Jason Collins, Christian Free Speech and The Gay Frontier


Jason Collins Is Gay SI Cover

Jason Collins

Well, it finally happened. An active professional athlete has ‘come out of the closet.’ What else needs to be said that hasn’t already been covered? I can’t help but feel that this is a ‘Big’ story because it’s supposed to be a ‘Big’ story. It will continue to feed the news circuit for a couple more weeks, but most of the focus of the story seems to be about the reactions (or expected reactions) to the announcement, not the actual coming out.

So the President and other big names praised Collins ‘bravery,’ and then some Christians and conservative commentators wheeled out the same old hash about ‘sin’ and ‘keep it to yourself.’

For the most part, I would say the response has been largely supportive, because how could it not be? They’ll be some old school homophobes in the league who will be weird about it and someone will unleash a slur and get fined a few hundred thousand dollars, but most of these NBA players have publicists and image consultants who will keep them on the right side of this topic, regardless of their actual feelings and beliefs. No one is going to quit because they refuse to play with a gay player. This won’t be a Jackie Robinson moment.

And that’s mainly because this is a long overdue event. When Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in baseball, it was momentous because it was a huge step forward for our society. He started playing on a professional team in 1947, well before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. In comparison, Jason Collins coming out in this moment in the Gay Rights movement would be the equivalent of Robinson joining professional baseball in 1978. That’s not to say it isn’t still a big deal, but the fact that no other players have come out speaks more to the regressive, hyper-masculine atmosphere of sports culture than to society in general.

So, good, Collins is out. Hopefully that means others who have feared living openly will now be free to do so, professional athlete or not.

Open Rebellion

Christian Free Speech

In all the hullabaloo about Collin’s announcement, there was a kind of waiting game for the first bigot to come out and denounce him. Not that we needed to wait, I’m sure it took all of 3 seconds for an internet commentator to type F-A-G-G-O-T under an article.

The real watershed moment, though, was Chris Broussard on ESPN. Let me pause to say that I don’t think Broussard is, in fact, a bigot. I actually have no idea. While I think the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” rhetoric is a load of crap, I do believe it is possible for Christians to have beliefs and preach them, but not really hold them true in their heart. Heck, it’s not only possible, it happens all the time. If Christians can be hypocrites in a bad way, perhaps they can be hypocrites in a good way. So maybe Broussard is just espousing the party line and he truly doesn’t have any ill or bigoted feelings towards homosexuals.

Then again, most of what he said in the interview was utter bullocks. He says people should “tolerate” his beliefs like he “tolerates” homosexuals. Except, how exactly is he tolerating homosexuality by calling it a ‘sin’ and saying that a homosexual can’t be a Christian? Is he tolerant because he isn’t stoning them to death? That’s a pretty low standard for tolerance. Plus, how is saying someone is a sinning, non-Christian (who, let’s be honest, is going to hell) more tolerant than someone else calling you a bigot? ‘Sinner,’ ‘Bigot,’ they’re both just labels for ‘others.’

The outcry that naturally comes up anytime something like this makes the news is over the supposed squelching of Christian Free Speech. Some people have said ESPN should fire Broussard (I don’t agree, but that’s ESPN’s choice to make), and with those outcries comes Christians saying, “Gay people can say whatever they want and no one complains, but if I speak my beliefs I’m persecuted.”

Tebow-Collins

This cartoon pretty much perfectly illustrates the sentiment, while also exposing why it’s so wrongheaded. In reality, all the media ever seemed to want to talk about was Tebow’s Christianity. I don’t recall a single story about him that didn’t make mention of his faith (granted, I don’t really follow the NFL, or any professional sports for that matter). If there were people telling him to keep it to himself, it was fans of the game who didn’t care about his beliefs. The Media was all too happy to keep bringing up the subject because it got page hits.

Also, is a professional athlete being a Christian really a news story? By a pretty large majority, most Americans are Christian. It’s safe to bet that in any profession, in any field, there are going to be Christians. The normal reaction to finding out Tim Tebow is a Christian by anybody in this country should be *shrugs*. The fact that I, a man who doesn’t watch any football, knows that Tebow is an outspoken Christian speaks to just how much the media talked about it.

On the other hand, there has never been even one openly gay athlete on any professional team in America. That’s why Collins’ coming out is newsworthy, and why people are talking about it. If he had announced he was heterosexual, than this cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune might have had a point.

Christians too often mistake having unpopular beliefs with being persecuted. If you say homosexuality is a sin and a bunch of people shout you down, that’s not called censorship, that’s just being on the wrong side of history. There are countless opinions in the world that are wrong, despicable and/or based on ignorance, and when those opinions get put out in the public sphere the responsibility of society is to stomp those opinions out. We’ve attempted as much with sexism and racism. Just because you choose to interpret the Bible as condemning homosexuality, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to take you seriously.

Star Trek The Final Frontier

The Gay Frontier

So what’s next for those in the homosexual agenda homosexual men and women in the public sphere? There is a gay athlete, gay politicians, gay pop stars, gay actors and legal same sex marriage in more and more states. Years of fighting for equal rights has led to this moment in history, not perfect but better than it’s ever been.

If history is our guide, we know for every two steps forward, there will be a step backwards. I don’t think any women with any sense of history would want to live in pre-feminist days, but that’s not to say that gender equality has been completely achieved now. The same can be said of racial equality. The work is not completed, and maybe it never will be. But we keep working towards it, because it’s fair, and it’s right, and it’s the best of all possible worlds. Equality isn’t about creating a utopia, it’s about recognizing our natural state.

Perhaps one day there will be a gay president. But until that momentous barrier is broken, we can take baby steps into new frontiers.

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