I am not a football fan, in a normal year I probably consume less than ten or twenty hours of games at all levels. In part, I have little time to sit around and enjoy a game, my days start early and end late. I have numerous other things to occupy my limited time and resources. However, I do have a more than causal interest in sports (especially baseball) so news about sports is on my radar. With that I have run across Michael Sam a dozen times in the last few days. He is a star football player at Missouri who has announced publicly that he is gay--making him potentially the gay-version of Jackie Robinson in professional football.
I have seen him interviewed and must say his calm demeanor and placid appearance bode well for his PR efforts. He seems intelligent and thoughtful and very likable. His back story, like so many athletes replete with poverty, violence and crime, reveals that he is someone who has overcome the odds to become successful. He appears to be well respected and an honorable person. He is probably "a great guy." The father of this young man apparently said that he got a text from his son while eating at Denny's, lost his appetite and went to Appleby's to drink his sorrows. He is a self identified man who likes women and does not want his grandchildren raised in that kind of environment. (I am not clear if there are existing children to whom he refers or if he has not thought through what his son has come out about).
Sports commentators make it clear, if you are not for Michael you are a bigot. The father's response is being held up as an example of those who are not enlightened. Yet, it seems, that bigot is applied to anyone who is not four square behind the rise of a pro-homosexual agenda. In addition, on the one comment stream which I did read, rather unhelpfully some "Christian" put in bold letters that homosexuality is a a sin and the Bible condemns it so just get over it. Nothing could be more fruitful that pulling out the Bible card when making blanket condemnation, could it? I do understand why the anti-Christian feelings are often fueled by Christians. Even so, is there room for a discussion which provides more options than "bigot" and "hell-bound"?
One player admitted to being uncomfortable showering next to a man who is gay. Almost immediately he backed off the statement and apologized and clarified. I try to follow the logic of him getting heat for his comment. It seems that his comments implied that gay men are actually attracted to naked men. Isn't that exactly what it means? If I do not want my daughter showering with men is that bigoted? If I do not want my son showering with women is that bigoted? What is the difference?
I realize that there has been a dramatic shift in the last five years. The "gay question" is answered in the public media. No one, we hear, has a right to be a bigot and a bigot is defined as anyone who has anything other than a pro-gay agenda attitude.
Today we read Genesis 27, continuing the saga of Jacob 'stealing' Esau's place. When the older son comes for his blessing, we read that he made an "exceedingly great and bitter cry" and he "wept." He pleaded, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me father?" "Have you but one blessing, my father, Bless me, even me..." And hearing such words breaks the heart. I have had gay people say something similar to me in our debates on marriage. In the end, however heartbreaking, the answer to Esau was "no." There is no blessing, my son. Yet, there is still love.
I think Michael Sam is a courageous person. Apparently, he was a highly successful college player who may find the next level to be a challenge (he is undersized by NFL standards). He would not be the first. However, his situation is going to be magnified because he is sexually attracted to other men and has publicly declared it so. He is now an icon for self acceptance and a measuring stick for bigotry. He is the latest step in a societal shift in understanding sexual morality and the institution of marriage. People will pull for him (or against him) because of his iconic status.
Today in Romans 12:9-21Paul has a list of various exhortations to Christians. It includes the following: love one another with brotherly affection, practice hospitality, live in harmony with one another, live peaceably with all... I am clear that this includes people with whom I disagree and people who do things that I do not think are God approved. Harmony is always a challenge. Everyone sins, even the bold-typing Bible quoter. I have no responsibility to police the world and I am not called to identify this one particular sin and with laser focus harp on it constantly. Nor am I to treat a preferred list of sins as the problem with society. I cannot cherry pick sins while ignoring others and hide behind the Bible. On the other hand, I cannot, will not pretend that the Bible and Natural Law and the historic teaching of the faith are unclear. All declare that God's will is marriage between a man and woman. Nor is the fact that someone is a great guy who has overcome adversity and presents as a very impressive young man sufficient reason to say that whatever desires he has are therefore perfectly fine. Lots of great guys have wrong desires. In fact all great guys have wrong desires... All of us sin.
What I am concerned with is the bigotry talk and the continuing demonization of the Christian faith. And Paul has words about that too. Never flag in zeal, bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them, repay no evil for evil, never avenge yourself, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Overcome evil with good. If you think the agenda of the anti-traditional marriage crowd is evil then act as a Christian. Be brave and faithful, proclaim the truth, but do it with love and gentleness. Whatever the case, Michael Sam deserves love and respect. If one wants to correct his error, that can be a loving thing. But one must make sure it is done in love. And recheck your motivation three or four times on that one. The fact is Christians are headed into a world where we are increasingly marginalized. There is a revolution. In revolutions there is a changeover in power and people. The Liberal/Progressives are coming into power. In revolution the victims become the persecutors. It is not going to be pleasant in the days ahead...