When fundamentalist preachers get to the topic of homosexuality they often bring out this worn out phrase; “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. Leaving aside the debate between creationists and evolutionists over the origins of mankind, many would question how it’s possible to live in a modern world with so much information and adhere to bronze age myths and superstitions.
The recent coming out of a gay NBA basketball player, Jason Collins, has started a conversation about acceptance of citizens with the stigma of being minorities. In the United States and in the wider world we all live with people who look and think differently than we do and in reality it is those on the margins that hold the center together. This us vs. them mentality is driven by fear and ignorance perpetuated by unhealthy conditioning.
One recent illustration of this dogmatic divisiveness is the rantings of a black Christian minister, E.W. Jackson. Bishop Jackson is the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia. These are his words; “Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgement of God unlike few things we can think of.” ” Gay people are perverted and sick people psychologically.” These very same statements could be used to describe Bishop Jackson and his version of Christianity.
Jason Collins became the first active male athlete from a major team sport to come out as gay. In a cover story for Sports Illustrated on May, 6 2013 he talked about coming to terms with his sexuality in a sport not friendly to gays. Witness the recent $75,000 fine levied against Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert by the NBA. In a post game interview Hibbert used the gay slur “homo” while describing some players. Collins also talked about the number 98 on his uniform. This was to honor the late Matthew Shepard, the victim of a gay hate crime in 1998. He stated “the number was a statement to myself, my family, and my friends.”
After the announcement Mr. Collins got well wishes from President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Collins’ corporate sponsor Nike. One peculiar comment came from ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard who noted Collins displayed bravery with his announcement but found it troubling that Collins can live an openly gay lifestyle and be a Christian. Apparently there are various ways of being a Christian. The “Golden Rule”, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you has only one interpretation, predates Christianity and is a better guide for living.
After the SI story was published, the magazine did a survey of it’s readers with the following results; What is your reaction to Jason Collins’ announcement? Positive step for sports; 53% Sexual orientation shouldn’t be major news; 27% I don’t agree with his lifestyle; 12% I’m indifferent about it; 7% Question: Would your opinion of an athlete change if he or she came out gay? Yes: 22% No: 78%.
This small sampling might suggest a move towards inclusiveness among the public, although the 27% figure should be higher. Since the majority of Americans consider themselves religious and most of them identify as Christian these figures could mean that human decency can trump religious indoctrination.
Some would require separate locker rooms for gays and straights. This sounds too much like separate but equal and we all know how segregation turned out. No need to revisit that again.
Sylvia McDougald Holmes’ reaction is this; “At first thought my amazement that these Christians are so lacking in the Christ-like tolerance and love they so like to claim they possess. In actuality, it seems their loving tolerance only extends to those who think and act exactly like themselves. In all likelihood athletes have been sharing locker rooms with homosexuals since the first locker room came into existence. The only difference is that now the homosexual athletes are coming out of the locker (closet). It seems they view homosexuals the way they do atheists: We know you’re out there and we don’t like it, but why do you have to speak up?
Blacks, women, the handicapped, immigrants, nonbelievers and others have had to speak up in the past just to be part of the conversation. These groups know the story of wanting nothing more or less than the larger population. The notion of fairness has long been at the core of the American experience and until everyone, with no exceptions is included in the phrase; liberty and justice for all, this nation doesn’t deserve the label, civilized society.
Homosexuality exists in 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one.