If you are a sports fan (like me), or even if you aren't, you have probably heard about Jason Collins coming out on Monday. It is news because he is a professional basketball player. His announcement makes him the first active, male, American, team-sports, professional athlete to come out as gay.
Overall, there has been an outpouring of support for Collins, who is a veteran player in the NBA. In fact, ESPN did a special episode on him in their show Outside the Lines.
Here is where it gets interesting (at least to me). On the episode of Outside the Lines, ESPN interviewed Chris Broussard, who is a frequent NBA analyst on ESPN and other sports stations. Broussard was asked many questions, but the one that is getting the most attention is when he was asked what he, as a Christian, thought of the fact that Jason Collins also claimed to be a Christian.
I didn't know about Chris Broussard's Christianity, but have since become aware of the fact that he has been outspoken about his faith, and that he is a big supporter of Christian Hip Hop and urban Christian ministries.
You can watch Broussard's comments below, but I will sum them up here. He did his best to articulate that homosexuality was one of many things that are called sin in the Bible. He worked hard to communicate that it was not worse than other sins like pre-marital sex between heterosexuals, but that it was a sin nonetheless. He said that he had a hard time considering Jason Collins to be a Christian because, by choosing an active homosexual lifestyle, he was living in open rebellion to God. Again, he reiterated that he would say the same about someone who was choosing to practice any other sin.
Not surprisingly, Chris Broussard has taken an intense amount of heat since his comments on Monday. I don't know if he will lose his job over this (I hope not), but he has been lambasted by many of his colleagues, as well as many bloggers and other people who disagree with him.
I am not taken aback by the fact that many disagree with Broussard. He communicated the basic Christian position on homosexuality (I actually think he communicated it quite well, considering the sound-bite context of his comments). The Christian position on homosexuality is becoming increasingly unpopular. Many people have pointed to the bravery of Jason Collins for coming out. While I do accept the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, I don't discount that there was something brave about Collins' actions. Nonetheless, Broussard's words were also brave. He politely articulated what he knew to be a very unpopular position, and he did so in the public sphere.
Again, it doesn't surprise me that he is receiving backlash. Some call Broussard a bigot or a homophobe. I believe these to be misdirected comments. But more misdirected are the comments that ignore his actual statements and respond instead to statements that he never made.
Some seem to feel the need to remind Broussard that we don't live in a theocracy, and that he shouldn't force his religion on others. Those who make these comments only show that they are not listening very closely.
Broussard made no comment about same-sex marriage. He never said that homosexuality should be illegal, or that Jason Collins should not be allowed to play in the NBA. In fact, he did not initiate bringing his faith into the conversation. He was asked about it.
Here is the key: He was asked if he, as a Christian, thought that a person could be a Christian and a practicing homosexual at the same time.
Broussard's answer was that he does not consider a person to be a Christian if that person is living in open rebellion to any of God's ways. Not foisting his religious beliefs on anyone else, he simply articulated a Christian perspective on the question.
As I said, there are other parts of this issue that I look forward to addressing, but I have one point here: We must be careful to respond to what people are saying, not what they aren't saying.
For someone to remind Broussard that we don't live in a theocracy reveals that they think he said that we should outlaw homosexuality. This is the kind of argumentation and debate that does nothing to help understanding and conversation.
And this is not simply something that non-Christians do to Christians. Let me give another example.
Before Your Remove the Plank in Your Brother's Eye . . .
Other the past number of months I have seen several Christians cry out against Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. Their problem with him is that he said that anyone who is against same-sex marriage can take their business elsewhere. What an arrogant and dismissive thing to say!
Except that he didn't say it.
"If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it's a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company."
Now, it is valid for a person to choose coffee other than Starbucks in response to their support of same-sex marriage. But it is not valid to say that Howard Schultz told anyone who disagrees with him that they can get their coffee elsewhere. When we do this, we do the same thing that we bemoan when it is done to us. We object to something that he never said.
As a Christian, I believe that Christians need to be involved in the public conversation about issues. We need to be thoughtful, gracious, articulate, and considerate. This is what I would love to receive from those who disagree with me. This is what Howard Schultz deserves. And this is what Chris Broussard deserves.
One final word: If you were Chris Broussard right now, you would probably appreciate thoughtful, grace-filled people who were coming to your defense. I am sure this is something that he would appreciate right now from those who understand his position and appreciate his boldness.