Sports writer turned pastor: 'Calm down'
By Billy Turner
Seriously, let’s all calm down. The world as we know it didn’t change this week. Culture didn’t overtake Scripture as our GPS. The sun didn’t stop in the sky (oh, that would be impossible, right?).
However, there’s no question that things blew up. Here’s a sampling of the great culture wars from the past couple days when NBA player Jason Collins came out as a gay man.
In Wisconsin, former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler is out an $8,500 appearance fee after a church canceled his appearance because he congratulated Collins. On his Twitter account, Collins wrote Monday, “Congrats to Jason Collins.”
Butler, when told his appearance was cancelled, said, “Wow, I was schedule to speak at a church in WI, and a member said that the pastor wants to cancel my event, I said, “OK why?”
“Then I was told, because I said congrats to Jason Collins on twitter, I said really? We have a contract, he said check the moral cause.”
Okay, I won’t even get into why a church would pay $8,500 for a former football player to talk when there are starving children around the world, but why on earth can’t we as church leaders understand this conversation needs to happen.
On a facebook entry Monday evening a former colleague said that Collins had shown his courage and Chris Broussard, the ESPN evangelical who answered a question about Collins saying he was also a Christian, showed himself to be an a–hole. Really? Is that what having convictions mean? If so, count me in, I guess. Although it pained me to do so, I un-friended this person rather than respond thinking that would be the most civil thing to do. I’m not sure.
Then ESPN weighed in…ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz said the network regrets that a discussion of personal viewpoints became a “distraction.” The network offered its own view of Collins’ news: “ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement,” he said. A reminder that Broussard, as an NBA insider for the network, was asked on a program called Outside the Lines about Collins being gay and Christian. That makes the statement about personal viewpoints all the more interesting. It was and is an opinion show. I’m not sure how one answers a question without offering some sort of personal opinion. I can only gather that the idea is to squash opinion if one is on the wrong side of the issue according to bosses.
Interestingly enough, Collins made more sense to me than anyone.. He said of Broussard’s comments, “This is all about tolerance and acceptance and America is the best country in the world because we’re all entitled to our opinions and beliefs but we don’t have to agree,” he said. “And obviously I don’t agree with his statement.”
It’s flat out okay to disagree, isn’t it?
On one site the headline is: Chris Broussard (sort of) apologizes for Jason Collins remarks, calling homosexuality a “sin.”
I read the item two or three times and see no apology there at all. He simply says his remarks were his personal belief.
On another site, I read that Broussard had backed away from his homophobic comments. I looked up the definition of homophobic because I wanted to be correct in this and found it means unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality. Having read Broussard’s comments again and again and pondered them at length, I can’t help but think the headline is incredibly opinionated. Wouldn’t homophobic comments be fearful ones? If so, does saying what one believes the Bible teaches when you know the reaction won’t be a good one not become a courageous comment? Seriously, what is fearful about believing the Bible teaches anything is a sin? And what on this earth does it matter to those who don’t believe there is a God? Why would saying something is sin matter to an agnostic or an atheist?
The twitter world exploded on both sides. Here’s a sampling:
“Chris Broussard. This is solid steel in a world of cattails,” Pastor/author John Piper tweeted Monday.
“So much for free speech RT@CainTV Chris Broussard is gonna get it for applying the Bible to Jason Collins,” Republican Herman Cain tweeted support for Broussard. They had to make sure Cain was identified politically, right?
“So you ask @Chris_Broussard for his thoughts and you’re attacking him cause you disagree with them,” Christian rapper Lecrae said on Twitter. “And he’s the intolerant one?” Of course, Lecrae had to be identified as Christian, for no non-Christian could possibly believe in freedom of speech.
The opposing viewpoint was just as nice, right? Well, not exactly.
“Chris Broussard has been brainwashed by religion. A person’s sexuality doesn’t make him a sinner any more than his color or birthplace.” Another tweet stated, “RIP Chris Broussard’s career at ESPN…moron.” One more said, “Yo Chris Broussard, get your — out of the bible, and get in to the REAL world, just don’t judge people because they are different #LoveAll>”
• A message board on NBA hoops has been started, with the subject line, “Chris Broussard is an idiot.” Another website has one called, “In case you didn’t think Chris Broussard was a moron, you should hear his opinion on Jason Collins.”
Acceptance isn’t condoning. Acceptance isn’t standing behind, saying the particular thing is okay or whatever. Acceptance is another step to meaningful conversation about what has become the No. 1 issue in Christian circles, heck American circles.
Oh, but that someone’s personal sexual choices — whether one is created that way or not it certainly debatable, but the fact it is a choice to participate I don’t think is — should so dominate things. Equality is and should be our aim. Jesus accepted sinners, ate with tax collectors, had theological discussions with Samaritans and often debated right down to their core those dastardly Pharisees. His direction should be our direction.
And in the end, he said love our neighbor as ourselves. No where did he say if that neighbor was gay we should not. No where.
If all that makes us homophobic, my goodness. Perfect love, the Bible says, casts out fear. My precious goodness let it do so in the coming years when it might become impossible to say what we think the Bible teaches personally or otherwise.
Billy Turner is a former journalist of 34 years, many in Meridian and Jackson, who retired in 2009 to become a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. He is the pastor of three churches near Lafayette, La. He has authored two books about the being called by God. His five-times-a-week blog can be found at http://billyssaints.blogspot.com where he offers opinion on topics of the day usually with a religious flavor.