Those of you who read my blog posts know that I rarely engage in social commentary—now and then, but not often. Well, this post is going to be one of those now and then times. Unless you live on another planet, and especially if you live in Twitter world, you’ve witnessed yet another chapter in the unholy crusade to force Americans to legitimize homosexual behavior as “normal” and “heroic.” The St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam in the seventh round. Sam, a pretty good defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, decided a few months ago to make public his homosexual proclivities. He was the first football player to do so. And the media swooned. Sports Illustrated put him on its cover—not because of his football skills but because of his declaration. He is hailed a hero in many circles. Really? Maybe there was a day when that declaration took guts. Now it’s commonplace. But it got him a Sports Illustrated cover and a congratulatory call from the President of the United States—far more attention than his football ever brought him. So the Rams drafted him late. Hey, if he wants to be public about his homosexuality, that’s his business. (Of course, by going public in a bold way he really wants to make it everybody’s business.) And if the Rams want to draft him and inherit not only what could be a good player but the media circus that comes with it, that’s their business. I’ve got no beef with that. It’s a free country. Live and let live.
But I do have a beef with this: a Miami Dolphins player, Don Jones, who played college ball at Arkansas State, tweeted upon Sam’s draft announcement “OMG” and “Horrible.” And the man was crucified: he was fined, told to take down those two tweets, dismissed from participating with the team till he could get his act (uh, their act) together, and ordered to go to some sort of “educational training.” I’m not making this up.
And I read a couple of days ago that a similar thing happened with Marshall Henderson, a show-off, big mouth, but darn good basketball player at Ole Miss. Here’s his beef: ESPN’s SportsCenter decided to air (over and over) Michael Sam’s kiss of his boyfriend after the news came that he was drafted. Henderson tweeted that he would be boycotting SportsCenter because he thought it was inappropriate to show that kiss. To paraphrase Henderson, “I’ve got two brothers who are 7 and 11 and I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to see that.” That took Henderson to the front of the line for the next batch of tar and feathers. He was corrected by the Ole Miss Athletic Director. He had to recant. He changed his story to say the tweet was some kind of “experiment” for a friend who studies psychology—you know, to check people’s reactions. And like Jones, Henderson will be forced to endure some kind of “training” until he can spout the party line that homosexual behavior is “normal” and “heroic.”
Here’s the deal: for most of human history and certainly American history, homosexual behavior was considered deviant sexual behavior. I took Abnormal Psych in college in the mid-70s. The text explained that it was the first edition of that text not to classify homosexual behavior as “abnormal.” Science is inconclusive as to whether a person is “born” that way or if it’s a learned behavior or just another moral choice a human being makes. And yet when someone expresses a view that’s supported by most history, much science, and the historic ethical systems of the major religions that declare homosexual behavior as immoral or sinful, in today’s culture that person is considered abnormal and out of step. And I'm not talking about the hateful, vicious taunts of the Westboro Baptist Church crowd here (even though they have the freedom to be jerks). I'm talking about people just speaking their mind on the subject. If they have First Amendment rights, why must they be censored, punished, and “trained” until they get it right? Or in the case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, fired because he contributed a thousand bucks six years ago to Proposition 8, a California initiative to prevent legalization of gay marriage in that state. Have we lost our minds?
We’ve become a nation of the thin-skinned. Inherent in the freedom of speech is the possibility that someone will say something to you or about you or about one of your cherished viewpoints that you find offensive and hurtful. But instead of dealing with this like grown-ups, like people who are truly free, we have made offending someone else one of culture’s chief sins. We cry and pout like babies. Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I don’t care if you’re a homosexual or a devoted Christian or a Muslim or a Star Trek fan—if you don’t want to take some heat about your identity, then don’t be so in-your-face, public about it; keep it to yourself or within the circle of people you know who won’t challenge you or give you a hard time. That goes for the Michael Sams and the Tim Tebows of the world. Just shut up and live your life. Or risk living with the abuse that comes from being so public about it.
And please don’t assume that people who speak against your identity hate you or are scared of you. Maybe they feel this way. Maybe they don’t. It’s possible to love people and treat them with respect whether you agree with their lifestyle or not. Why can’t we just agree to disagree? Sam goes public with his homosexuality; Jones calls his draft horrible—why aren’t both free to express their views without Jones getting hammered? ESPN airs the homosexual kiss; Henderson doesn’t like it—why can’t both be free to express their views without Henderson having to be retrained?
Well, it seems most people are willing to cut each other some slack here in many areas—especially in politics where candidates routinely lie about one another without repercussion or retraining. But there’s no slack to be cut in this issue of homosexual behavior. So at the risk of someone wanting to send me to some kind of “sensitivity training,” let me share my take on these matters. I believe homosexual behavior is a sin on the same scale as heterosexual behavior that is outside of God’s boundary of marriage. All sexual sin is a reflection of the brokenness of our sexuality. And sexual sin, like all other sins (pride, idolatry, greed, selfishness, murder, stealing, etc.), required the death and resurrection of a sinless Jesus Christ to redeem it and heal it and save us from the penalty and the power of it. Though it may still be a struggle, in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to be slaves to our sins any more.
I also believe marriage is clearly defined in the Bible and in thousands of years of human history as a relationship between a man and a woman. I’m opposed to sanctioning homosexual marriage (as an Arkansas Circuit judge did this week). Call their relationship a civil union if you want but don’t call it a marriage. This is not just a matter of semantics in my judgment. Marriage is not just two people living together in a committed relationship but a man and a woman living together in a committed relationship. Because I take this stance, does that mean I hate persons who identify themselves as homosexual since I disagree with them on these matters? No—no more than it means I hate the couple that chooses to live together before marriage or the man or woman who commits adultery or the man who struggles with pornography. Is it possible to call sin sin and love sinners? Yes. God is able to do this, and we can do this too. As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, we treat ourselves that way every day. And do my views on sexual sin mean that I need some kind of “training” so I can fit in with current cultural trends? No. I think I get what they’re teaching. They run that course in the media every day of the week. Here’s the short version: Sex however you want it, with the exception of children (for now), is culture’s highest value. And disagreeing with or offending someone about the morality of their sexual preferences is culture’s chief sin.
This is symptomatic of a larger issue in contemporary American culture: human beings are essentially reduced to little more than sexual beings. Witness all the sex talk, sexy music videos, magazine covers, advertisements adorned with scantily clad men and women, ED and male enhancement ads, churches fussing over homosexuality, and this orchestrated crusade to have society legitimize and normalize one’s sexual identity as if that’s the most important thing, the essentially defining thing, about any individual. Is sex really a human being's greatest good? Is orgasm our highest aspiration? As Will Willimon wrote, “We simply cannot imagine any fully human being who is not driven by genitalia.” So I ask again: have we lost our minds?
But back to the issue at hand: while I'm more sympathetic in this issue with Jones and Henderson, I do wish Michael Sam well in his NFL career. I hope he succeeds like I hope all those draft picks (especially my Razorback draftees) succeed. What athlete doesn't dream to make it in the bigs some day? But won’t it be interesting to watch what happens if Michael doesn’t make the team (like so many seventh-rounders don’t)? The Rams are media darlings now, but I suspect they will catch you-know-what if they don’t make a place for him on the roster. Because sadly, I’m afraid we have lost our minds and this situation really isn’t just about football anymore.