Yesterday on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” host Michael Wilbon predicted trouble for gay athlete Michael Sam because “the Christian Right is entrenched in NFL locker rooms.” His matter of fact statement went unchallenged by his cohost, Tony Kornheiser, which left me rather stunned. Apparently Christians are now blamed before they say or do anything. A man comes out as gay, use that as an opportunity to bash Christians.
Tertullian said something similar went on in his day. In his Apology, chapter 40, he said the Romans believed that “Christians are the occasion of all the mischief in the world. If Tiber overflows, and Nile does not; if heaven stands still and withholds its rain, and the earth quakes; if famine or pestilence take their marches through the country, the word is, Away with these Christians to the lion! Bless me! What, so many people to one lion!”
Yesterday Christians were prejudged for something they had nothing to do with, and everyone was put on notice that no dissenting voices will be tolerated. At least two news outlets played a video of Jonathan Vilma saying a couple of weeks ago that he wouldn’t be comfortable showering with a gay teammate. That doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, yet it was dismissed as such by both Michael Wilbon and Jon Stewart. Surely there are other NFL players who share Vilma’s concern, but if they’re paying attention they’ll keep their thoughts to themselves. I’m all for respecting Sam’s right to play in the NFL (and have no moral objection to being his teammate), but we also need to be even handed about this and respect Vilma’s equally personal right to privacy.
This doesn’t sound like it will end well, but the outcome seems already predetermined. Blame the Christians.
Update: A former student reminded me that some evangelical Christian leaders have blamed homosexuals for our troubles (9/11 and Hurricane Katrina), so it’s a fair point that the Christian community has brought some of this hatred upon itself. It’s also a fair point that those of us who publicly reject such statements are still seen as the problem, merely because we believe what Jesus and Paul believed about human sexual practice.
Update #2: I happened to hear Colin Cowherd’s radio show while I was fixing my lunch, and Colin explained why it’s a problem for a heterosexual man to shower with a woman but not for a homosexual man to shower with another man. He said the difference is that the man could overpower the woman and rape her. If I was Jonathan Vilma, I think I’d still have some unanswered questions.