I know what you’re going to say: we really shouldn’t dignify Charisma with press coverage and pageviews. The Christian “news service” is dripping with bigotry, intolerance, and just plain misinformation about any issue you can name.
But when I read that Charisma news editor Jennifer LeClaire wrote that openly gay basketball player Jason Collins would make more of a difference in the world if he “renounced homosexuality,” I got too mad to ignore it.
You’re familiar with Collins’ story by now. The NBA center came out as gay in an opinion piece for Sports Illustrated in late April, making him the first male active professional athlete in a major sport to come out. He famously wrote:
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
This was a huge deal for a lot of reasons besides the obvious. Collins’ announcement came just after Brittney Griner, the top WNBA draft pick this year, discussed her lesbian identity openly and was widely praised for it. The infamous culture of homophobia that permeates the sporting world has been slowly fading, thanks to organizations like the You Can Play Project. Sports giant Nike is celebrating Pride season with a pro-gay line of sneakers and shirts.
And yet, Charisma‘s LeClaire has the audacity to say over and over that she’s still “praying for Jason Collins.” LeClaire seems to take particular issue with Collins becoming a “poster child” for both pro-gay figures in sports and the greater LGBT community. She wishes he hadn’t come out at all:
I am convinced that more gay sports stars will follow in Collins’ footsteps. When Fox News’ Alan Colmes interviewed me about why I am praying for Jason Collins, he asked me what was wrong with the Boston Celtics center coming out. I told him, essentially, that if it’s not supposed to matter if a sports star is gay, then why does it matter if the sports star is gay?
Of course, Colmes didn’t buy into my logic, and I understand that it matters to gay activists because they need a high-profile platform to boost their cause. Gay activists want to change the culture of our nation — and in fact are doing so.
Actually, it does matter. One study after another finds that people who are hesitant to accept homosexuality become more tolerant when someone close to them comes out. Considering how LGBT youth are still disproportionately bullied, harassed, and thrown out of their homes for their sexual orientation or gender identity — and how staunch conservatives like LeClaire contribute to that hostile culture — you’d think it would be more apparent that a sports star being gay is a big deal.
Of course, that’s not what she wants to hear. Like other extremists, she’s horrified that LGBT people have any kind of presence in mainstream culture whatsoever. She goes on to quote conservative minister Michael Brown about why it’s such a bad thing that gays are everywhere these days:
As Dr. Michael Brown points out in his book A Queer Thing Happened to America, 40 years ago, most Americans said they didn’t know anyone who was gay or lesbian and claimed to know little or nothing about homosexuality. He writes, “Today, there’s hardly a sitcom without a prominent gay character, gay-themed movies have won Oscars, the media celebrates the marriages of same-sex celebrities, elementary school textbooks indoctrinate children with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ideology, many churches and synagogues now ordain gay clergy”…Brown doesn’t specifically mention sports in that list, but we can now safely add “professional athletes are parading their homosexuality” to the proof that gay activists have succeeded in changing the face of what was once Christian culture in America. Collins is the poster child du jour, but you can be sure there will be others.
Ah, the old “indoctrinating children” argument! Not to mention athletes “parading their homosexuality.” God forbid anyone know anything about homosexuality. It’s not like it has existed for as long as humanity. Oh, wait…
Finally, the kicker to this entire column: LeClaire says Jason Collins should just do Christians a solid favor and renounce homosexuality, give himself to Jesus, and warn other gays of God’s impending wrath.
If there’s any saving grace to active sports stars coming out as gay, it’s this: We can now actively pray [for] them. Christian athletes in their sphere of influence can minister to them.
Think about it for a minute: If Jason Collins coming out as gay caused such media hype, how much more of a stir would it cause if he fully surrendered his heart to Jesus Christ, waged war on same-sex attraction and urged others to seek God? Amen.
I’m sure LeClaire would be shocked to find out that Collins is already a Christian, through probably not the type she likes. In his coming-out piece for Sports Illustrated, he wrote:
I’m from a close-knit family. 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. 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.
Accepting everyone unconditionally, eh? Collins seems to say that’s one of the Christian values his family taught him, but apparently the author of this Charisma piece missed that day in Sunday school. Sadly, I’m not at all surprised that she fails to address this particular “Christian value.”
While Collins, among many others, is living proof that religion and proud homosexuality are not incompatible, LeClaire is her own “poster child” for the religious bigotry that offsets those Christians who do support LGBT people. It’s because of people like her that we can’t separate Christianity from homophobia; in spite of role models like Collins, she makes it hard to ignore the connection.
Regardless, Collins’ article for Sports Illustrated will clearly reach more people than Charisma ever will. I’m sure even a good Christian boy like him would prefer a lack of faith to the vitriol people like Jennifer LeClaire perpetuate.