Hudson Taylor would be proud of his great-great-great grandson

Hudson Taylor would be proud of his great-great-great grandson June 12, 2013

NFL Players Launch Pride Shirts” reads a headline on Joe.My.God:

The NFL Players Association has launched a line of gay pride shirts on their website. All proceeds from the shirts will go to Athlete Ally, the anti-homophobia in sports organization founded by Hudson Taylor.

Wait … founded by who?

You have to understand that Hudson Taylor is a famous name in evangelical circles.

Hudson Taylor is a huge hero, in other words, among the very sort of people most likely to take sanctimonious offense at the NFLPA’s new line of gay pride shirts.

Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was one of the great heroes of the modern missionary movement. If you grew up in the American evangelical subculture, you likely read one of the many children’s biographies written about him. You probably even watched the 1981 Ken Anderson movie in Sunday school or youth group. (That entire movie is now on YouTube.)

Hudson Taylor was a British Christian missionary to China and founder of the interdenominational China Inland Mission, which wound up sending more than 800 missionaries, building 125 schools and establishing 300 local churches or “stations.”

Taylor adopted Chinese dress and Chinese culture while serving as a missionary. That was somewhat controversial — an early challenge to more colonial models of missiology. Taylor wasn’t looking to produce good colonial subjects. He was trying to tell people about Jesus, and Jesus never dressed like a proper Victorian gentleman either.

Taylor and his mission agency also campaigned against the opium trade — during a time when his country was fighting wars in order to force China to import more of the drug.

Taylor’s devotion and the scale of his work in China made him world-famous during his lifetime and he remains a cherished icon and inspiration for mission-minded evangelical Protestants.

All of which is to say that the name “Hudson Taylor” is familiar.

It’s not surprising to run across that name in a sentence such as, “Evangelist Billy Graham wrote the foreword to the biography Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ.”

But it is a bit surprising to run across it in a sentence such as, “All proceeds from the shirts will go to Athlete Ally, the anti-homophobia in sports organization founded by Hudson Taylor.”

I’m happy to discover that this Hudson Taylor was, in fact, named after that Hudson Taylor. The founder of Athlete Ally is, in fact, the great-great-great grandson of the pioneering missionary.

“This is about how we treat one another,” says Taylor the wrestling coach and three-time NCAA All-American. “When we diminish others, we only diminish ourselves.”

Athlete Ally’s website says Taylor founded the group to:

… confront a side of sports that no athlete should be proud of: sports marginalize LGBT athletes, coaches and others through systemic homophobia and transphobia. Hudson decided that he could no longer watch from the sidelines as his athletic culture isolated and segregated LGBT athletes and betrayed the integrity and diversity at the heart of athletics.

When Hudson wore an LGBT equality sticker from the Human Rights Campaign on his wrestling headgear, he encountered criticism from his peers, but received positive attention from the media. Following his presence in the media, Hudson received hundreds of emails from parents and closeted athletes. This experience inspired him to found this non-for-profit organization, with the mission of educating, encouraging and empowering straight athlete allies to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports.

Given the choice between standing with the powerful and the popular or standing with the marginalized and the outcast, Hudson Taylor made the right choice.

I think his great-great-great grandfather would be very proud of him.

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