Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Religion And Prejudice: The Holy Spirit Isn’t A Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Monday night on Twitter, I may have said some impertinent things about ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard. By now, just about everyone’s heard Broussard’s comments in response to Jason Collins’ coming out as the first openly gay male player in one of the four major American professional sports (in his case, the NBA). Collins got a tremendous amount of support from other players, from Pres. and Mrs. Obama and the Clintons, from NBA Commissioner David Stern, even from (and I love this) … Nancy Sinatra.
Broussard, however, was less accepting of Jason Collins. You might even say he was (ahem) less Christian. Via the Los Angeles Times:
Speaking on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” the basketball analyst and former New York Times writer was discussing NBA player Jason Collins, who in a landmark move just became the first active player in one of the major pro sports to come out as gay. Collins revealed his sexual orientation in a first-person Sports Illustrated story.
“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality,” Broussard said. “I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.
“If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin ... that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he added.
He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted.
So, I might have taken umbrage at those comments. And I might have taken to the Twitter machine to say so.

Sir, I might have said. Take a seat.
Only, perhaps – perhaps – in a slightly more colorful fashion.

But, so, I took some heat for that. I’m not going to link to those comments because they were still coming in around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday, and I finally had to block a couple people, but the gist of it was this: I was the intolerant one for objecting to Broussard’s comments; Broussard wasn’t being intolerant, he was just expressing his opinion, as he was asked to do.
The point, I guess, is that Broussard is entitled to his religious beliefs, and he’s entitled to express them. Ergo, to attack the man for expressing his religious beliefs is intolerant.
Maybe. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t attacking Broussard for expressing his beliefs. I was attacking his beliefs. I said that his beliefs were prejudiced against – nay, intolerant of – gay and lesbian people, and I think that’s awful. And I stand by that.
But, but, but (you’re saying) … isn’t attacking his beliefs just as bad?!
No, it’s not. Here’s the thing: Every one is entitled to his or her opinion, and everyone is entitled to express his or her opinion freely. But all opinions are not created equal.
Maybe it would be better to say that I’m not obligated to think all opinions are equal. I’m not obligated to give every opinion equal weight, and I’m not even obligated to give every opinion equal respect. Some opinions are bullshit. Or, at least, I’m entitled to think some opinions are bullshit. And so are you.
Try it. It’s fun.
Aryans are the master race? Bullshit.
Global warming is a hoax? Bullshit
Sasquatch exists? Bullshit.
And you know what? That general principle – i.e., that each of us is entitled to call “bullshit” if and when we determine that another person’s opinions, in our sole judgment, are, in fact, bullshit – applies equally to opinions derived from religion as it applies to opinions derived from politics, scientific understanding (or lack thereof), life experiences (or lack thereof), and so on. There is no magical exemption for obnoxious, offensive religious beliefs.
If you disagree, consider this. My friend John Moore (@johnvmoore on Twitter) recently pointed out that at one time in America’s past, the Bible was used to justify slavery. As CNN’s John Blake wrote in April 2011:
I’ve read books about politics and generals during the war. But I hadn't read much about the religious dimension to the Civil War until I came across a recent USA Today column.
Henry G. Brinton, a pastor at Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia, writes that the Bible was used a weapon by both the North and the South. Brinton says some contemporary Americans are making the same mistake their Civil War ancestors did by twisting the Bible to support their own battle cries.
Brinton, author of “Balancing Acts: Obligation, Liberation and Contemporary Christian Conflicts,” says both the Union and the Confederacy invoked the Bible to justify their positions on slavery.
Slaveholders justified the practice by citing the Bible, Brinton says.
They asked who could question the Word of God when it said, “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to teir masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9)
Now, imagine someone going on TV and making that sort of argument today. Would it be “intolerant” of me to say “That’s some monumental bullshit right there!”? No, of course it wouldn’t. In fact, many of the people who defend Broussard today would be equally appalled by the slavery apologist’s comments – and wouldn’t hesitate to say so. Likewise, if Broussard were Muslim and took to ESPN’s airwaves to spout anti-Jewish bigotry, or anti-Christian bigotry, or misogyny … well, you know what I’m getting at. He’d be pilloried, and all of us, left, right, and center, would be calling for his head.
And that wouldn’t be anti-Muslim of us, either. That would be simple consistency: If people say bigoted things on TV or radio, those of us who oppose bigotry are going to speak up. You can’t declare certain objectionable statements off limits just because they’re couched in religious terms. That’s not religious intolerance; that’s saying religious people don’t get to censor the rest of us by telling us what we can and can’t object to based on the religious beliefs underlying otherwise offensive speech.
Look, I’m not saying ESPN should can Broussard. I’m not big on the idea of anybody being fired for saying stupid things – although ESPN is a media company and putting people on the air to talk about stuff is what they do; so if they don’t like Broussard’s message it’s up to them to determine what the appropriate consequences should be. When he’s on their airwaves, they own the message.
All I’m saying is, he shouldn’t get a pass because his comments were motivated by religion. And those of us who find his comments objectionable have every right to say so, as loudly and as vocally we would in response to any type of bigotry, whether it’s motivated by religion or not.
To say otherwise is to say some bigots are more equal than others. And that’s bullshit.
[Photo credit: Bruce Bennett, ESPN]


  1. Dave:

    Obviously you didn't get the KKKristian Butthurt memo, wherein you would have been informed that criticizing morons who say stupid things is PERSECUTION!!

    I'm thinkin' that Mr. Broussard's shelf life code just got changed.

  2. Good Job!

    Most religious texts have been misconstrued by men to make a point. The Bible is an especially nifty book for this task because there is so much there and so many people have one, but so few people have actually read it, have a rudimentary understanding of it or actually can put various parts of it into context.

    People who make it a point to highlight other peoples sins, should be sure that they are free of sin first. The entire "holier than thou" group that seems to somehow be a step up on the ladder due to their salvation, seem not to fully comprehend that it isn't a one time get out of jail free card the authorizes you to clear future sins. It is merely one step on very long road. Much like Aristotle's road to a eudaimonic life.

    I love your point that everyone is allowed based on education, belief, experience or whatever to view other opinions as bullshit. I also think that religion, political correctness or group think does not allow others to sensor that their opinions are bullshit.