Monday, April 29, 2013

Whirlwind Pyramid (On Jason Collins, Chris Broussard, Faith, Evolution of Opinion and Me)

I gave my sports take on Jason Collins' announcement at the EB Sports Report. But what I'm about to say here is better suited for this format. Especially since it involves the great battle between faith and homosexuality thanks to what ESPN's Chris Broussard had to say on the matter

As I said on the EBSR, Collins and Britney Griner's announcements this month on coming out signify that in 2013, the climate is better suited for athletes to show support for gay rights. It's better suited for gay athletes if it isn't already for lesbian athletes. And it's also a time where many have to evaluate what they believe.

Jason Collins deserves all the credit today and while it may not make as much impact as if he was younger, it's still a great moment because he's the first openly gay athlete in a Big 4 sport. It's not a Jackie Robinson moment because his career is winding down but it's still worth noting for the simple fact of what he did

Chris Broussard started off today talking about how the NBA would react to Collins and most of it was overwhelming positive. Then this happened - Broussard was asked about it as a Christian and he said what was in that link.

"Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian." 

Broussard is entitled to his opinion, an opinion that I've known for a few years. What he's not entitled to is being fired especially when he was asked it by the host. He will probably be suspended. The worst thing he said was that GLBT folks can't be Christians.

Considering that a few minutes prior, he fairly reported on how Collins would be received and gave no sign of disgust that a gay athlete would be accepted, I would not have said what he said after. I respect Broussard feeling comfortable to say that but on that point, I will strongly disagree. I can question somebody's commitment to their faith but I can't say whether or not they aren't Christian.

That might be the most harsh thing he said. Broussard didn't trash Collins or slander his name. He gave his own opinion on homosexuality in general, not Collins. Disagree or agree but what I found more offensive (besides what I addressed) is people thinking Collins is doing this for PR or a contract.

For the most part, opinions don't scare me as much as actions. My family grew up in the South - Texas and Louisiana - during the 50's and 60's. My parents worked in the 1970's and 80's where racist attitudes and prejudices prevailed and made their jobs tougher at first. It's actions that scare me more than feelings because until you act on those feelings, then we have problems.

Tim Hardaway famously said "I hate gay people" but far less coverage has been devoted to how he's changed his opinion and has been on the frontlines for LGBT rights.

Yet on the flip side, how many have changed their opinions over time. How many former racists changed as the world change? Look at how Tim Hardaway has evolved from his ignorance. Look at how many in society have evolved on gay issues just as they have evolved on some (but definitely not all) racial issues. Amidst ignorance and personal preference, people can change.

The great thing about what Broussard said was that fellow ESPN colleague LZ Granderson's voice was right after him to gently share what he felt. Granderson, who is gay, was right to say that his personal views on the world doesn't dictate what everyone else feels. I may disagree on a lot of things people say or do but I let them be, same as most of you would. Perhaps it will spark a dialogue that will help Broussard think about how he expresses his disagreement.

This goes back to something I wrote last year on tolerance vs. respect. I hate the word tolerance because it's weak. It means dealing with something because it's there. It's a childish solution to a bigger problem. Too often, it's a one-way street where one must tolerate the other but the other doesn't have tolerate the one.

I believe in respect because it grows deeper. Respect means you see Jason Collins as a person and commend him for his decision. Respect means you don't have to agree but you nod your head and keep living your life. It means keep the lines of communication open and listen twice as much as you talk. It means listening to someone you disagree with and trust that if they respect you, they'll be honest yet open to hearing you out.

On another level, What kills me is how all people of faith are judged by folks like the Westboro church and others who pepper disagreement with derogatory words and terms. Saying you're against homosexuality or gay marriage is not hate speech. Calling people fags, faggots or any other jokes is. Not being on board for being against anti-gay bullying and teaching our kids to do better is a bigger problem than being against something.

Many people of faith support gay marriage more than ever. Many people of faith also are LGBT allies. They still love God and follow the Bible like anyone else. Many people of faith don't support gay marriage. And that's fine too. Their words will not stop anyone from living their lives the same way that racists didn't stop Black people from living theirs for 400 years in America.

I'm a Christian. My views on the LGBT community have evolved over the last 10 years after being in college, being exposed to LGBT issues and having friends and acquaintances educate me on things. They evolved when I read Phillip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace" in the summer of 2004. They evolved when my cousin came out of the closet and I put those lessons into practice.

Proposition 8 was another test for me to evolve. I had several conversations with friends and family about it and whatever happens with it, it's become something that's made me wonder more about where I stand.
I still am pondering my own views on certain matters. But as I have evolved, we must give others to chance to evolve as well. And those on opposing sides must understand that not everyone can go along with them all the way. 

It bothers me when people assume all Christians are hateful people. It bothers me when people who don't know the Bible try to lecture Christians on their beliefs, as if they aren't complex. I acknowledge that Christians haven't done a good job of their image. To me, the Moral Majority movement and the GOP being intertwined with Christianity/faith have done worse for the image of Christians than anything since the 1960's.

I know firsthand as a Black man that the actions of a few will taint the whole. I acknowledge that and cringe whenever I see clowns like Pat Robertson and others speak their venom. It saddens me the same way a Black person doing something really stupid will look bad on us all.

I won't have a full on religious discussion with you here but I believe that what Chris Broussard said is what some believe. Anything they believe is against God is a sin. That goes for anything in their life. Yet I must say Christians - me included - are sinners who tend to point out sin in others louder than they do themselves. Jesus reminds us of that talking about the Pharisees seeing specks in others, but not planks in ourselves.

No sin is greater than the other to me. I fall short of God every single day and that's why I'm glad God gives me a chance every day.

Grace is why I feel like my shortcomings can be overcome. It's also something I believe in showing to anybody because Christians have done a poor job of showing this. Imagine if we showed this before we told people where we stand?
As a good friend once said to me, how I believe God calls me to live my life doesn't mean I should judge anybody who chooses not to be on that path. As I'm learning on my runs, we must run our own race and all we can do is hope it inspires others to question our motivation and learn from it.

I will say this publicly for the first time. I do not care if gay marriage passes in California or not. I don't care if it passes in the United States. I care about what happens next. Laws don't change minds. That comes only with respect on both sides to disagree but learn how to evolve. As a Christian, my job is to 1st, hold myself accountable to God. 2nd, do my part to be Jesus with skin on and show people what love is before we can teach anything else.

I know that runs contrary to what some of my friends think. But I know that for years, I've been committed to try and show people what a Christian is like by my personal commitment and how I conduct myself. Preach without words, as St. Francis of Assisi said, but don't be ashamed of admitting who you are or where you get your strength from.

We live in a country where differing opinions are allowed. For 4 years, I've written my opinions here as well as tweeted them. I've followed and read many people I don't agree 100% with but I stay with them because our opinions don't overshadow the great conversations and insight I have. I've been friends with folks for 10+ years who I've disagreed with but that doesn't keep us from being friends.

Whether we agree or disagree, I believe in reason prevailing supreme. What Jason Collins did today should lead to this and not a focus on those who will take away from this.
Funny thing is that ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd made a good point today. Whether you're pro gay-marriage or against it, it's okay. It's when you get hateful and belligerent and ignorant towards either side.

Jason Collins, Brittney Griner, Robbie Rogers and others will continue the conversation many of us have had for years. I hope more gay male athletes publicly follow Collins' footsteps as they've done privately so that we can continue to educate ourselves. I hope more straight athletes continue to evolve their mindset and realize it's okay to have a gay teammate and may even educate others on it.

I hope my LGBT/straight ally friends understand that if you want to carry the civil rights banner, you have to carry it being okay that people won't like you and your job is to show them better than they show you without backing down.

More importantly, it reminds me of how far I've come on gay rights and how my faith doesn't always have to be at odds with it.

(Late Note: Chris Broussard posted this statement Monday night in response to his comments earlier.)

No comments:

Post a Comment