NBA center Jason Collins has come out. On April 29, he announced to the world that he’s gay. He is the first active professional male athlete to do so. He is now 34, near the end of his playing career, and that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind: the statement that its okay to be who you are.
While we celebrate his courage, some Christians condemn him – and us – for not being offended. As they say in churches across the nation,” it’s a sign of the times that people would rather come out of the closet than clean it.”
People like NFL hall of famer Jim Brown lauded Collins’ courage, as did Barack Obama, who called Collins to tell him so personally, and WWE great and movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, tweeted:
“Being real & authentic is very powerful. Well done Jason Collins for having the courage to take a monumental step forward. #LiveReal.
But others have been less positive, including Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, who semingly doesn’t get why Collins doesn’t dig women like any “normal” guy. Pat Robertson says it’s okay to call Collins an “abomination” and one ESPN reporter, Chris Broussard, said if Collins is gay, he can’t be a Christian because he is “walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.”
And religious bigot Matt Barber tweeted this:
But of course, being gay is not aberrant. Thousands of animals species engage in homosexual behavior. Oh wait, I forgot that Bryan Fischer says being gay is a birth defect, and then there are those are gay animal demons….
They talked about the situation on NFL Network’s NFL AM this morning. Host Nicole Zaloumis said, “Our hats off to Jason Collins.” Former NFL safety Eric Davis said on the show that as a player, all that matters is what you do on the field (or the court, in basketball) and that as an analyst, all that matters is what a player shows on the game film. Sexuality is not, and should not, be an issue.
But conservative talk show host Steve Deace, author of We Won’t Get Fooled Again: Where the Christian Right Went Wrong and How to Make America Right Again, who is (no surprise) a big star on Fox News and World Net Daily, is royally pissed off that we’re not all pissed off, not to say horrified, that Jason Collins felt he could be honest about who he is.
Deace tweeted, “It’s got to the liberal, humanistic god’s judgment on America for Tebow to be cut the same day of the Jason Collins story. #karma.
I didn’t even know religious bigots like Steve Deace could use the word “karma” without getting zapped by God.
Deace took to Facebook to express his own outrage:
Stories like this one surrounding Jason Collins demonstrate perfectly how indoctrinated an aspect of our culture has become. They are basically fascists, with no tolerance for dissent or diversity at all. Meanwhile, I’m supposedly intolerant despite the fact I have rooted for players for years whose beliefs and morals I don’t agree with because they were good at what they did. I looked past the areas we disagreed and applauded their God-given talents (and the work they put in honing them) instead. If I were all of you, I wouldn’t expect the same favor returned in the brave, new world we’re heading into.
I don’t know if Deace was able to keep a straight face as he typed this. But it was only a matter of time before religious bigots claimed to be the ones on the side of tolerance and diversity as they fight for a world full of white Evangelicals.
He went on to invoke Tim Tebow,
So Tim Tebow, marginal NFL player, gets killed by liberal sportswriters for being a media-driven concoction because of his beliefs. But Jason Collins, a far more marginal NBA player who averages less than 2 points per game, is exalted by that same media for his beliefs. Apparently preferring to have sex with other guys is a profile in courage nowadays.
Deace portrays both his lack of knowledge and his prejudices, just as did Bryan Fischer when he claimed people hate Tebow because they hate Jesus. Tebow has two full seasons under his belt in the NFL, one as a starter, and one as a guy who polishes the bench with his backside. He was just released, as Deace complained. Collins, meanwhile, has played well enough to have a career spanning 14 seasons. In fact, as Collins writes in Sports Illustrated,
I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.
And Collins has averaged 3.6 points per game, not “less than” 2. He was felt to be valuable enough to the Nets that before the 04-05 seasons began, he received a $25 million contract extension to play in New Jersey for another five years. Tebow, on the other hand, is currently out of work, and may never find work again; his new formation is the unemployment line. The consensus view of sportswriters seems to be that Tebow will play long enough to have a game about him, and not because of his religious beliefs.
That’s right. You heard me. As for Tim Tebow’s martyrdom. I have not seen it. I watch TV too and I follow football almost religiously, both online and off. I have yet to see Tebow condemned for anything other than his inability to play quarterback. His religion is not even mentioned, even during long and often heated debates. In point of fact, the media ignores Tebow’s religion even when Tebow associates with rabidly anti-gay preachers.
But really, the relative playing abilities of these two men is not the issue, and Deace knows that. But like most conservative religious bigots, he needs a straw man. The issue is the belief espoused by Deace and Barber and others that everybody has to be the same, that we all have to worship a god (the same god, and not to put too fine a point upon it, their god), and we all have to be heterosexual. It is significant and revealing that Collins and other gay athletes are not insisting that everybody has to be gay. Collins just wants to be able to be gay without having to hide it.
As Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated, “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.'”
And now he has. Deace has a write to think being gay is wrong. Barber has a right to think it’s shameful. But they have no right to demand we agree with them. And if they have the right to condemn Collins for being gay and us for supporting him, we have an equal right to condemn them for their religion-based bigotry and intolerance.
Conservative Christians are not fighting for diversity. Diversity is the enemy of conservative Christianity. Diversity for people like Deace and Barber means simply a privileging of their views over ours, just as for them, religious freedom means their religious freedom and theirs alone.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.