Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jason Collins is Gay in the NBA... and I'm not Angry!

29 April, 2013 is now a watershed date in US professional sports. It's the date that Jason Collins, an NBA player, wrote this article in Sports Illustrated informing the world that he is gay. It's certainly the biggest sports news of the moment because he's the first male professional athlete to acknowledge his homosexuality while still playing in the league.

I do respect Collins as a courageous person. His article was very articulate and short on propaganda. I've been around various sports clubs enough to know that the culture is not filled with sensitive new age guys. Sports value strength, toughness and in some ways have the goal of determining who's the alpha male. Effeminate behaviour is generally regarded as weakness and mocked. Bullying is commonplace within organized sports. So Collins is taking a risk.

As a Christian my understanding of Scripture is that homosexual relationships are sinful. (I previously blogged about homosexuality HERE and included a list of other resources and perspectives at the end of that article.) But I recognise that that simple statement belies the numerous complexities that any discussion of homosexuality must address.

It disappoints me whenever I see sin normalized, accepted and defended in our society. It's impossible for me to list all the articles on the various sports websites and newspapers praising Collins for coming out of the closet. (Also a friend has addressed this subject HERE.) Collins even received a phone call from the President of the US!

I'm disappointed, but I'm not angry. I'm certainly not angry at Collins. In American and Western society today gay men and women publicly live and work in every walk of life. I don't have to endorse or promote their sexual choices, but I believe that Christians do need to accept this reality. We live in a society where homosexuality is a socially acceptable lifestyle. Collins himself wrote in the initial SI article that he was grateful he was doing this in 2013, not 2003. Times have changed.

Gay women have been part of their professional sports landscape for years. In tennis Martina Navratilova came out of the closet in 1981. Regarding women's golf, this article in the UK paper The Observer states that "over its 50-year history, the LPGA has always been associated with gay women, far more than any other sport."And just a couple of weeks ago, Brittney Griner, the Baylor college star and #1 draft pick in this years WNBA draft publicly announced she was gay. It barely raised an eyebrow.

So why would I get angry at Collins?
  • Because he finds himself attracted to men?
  • Because he made his feelings public?
  • Because he plays in the NBA?
  • Because only female athletes can be gay?
  • Because there should be a rule that gay men can't play professional sports?
 I can't criticise Collins for any of those things.

Because I believe homosexual relationships are sinful it disappoints and frustrates me that the revelation of a sin is greeted with so much celebration. On the one hand I am glad that he has not been rejected as a person. (Even his former fiancee spoke out in support of him.) On the other hand I regret that many will see his acceptance as endorsement.

It's not as though the endorsement of sexual sins in the NBA is anything new. For years Christians have followed and admired the careers of numerous players who boast of their sexual exploits. In 2010 Winston Bennett claimed to have had sex with 90 women a month. In his 1991 book Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have had sex with 20,000 different women! Magic Johnson is another NBA star open about his promiscuous lifestyle and the HIV he contracted as a result. Andrei Kirilenko's wife even gave him approval to have one fling on the road per year!

So I'm not going to get angry at Jason Collins. I continue to watch the NBA. I admire these guys as athletes with incredible basketball skills. But I don't look to them as role models in life. The Bible has numerous lists of sins that include sexual immorality, fornication, and adultery.

The fact that a new sin has now been publicly added to the NBA list is sad, but I have enough struggles in my own life that I long ago ran out of energy needed to get angry at other people's sins. I strongly believe that Christians need to warn each other and our youth about the dangers and allure of sin. We need to present a clear message regarding holiness and our relationship with God. We need to communicate clearly that sin has consequences. We need to emphasise that God defines marriage as a covenant between men and women.

We also need to share the message that Jesus called Christians to love our neighbours even while we call them away from sin: theft, violence, sexual immorality, etc. If our emotions at learning of a sin prevent us from sharing God's love with the sinner then we first need to examine our own heart and relationship with God.

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