Jason Collins' coming out as a gay black man, who also happens to be a Christian, drew an immediate rebuke from ESPN analyst Chris Broussard. He 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."
I don't share his feelings, but I know where Broussard is coming from. I'm black. I grew up in a very religious family in a predominantly black neighborhood and attended a predominantly black Baptist church. Coming up in that environment, gay men were called "punks," and their lifestyles were frowned upon--especially in church, where ministers routinely preached against homosexuality and (to be fair) any sex outside of marriage, but especially against homosexuality.
The one big irony: Many, if not most, black churches I attended and attend to this day, have openly gay male choir directors and nobody seems to care.
I often wonder how the pastor, deacons, choir members and general membership square that with the conservative doctrine of the church.
Collins mentioned his Christian beliefs in the article he wrote for Sports Illustrated (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/...):
"My parents instilled Christian values in me. 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."I feel like I could've written that passage. But I disagree with Collins on one thing. In my view, it's more about respect and understanding that tolerance. You tolerate friends with bad breath or lazy co-workers. You don't tolerate another human being's lifestyle choices that might be different from yours. "Tolerate" implies that you're putting up with something bad. It implies disrespect. And while you can believe what you believe and stand your ground on those beliefs like Broussard did, you don't have the right to use your beliefs as a platform to hate, discriminate or make others feel badly or less than you. I think Broussard crossed that line.
I'm black. I'm not gay, but I applaud Jason Collins for coming out and being true to himself. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did. And while I don't agree with Chris Broussard's opinions on this, I also salute him for being true to his deep religious faith and convictions. It's about being free to be whoever we are and being able to express our beliefs freely. We don't have to accept somebody's else's lifestyle or beliefs, but we should respect them--as much as we expect others to respect ours.
I'll be thinking about Collins and Broussard the next time I go to church, while enjoying good praise music led by a choir director who is probably a gay man. Most likely I'll be clapping my hands, patting my foot and wondering: "This is America, if we can enjoy this dude's music, why can't we accept who he is?"
God is love.