Is anyone surprised that Christians are freaking out about an openly gay man being drafted into the NFL? If so, we need to find out what planet they were living on before last weekend. If there's one thing that's as sure as taxes, death, and Mormons riding bicycles in pairs, it's Christians being jerks when anything good happens for gay people. Here's a sampling of the hysteria:
- Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, tweeted: "I knew something was lacking in the #nfl. Yeah, public expressions of the perversion of homosexuality, that's it!"
- Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, tweeted: "Michael Sam is young, black and gay, the highest risk combination for HIV/AIDS. Compassion would urge him toward therapy." Kudos to him for being offensive to as many groups as possible in one tweet.
- The editor-in-chief at Herman Cain's website ranted at length about the "cringe-inducing" kiss between Michael and his boyfriend, which (gasp) was actually shown on television.
- And of course, there's DC lobbyist Jack Burkman, who promised a "relentless" boycott of any team that drafted Sam.
Of course, all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Go to any Christian Facebook group, and you'll find someone freaking out about Michael Sam. This is not a story. At least, it's not a novel story. Christians have been freaking out, abusing, threatening, bullying, and boycotting with startling regularity since they discovered there are people in America who are not like them. We'd be genuinely shocked if they didn't have a fit over this.
So what is there to talk about, if this isn't a story? A lot of Christians are bigots. We know that. Get over it and move on, right? I think there's actually a lot of truth to that, but maybe not in the way most people would mean it. This latest Christian freak-out is bad news for Christianity in America, and it really might be the beginning of us moving on from their culturally sanctioned bigotry. For the rest of us, this is a win-win-win. In fact, I really don't think there's a way this can go badly for gays, non-Christians, or Christians who can at least recognize the beam in their brothers' eyes.
Let's start with the obvious. Regardless of what happens with Michael Sam's career, this is the last time we're going to have to have this freak-out. Oh, sure, some Christians will be upset the next time a gay man gets drafted, but the national media won't care anymore. Been there, done that, old news. Might as well freak out about a black person playing football. The NFL was in a no-win position unless someone drafted Sam. He was good enough to get drafted, and if he wasn't, the NFL would have had a lot of explaining to do, and nobody would have bought it. Well, except the Christians. The point is, he had to get drafted. Now, the seal is broken. Gay people can play in the NFL, and eventually, it's not going to be a thing. Gay men will start living more openly in college, knowing they aren't risking their careers. And the NFL gets a gold star for being Pro-Gay-Rights. Win.
This is also a win for American Culture. Most of the Christians' bullying and freakouts haven't affected regular folks. Most people don't care about the 9/11 Monument, so they don't care that Christians made death threats over that lawsuit. They don't really care about prayer banners in schools, so Jessica Ahlquist didn't blip their radars. They kind of remember that Christians freaked out about Ellen Degeneres, but how bad can you feel for her, when she's rich, anyway. Yes, it's sad that a girl couldn't start her atheist High School club, but most schools don't have them, so who cares? And all those gay teens committing suicide? Well, they are gay... so... it's bad, but... at least not my kid, right?
Americans care about football. They care very deeply and passionately about football. In addition to full stadiums for every game of every season, a huge fantasy football culture, and enough NFL merchandise to reach the moon, the Super Bowl is the most watched television event in the history of the universe. Every year. It's one thing when Christians freak out about the "little stuff" like prayer in schools or atheists. In this instance, they're having a collective hissy fit in front of one of the largest populations in America. There's simply no denying that they're being jackasses. Major sports commentators like Scott van Pelt and Colin Cowherd are calling them out on National TV and radio. They're on the wrong side of this, and most everybody knows it.
This is a win for secularists and humanists, and ironically, it's a win because of how the Christians are going to gripe about us pointing out their bigotry. We all know the routine by now: "It's not all Christians. There are some really wonderful Christians who love gay people. We even have a gay man in our church. Don't paint all Christians with the same brush. Be tolerant of us." (There's about a 94% possibility that some Christians will even say this in comments, ignoring the fact that I'm addressing it explicitly.)
Here's the thing. Yes, it's not all Christians. We know that. We never suggested that all Christians are bigots. But here's the kick in the teeth. I'll show you fifty Christian groups who are freaking out about Michael Sam, and I won't even have to try hard. I'll stop at fifty because the point will be made. Now, you show me a secular humanist group saying he shouldn't be able to play. Go ahead. I dare you to find one.
Does this mean that secular humanists are better than Christians? Well... yes. Yes, it does, in this instance. No matter how much sugar coating we put on the Christian message, there's this: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. It's there in hard print, and that's a problem. This Christian will tell you it doesn't mean what it seems to mean. That one will tell you it's the Old Testament, and we aren't supposed to follow it anymore. (But then, why the Ten Commandments on court houses? But I digress...) Others will tell you that the Bible is a metaphor, and it doesn't literally mean you should kill gay people. And then there's the old standby -- mistranslation. (But then, how can we trust any of it if the translators didn't know what they were doing? But I digress...)
All these protests ring hollow for one simple reason: Christians are bigots in droves. Regardless of what Christianity is supposed to be, Christians are being bigots. End of story. And they're referencing their book to justify it. It's nice that there are nice non-bigot Christians. We secularists are so happy to know they exist! We're glad there are exceptions from the apparent rule. But... that's the thing. The only Christians who seem to make any noise are the ones being jerks to minorities.
And that's why Michael Sam being drafted is such a great thing. First, it's a monumental win for gay rights against... (ahem) Christian oppression. It's a perfect chance for Christians to be bigots in front of everybody, and they're jumping at it, removing whatever doubt may have remained that they are often a hateful lot. And finally, it exposes the simple and elegant truth that by taking the Bible out of the equation, we remove the number one justification for being an ass to gay people. And this leads to the next obvious question: Why not be good to others because it's the right thing to do, and leave the Bible out of it entirely?