Christian Columnist: Jason Collins Should ‘Renounce Homosexuality’

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.

No, really:

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.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a recent college graduate working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • Gus Snarp

    “Gay activists want to change the culture of our nation — and in fact are doing so.” Well, yeah, of course, and thank goodness! Just like civil rights activists wanted to, and did, change the culture of the South.

    • JET

      Take that third block quote (referencing Michael Brown’s book), and substitute “negro” for all the references to homosexuality. We see it today as being blatantly racist. But in the not too distant past…

  • baal

    I don’t usually think of my sexuality as ‘renounce-able’. I wonder if Jennifer LeClaire feels that she can renounce hers (what ever it may be).

    I think the xtians are especially upset about the sports figures coming out since they have substantial presence in highschool sports with the fellowship of christian athletes.

    • sighthndman

      “fellowship of christian athletes”

      Whatever a Christian is. And depending on whether the the club can get suspended for who they allow or don’t.

      Ooh, you’re a Baptist, so you’re okay, but Joseph’s a Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), so he’s out, and Mary’s an idol-worshipping Catholic, so she’s not acceptable, and Mary Baker’s a Christian Scientist, they’re not Christians, so . . . . In some schools, that’s perfectly okay (even encouraged by the faculty advisor), in others, it’s seen as unnecessary discrimination and not allowed on school property. Okay, in at least one. In Tennessee, nonetheless.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    I’m going to renounce my Irish Heritage.
    Then I’m going to renounce my black hair.
    Then I’m going to renounce my Y chromosome, ohwait.

    • Raising_Rlyeh

      I rebuke your Y chromosome in the power of He-Man :P

      • busterggi

        Don’t you flaunt your Orko at me!

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

        Wouldn’t He-Man, by proxy, make my Y chromosome more manly?

        • Raising_Rlyeh

          I was really tired when I typed that and I just realized I meant to say X chromosome, but I think I was also tired enough that for some reason I thought women have the XY chromosome.

          They should make a PSA about not doing a nightmare on elm street marathon and then getting on the internet.

          • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

            “This is your brain.” – Egg.
            “This is your brain on Nightmare on Elm Street and the Internet” – Egg in a Microwave.

  • ortcutt

    If someone accepts the idea that arbitrary religious doctrine determines what is moral and immoral, instead of the idea that fairness and human flourishing determines what is moral and immoral, then they will arrive at bigoted nonsense like saying that Collins needs to renounce homosexuality. There’s no way to help someone like her, because she’s completely wrapped up in a diseased worldview.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    So it’s ok for straight athletes to flaunt their sexuality by throwing parties and hanging out with beautiful women but it is wrong for a player to admit that they are gay? As long as you’re a straight player it’s ok to project this image especially when many date either cheerleaders or models but apparently gays should be quiet.

    • Gus Snarp

      You’re being far too generous to the straight athletes. Throwing parties and hanging out with beautiful women is the least of it.

      • sighthndman

        “I slept with 20,000 women.” (Wilt Chamberlain, if you don’t recognize the reference.) We have more to fear from homosexuals than from fornicators? Or thieves? Or murderers? Or dishonest public officials?

        Actually, I think Christians have most to fear the parable of the sheep and the goats, but we all have our own opinions.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Are there any Christians left anywhere for whom disapproving of gays is not the primary, essential, defining, central pillar of their faith? Is this all that there is left of their religion? Is disapproving of gays the single, solitary way a Christian practices Christianity? Is the divinity of Jesus Christ a secondary thing, or not even secondary? Is emulating his teachings about love, good will, forgiveness, and refraining from judging others something that is now dismissed as unnecessary, obsolete, the way they no longer care about avoiding mixed-fiber clothing, abstaining from eating shrimp, or bashing their smart-mouthed teenager’s head in with a rock?

    Does the word “Christianity” now mean “A religion that practices disapproval of homosexuality,” and that’s the entire and complete definition?

    It used to be so complicated. Now it’s extremely simple.

    • Octoberfurst

      Yeah you’ve pretty much nailed it. Christianity today can be summed up by 3 doctrines: hatred of homosexuality, the desire to ban all abortion and an intense urge to force your beliefs on others. Nothing else matters. Not helping the poor, not peacemaking–nothing!

      • Gus Snarp

        Not if you ask most American nuns. Sometimes when I get to feeling entirely consumed with rage at religion and unable to deal with the fact that I’m surrounded by these people, I remember the group I worked with that was mainly staffed and organized by nuns, but accepted anyone of any or no religious beliefs and whose primary concerns are civil rights, economic justice, peace, and abolition of the death penalty. Not once did I hear anyone associated with that group mention abortion or gay marriage or converting anyone. I did hear the phrase “pro-life”, but only in the context of being given the task of calling local Catholic churches and requesting space for anti death penalty fliers on their pro life information tables.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Yeah, American nuns are actually pretty cool. Too bad the rest of the RCC hierarchy won’t listen to them.

          • Anna

            I knew some pretty progressive nuns at my Catholic college, which I suspect was something of an outlier in general. I never came across any ranting or raving about homosexuality or birth control there.

        • sk3ptik0n

          I once had a job to drive downtown Rome, Italy and collect checks in payment for heating oil. Many of my “clients” were monasteries, it being Rome. I remember a regular stop for me was this monastery right at the very top of the Spanish Steps called “Trinità dei Monti”. The monastery was run by nuns and over the course of a year I always looked forward visiting them. The suora Priora (the Boss) always made sure they had homemade cookies and a glass of milk ready for me. We often spend a good half hour discussing politics, religion and life in general before I set out to my other appointments.

          I still remember warmly the genuine love for intellectual discussions, their cookies and the Priora innate tolerance. They knew I was an atheist, yet not once they tried to proselytize. More than once, the Priora made me suspect that her own philosophy was not very different from mine.

          And, let’s not kid ourselves, they get to live in one of the most spectacular places on the planet. The monastery had a inside square full of flowers at the very center, just like you see in the movies, a very relaxed set of daily activities and going out for groceries means coming out on top of the Spanish Steps, with Keats-Shelley house on one site, DeChirico’s house on the other and a world class view few enjoy from their home.

        • Octoberfurst

          I have to admit a certain fondness for nuns. Every nun I have met has been rather progressive in her views and when they talk about being “pro-life” they just don’t mean “pro-fetus” as most Christians seem to do. They care about the whole quality of life and care very much about social programs to help the less fortunate. (Mind you I have not met a huge amount of nuns—I’m just talking about the handful I have been acquainted with.) So I should have said “conservative Christianity.”

        • Carmelita Spats

          I have a visceral loathing of the RCC but even I have to double down my mad, maudlin and medicated barking and admit that there are decent nuns. Many of these ladies will risk excommunication sooner or later. I don’t understand the moral reasoning that allows them to associate on a profound level with an organized crime syndicate but that’s beside the point. This one saved the life of a young mother in a Catholic hospital by authorizing an abortion. A profile in courage…She was excommunicated.

          http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126985072

          Most importantly, in my country nuns make and sell their own liqueurs…It’s the crazy Baptists who impose dry counties in the U.S…

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_county

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      My caregiver is a Christian, and she’s totes pro-gay.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Please see my response below.

    • Sven2547

      Most of my family and friends are Christians, and only a small percentage of them espouse anything approaching the nastiness coming from LeClaire.

      The problem is that the virulently anti-gay Christians are also the loudest Christians in America today. They are also the core constituency of the Republican Party, which itself encompasses roughly half of American political offices.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Please see my response below.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I know the Fundamentalists use Christian to mean “only Christians who are fundamentalists” but we really shouldn’t use Christian to refer to all of them since there are a great many who are not fundamentalists in the least. there are plenty of Christian churches who welcome gay members, perform gay weddings and even have openly gay clergy. it’s not fair to lump them in with the Baptists and charismatics.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Please see my response below.

    • Erp

      Not all, I can list

      Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, who certainly hopes his Church of England will celebrate same-sex marriages before he dies (since he is also a peer, he is working on getting the House of Lords to approve it in the civil sphere).

      Desmond Tutu of South Africa

      Mark W. Holmerud, ELCA Bishop of the Sierra Pacific synod (I was in a group discussion with him last Sunday and he was certainly in favor of the direction of inclusiveness that the ELCA is going though he admitted it was patchy).

      American Baptist minister, Howard Bess, of Alaska who clashed with his neighbor, Sarah Palin, on gay rights. American Baptists are not Southern Baptists; they split about the time of the Civil War. Though on the whole American Baptists are still fairly intolerant about gays.

      And that isn’t even counting the ones who are gay or lesbian such as Gene Robinson, retired Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, Mary Glasspool, suffragan (aka assistant) Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, Guy Erwin, bishop elect in the ELCA. Note these were all chosen despite being known to be gay or lesbian.

      The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), The Episcopal Church in America, and the United Church of Christ are all moving in the direction of inclusiveness (slowly). Most unprogrammed Quakers are ahead of even these churches as are UU Christians. I’ve seen an United Methodist Church flying rainbow banners (and in the SF Bay area that has an obvious meaning).

      Their attitudes towards atheists may still take some working on.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Please see my response below

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      wmdkitty, Sven2547, Houndentenor, and Erp, (and perhaps others)
      Please excuse my indulgence in a rant of frustration. Sometimes I boil over when I just can’t take any more of people like LeClaire. The incessant drum beat of hate, ignorance, and conceit gets to me sometimes. My rhetorical questions were hyperbolic on purpose, to vent.

      Like you, I personally know Christians who are decent, loving people who really do emulate their Prophet. The problem is that they tend to be gentle and non-confrontational, so they rarely speak up and get in the faces of their self-righteous, bigoted brethren who only use their religion to feel superior to others. Those tend to be loud and antagonistic, and it can be intimidating for the goodhearted ones to confront them.

      But that leaves the confrontations to outsiders like us, and the bigots can easily dismiss and disregard our opinions because after all, we’re (ugh) atheists. To them, that category is a built-in ad hominem argument against anything we say. I think that the gracious, inclusive, and accepting Christians would have much more influence over the prejudiced ones if they spoke up, but I don’t hear much of that.

      My remarks weren’t really a broad-brush characterization of all Christians; just a frustrated tirade.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Nah, dude, it’s cool, your frustration is totally valid.

      • Sven2547

        I’m glad you cleared this up. Your remarks were worryingly uncharacteristic of what I’m used to seeing from you.

  • WallofSleep

    “I know what you’re going to say: we really shouldn’t dignify Charisma with press coverage and pageviews.”

    That’s not what I would say. I am all for shining a light on the cockroaches whenever possible. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’, Camille.

  • Coolred

    Is opposing homosexuality the Final Pillar of Christianity? I mean divorce is acceptable, working on Sundays, mixing clothing fabrics, blah blah blah…so apparently the Last Stand is fighting the gay world. Losing…but points for stubbornly refusing to see the forest for the trees.

    The end is nigh….and Fabulous is set to reign.

    • JET

      As a fan of the Oregon Ducks and their Fabulous uniforms, I’m looking forward to other teams following “suit.”

    • Hat Stealer

      I would say that abortion is also a pretty big one. In some ways, it’s worse, because religious groups have one single target, Roe vs. Wade, to rail against, whereas they’re pretty much irrevocably loosing when it comes to gay rights.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      It does seem that gay marriage was the religious right’s fall-back position. They thought it was the one they could win with no problem and for awhile they easily won on state-wide ballot initiative after another. The tide is turning so watch them to freak out. They haven’t given up on abortion and I expect that as more states adopt marriage equality they will be switching back to restrictions on reproductive rights (including some forms of birth control, not just abortion).

  • Octoberfurst

    Charisma magazine always has been the main magazine for the most reactionary and fanatical Christians. Its pages are filled with right-wing theology, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism and creationist idiocy—along with a huge helping of persecution complex. (“The secular humanists are destroying Christian America!! Wahh, wahh, wahh!”) I, for one, am glad that you are shedding light on what these loons are saying.

  • curtcameron

    Any time I read articles and comments at these Christian sites, I’m always struck by how they use phrases that someone is “suffering with homosexuality” or similar.

    I want to tell them that if someone is suffering from homosexuality, he should use more lube.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Or better vibrators :)

    • Little Magpie

      This makes me think of that old joke – “I don’t suffer from insanity – I enjoy every minute of it!” (Not that I’m acquainting the two. Just having random loose associations in my brain) – yeah. I think if you’re suffering from homosexuality, you’re probably Doing It Wrong. :)

  • Miss_Beara

    Jason Collins isn’t a True Christian in their eyes. Their horrible hate filled eyes.

  • SeekerLancer

    “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?”

    Because of people like you.

  • NewDawn2006

    “I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”

    Obviously not. Otherwise she would know that Jesus has never said anything about being gay. She has also doesn’t take the dictionary seriously because she doesn’t know the meaning of the words “tolerance” or “understanding”.

    • Monala

      That was Jason Collins who made that statement, not Jennifer LeClaire.

      • NewDawn2006

        Well shit. Must have gotten a little skim happy at the end… But if she had said it that would have been a .BURN!! LOL :)

  • Little Magpie

    Um, this:

    > LeClaire says Jason Collins should just do Christians a solid favor and renounce > homosexuality, give himself to Jesus,

    Um, am I the only one who sees innuendo in that statement? Doesn’t seem like renouncing homosexuality to me. Sounds like a celebrity boyfriend. :) So JC is the top, you think?

  • Santiago Brin

    When LeClaire says that Collins should ‘give himself to Jesus’, that sounds quite gay to me……


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