Last week journeyman NBA player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play on a major men’s U.S. sports team. His “coming out” became the lead story on ESPN and other sports media, and it was generally celebrated as a historic event for the advancement of our culture, much like Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in baseball over a half-century ago.
One expects diverse, uninformed opinions on talk radio and in the blogosphere. Still, it seems that even much of the more dignified commentary is off the mark. For that reason, I thought I would offer a “top ten” list of my initial reactions to Collins’ announcement, realizing that all these points barely scratch the surface of this momentous societal issue.
(1) Play Ball Let’s start by saying that nobody, including the Catholic Church, is claiming that Jason Collins or other publicly “gay” athletes should not be allowed to compete on professional sports teams. Public acceptance of homosexual liaisons does have negative repercussions, but surely those with same-sex attractions must be treated with love and compassion. It would be unjust discrimination to bar them from pursuing their livelihood (cf. Catechism, no. 2358).
So let’s be clear—Collins’ announcement has nothing to do with his ability to earn his living, but everything to do with the advancement of a social agenda that is at loggerheads with Christianity.
(2) Is He a Hero? There are well over 60 million Catholics in this country whose professed faith–rooted both in Scripture and the natural law (cf. Catechism, nos. 1954-60, 2036, 2357)—teaches that homosexual acts are serious sins. This view of homosexuality is shared by tens of millions of other Christians, as well as many who have arrived at their conclusion based on their perception of reality (cf. Rom. 1:18-32).
One can appreciate a certain level of honesty and even courage in Collins’ announcement, but Christians justifiably recoil at the suggestion that Collins is now some sort of hero or pioneer in a positive sense. The true heroes are those who quietly struggle perhaps a lifetime to control their disordered passions.
(3) National Conversation? Many news outlets talk a good game about the “national conversation” that Jason Collins’ announcement has produced, as if now we can finally have a free exchange of ideas and viewpoints on this subject. So, in the midst of such a discussion on ESPN, pro basketball commentator Chris Broussard said, “I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”
A Catholic would do well to express his or her position so succinctly and articulately. Yet Broussard’s comments were unwanted (Google “Chris Broussard Jason Collins” for a sampling of the reaction). ESPN offered its regrets that his personal viewpoint was a “distraction,” and reiterated that “ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.”
In other words, ESPN is fully on board with the gay agenda, and does not welcome other points of view. Beyond the chilling effect of ESPN’s reaction to one of its own, we see the network’s duplicity in purporting to be open to an exchange of ideas on the subject.
(4) Is It Right? The larger problem here is that our culture has relegated the moral law to the level of private opinion. (And especially in the area of sexuality, please keep your opinions to yourself.)
Therefore, anything that isn’t a crime in the government’s eyes must be tolerated in the name of “diversity” or a distorted understanding of “liberty.” And in the name of tolerance the media will not tolerate any discussion as to whether it’s “good” to act upon one’s same-sex attraction, whether it’s “good” to identify oneself by one’s sexual preference, and whether it’s “good” to seek (and give!) public approval to behavior that the vast majority of peoples and cultures throughout human history has considered unacceptable.
(5) We’re Compromised The Collins announcement is just one more case-in-point that our sex-obsessed culture is compromised when it comes to sexual morality. If we as a people are willing to turn a blind eye to our nation’s pornography addiction, not to mention our society’s acceptance of the widest range of “heterosexual sins,” then it’s not surprising that many people do not feel as though they can do anything but go along with the gay agenda.
After all, if we were to acknowledge moral standards, we’d be obliged to do our best with God’s grace to live by them. I suspect many people are not ready to do that.
(6) What About Tebow? Ironically perhaps, about the same time Jason Collins made his announcement the New York Jets cut quarterback Tim Tebow. Neither Collins nor Tebow are elite players in their sport (though Tebow was elite during his collegiate career), but both find themselves immersed in media attention. Yet the coverage of Tebow, by all accounts a virtuous, openly Christian man, is mostly negative—and not just in terms of his deficiencies as an NFL quarterback. There is frequent mention of teams not wanting him because of the “media circus” caused in large part by his commitment to Jesus Christ. Players and teams are free in their comments about not wanting someone like him in the locker room.
When it comes to Collins, however, the focus is simply on his being a good teammate. Players are not allowed to express any discomfort with having Collins on their team. We saw the same phenomenon at work before the Super Bowl, when 49er Chris Culliver was raked over the coals for saying that he would rather not have a “gay” teammate.
(7) Private Lives We frequently hear that the Church and the State should stay out of the bedroom and not meddle in the “private lives” of consenting adults. Yet, Collins’ “private” sexual preference was all we heard about on the news last week. Those of us who like to watch sports with our children should be able to enjoy scores and highlights without the R-rated social commentary.
And yet, with due regard for the innocence of our children, marriage and sexuality indeed is a public matter, as marriages create families, which are the building blocks of a healthy society. That is why marriages are a matter of public and ecclesial record, with witnesses and lavish celebrations. And that is why the State and especially the Church exercise appropriate authority in this area.
(8) Not Born That Way The popular assumption, not corroborated by science or the leaders of the gay rights movement itself, is that homosexual men and women are irremediably “born that way.”
Same-sex attractions, like all disordered sexual attractions, can be strong and deep-seated. However, like all strong sexual desires, there’s an element of choice when it comes to working against or even healing this inclination versus embracing the “gay lifestyle.”
It’s interesting that when it comes to homosexuality at least, the secularists do not uphold the ability to “choose.” Yet following one’s sexual feelings no matter where they lead is a recipe for personal misery. Conversely, there are many Christians who have overcome same-sex attractions and have gone on to live joyful, chaste lives.
Further, as Archbishop Naumann masterfully described in a recent column in The Leaven, many young people in their formative years experience some confusion regarding their sexual identity and orientation. The public support and approval of homosexuality witnessed in Collins’ announcement could surely encourage young people at a pivotal time in their lives to enter a homosexual lifestyle that would threaten their physical, spiritual, and moral health.
(9) Uncivil Rights The Collins story vividly demonstrates that the media will portray those of us who stand up for sexual morality and the good of families and children in a negative light. We simply are on the wrong side of a civil rights issue. By (erroneously) presenting sexual preference as something that is genetically established at birth and unchangeable, gay activists have effectively duped much of the public into thinking that full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is an “equality” issue.
Deep down we know, as a matter of faith but also of reason and common sense, that God created us as “male and female,” not “gay and straight” (leaving aside, for a moment, the bisexual and transsexual communities). The biological complementarity of man and woman is unmistakably stamped on our bodies, but we’ve been guzzling the Kool-Aid for so long that we’re simply blinded to this reality.
(10) Absence of Moral Leadership Rather than offer any sort of moral leadership, our President and First Lady were among the first to applaud Jason Collins’ announcement and tell him “We’ve got your back.”
Now we see that Jason Collins and Michelle Obama will headline a May 29 Democratic fundraiser at the party’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council gala event. Sadly, our government leaders are part of the problem, not part of the solution here.
Much more can and should be said about this, but those are some of the thoughts I’ve had recently. What was your reaction to Jason Collins’ announcement?