a topic but when it comes to a man, Collins or any other, my primary desire is that he knows that God loves him.