I admire Jason Collins for being true to himself and publically acknowledging his orientation as a gay man. Violent prejudice against homosexuality had led many young people who feel homosexual attraction to self-loathing. This terribly is sad and unjust. I add my own voice to chorus cheering Collins. I hope it will open the way for others to be honest with themselves and with the world.
I am heterosexual. I cannot understand homosexuality at all. I don’t understand how a man can look at another man and have the physical and emotional attraction that I have felt all my mature life toward women and in the most intense expression toward my wife. Nothing could be more foreign and inexplicable to me than homosexual attraction.
And yet, as I write that, I am aware that people who feel same-sex attraction, probably find heterosexuality as foreign and unappealing and I find homosexuality. A difference is the world affirms the heterosexual worldview and has trouble with the homosexual orientation. There are people I love, my friends, who are gay. Because of their sexual attraction, attractions they did not choose, they have to fit into a world not designed by them. They have to find their place in a world where they are not always welcomed and often are abused because of who they are.
If I am truly a follower of Jesus, I am wounded by that. It hurts to know someone is fired, denied, bullied, beaten, cussed out, relegated, rejected, and demonized. Every person is made in God’s image – every one! God sees every human with the love of a parent for a child. God’s aches when God’s children are injured and homosexual people have been badly injured.
I hope that Jason Collins’ statement will make the world safer for gay people. I hope self-loathing becomes a thing of the past. No one should hate himself. When a person drips with disgust at herself, she cannot possibly receive the love of another. She’s defined by hatred that becomes a filter through which she experiences the world. I hope this man’s honesty and openness allows a generation freedom from self-hate.
Equally, I hope people can speak their views honestly, without succumbing to pressure that tries to dictate their reaction when someone like Jason Collins shares what he has shared. Here I am specifically thinking of ESPN writer Chris Broussard. He writes about the NBA. I hear him on the radio all the time. He does fine work. I was very interested in his response not to Collins, but to the issue in general. Remember now, Broussard is voicing what he believes to be the right theology regarding an issue. He is not speaking for or against Jason Collins. Here is Broussard’s quote which I saw in the online version the Detroit Free Press (4/30/13).
““Personally I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals,” Broussard said. “If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I think that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian” (http://www.freep.com/article/20130430/SPORTS03/304300034/).
It is an impressive theological articulation from someone who makes a living writing about basketball. The strength of this writer’s statement is that he does not single out homosexuality in a prejudicial way. He attempts to identify a Biblical sexual ethic and I think he does a fine job of it. The overwhelming reaction to Collins’ announcement has been support. Writers, players, executives, and voices from outside the NBA – the NFL, tennis and even the White House – have poured forth affirmation for Collins. I sincerely hope Broussard is not brandished as an out-of-date bigot. I hope he does not lose his job and is not himself demonized for stating his views, which he did with eloquence.
He might. He might be cast as intolerant or unaccepting. That is unfair but it is reality. ESPN, in an effort to stay with societal trends which currently flow toward full affirmation of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, may fire him to avoid any backlash. That would be as wrong as evil done to a homosexual but in today’s climate it is OK to silence Biblically-coated expressions of faith like the one Broussard made.
In my own assessment of his comments, I find that Broussard takes it farther than I do. I agree that sexual encounters like adultery and heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage are outside of the Biblical paradigm. The only models of sexuality the Bible endorses are heterosexual marriage and celibacy. Anything outside of that is outside of God’s vision for humanity. However, Broussard goes somewhere with that view that is beyond my own understanding. He says he “would not characterize that person as a Christian” because the Bible doesn’t.
I stop short of trying to identify who is and is not a Christian. Other sin categories (greed, gluttony, and sloth) go mostly ignored. People live in perpetual guilt of these, are unrepentant, and are defined as Christians. Can someone be in a life-long, same sex partnership and be a Christ-follower? I certainly think someone in that situation can earnestly seek Jesus. In seeking Jesus, the individual must come to terms with his sexuality as he relates to Jesus as a sexual being.
There is no area of life where Jesus is not Lord. He is Lord of everything. It is hard for me to imagine someone submitting fully to Jesus’ lordship and at the same time living in a relationship that is outside of God’s vision for humanity. I know people who want Jesus and at the same time are openly gay. I know their hearts. Can someone live the gay life and be a Christ follower? I am forced to leave the question open – for God to answer and not me.
My calling in Christ is to love people. I hope my gay friends will read this and appreciate where I am coming from. If you are my friend and you are gay, I love you. You and are I not going to agree with one another’s views about every aspect of life, but let us have a friendship that is so honest and true we can stay in it even when we don’t agree. As a pastor, reading scripture as I do, I can’t perform your union with your partner. I believe to do so would put me in open defiance of God. But I will love your partner because he is a part of you. Maybe I am wrong about how God sees it. I don’t think I am wrong, but I know my theology is not perfect, so I state it with humility.
I pray Jason Collins has made the world safer. I commend him for his honesty and courage. I also appreciate Chris Broussard. He stated his faith clearly and without the intention to pass eternal judgment. I pray for days in the future when these topics can be discussed in peace and love. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the giver of perfect love. In that I try to emulate him though I fail often.