Jason Collins’ cover story in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated not only announced him as the first openly gay male athlete in major American sport. It also offered a profile in courage and a master class in how to conduct one’s self with grace and dignity.
Collins’ NBA peers responded to news of the journeyman center’s decision to reveal his sexual orientation with praise and support. They should be applauded for this, especially considering only nine states in America have legalized same-sex marriage.
Not everyone welcomed the news though.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines”, the network’s senior NBA reporter Chris Broussard likened being openly homosexual to “walking in open rebellion to God” – a belief many fundamental Christians share.
Broussard attempted to soften his homophobia, comparing being openly gay to having premarital sex or committing adultery, rationalizing all three are outlawed in the Bible.
While Broussard is flat-out wrong for correlating homosexuality to promiscuity and infidelity, what’s truly insidious about his words is he uses his faith, and selective passages of The Bible, to shield his bigotry.
Yes, Leviticus 18:22 calls “lying with a man as with a woman” an “abomination.” The book’s author(s) were not quoting Jesus or God; they were merely the beliefs of men more than 2,000 years ago.
If Broussard and his bosses at ESPN flipped the Bible back seven chapters to Leviticus 11:7-8, they would know God commanded humans not to touch the dead pig of skin. So much for Monday Night Football.
Other nuggets of advice from the Old Testament: children who curse their parents shall be put to death (Exodus 21:15) and shrimp are unclean for human consumption (Deuteronomy 14:9-10). One would believe Broussard, having made it this far, never cursed his parents while eating shrimp, or else he might have choked.
In order for Broussard to be just in denouncing Collins, he must be a strict fundamentalist. As “The West Wing” pointed out, that would necessitate killing those who work on Sundays and allowing fathers to sell their daughters into slavery.
Failing that, let’s call him what he really is: a hypocrite and a coward who mangled a faith, beautiful in its directive to love one another, to justify his ignorance.
The point here is not to engage Bible-thumping homophobes in a biblical tit-for-tat. The larger issue is this: The Bible, along with any book of faith, came from man. It is therefore inherently flawed and should not be taken word for word as the absolute truth.
As journalist and Harvard Divinity School graduate Chris Hedges once wrote, “I take the bible seriously. Therefore, I cannot take it literally.”
Cherry-picking sentences from ancient text does not give anyone – televangelists, politicians, NBA analysts, etc. – carte blanche to bash gays.
Broussard should look no further than the man whose Christianity he called into question to uncover what a man of faith should like.
“My parents instilled Christian values in me,” Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated. “They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding. On family trips, my parents made a point to expose us to new things, religious and cultural. In Utah, we visited the Mormon Salt Lake Temple. In Atlanta, the house of Martin Luther King Jr. That early exposure to otherness made me the guy who accepts everyone unconditionally.”
Cajun Tomato contributor Brett Schweinberg is a longtime Chicago White Sox fan who wrote in November about volunteering in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.