Making a Yawn Newsworthy: the Curious Case of 'Courageous' Collins
Wow, were the talking points well distributed this week following a carefully choreographed "coming out" party for Jason Collins.
If you hadn't heard, Jason Collins announced this week that not only is he a multi-millionaire who is paid to put a ball into a hoop that is about 2 feet from the tips of his fingers as he stands under it, but also living a homosexual lifestyle. In this case, his has been trumpeted - by the President of the United States, no less - as an act of, "courage" in, "coming out" in a world supposedly dominated by womanizing jocks.
Now, here is where the talking points kick in. As the media runs with open mic and focusing camera to the sports elite, they are supposed to repeat, evidently, one of two lines. Let's look at them closely.
"I look forward to a day when this is no longer newsworthy."
That's the first one. I've heard it here locally, I've heard it on SportsCenter, from politicians and aging sports stars. Each one first begins by using some form of praise for the boldness, courage, or other type hero language that really ought to be reserved for men like those who stormed Normandy, not a guy who is paid $1.5 million to average 1 point per game. Then, they turn their commentary to the shocking nature of the revelation. Feigning surprise (but not really being surprised) they remark how amazing that this is news and finish off by wistfully pining for the day when such a thing won't be news.
Here's the thing: it's only "newsworthy" to them. That is, if they pine for the day when this won't be news anymore, then why have they created the story? Why did Collins become the feature story in Sports Illustrated to announce this news that we're supposed to be unsurprisingly shocked about? Why did the press immediately run to commentary to the nearest athlete and the President if this was so, "ho-hum," old hat to them?
The reality is that I agree with them, to some extent. My first reaction when I found out that this Center is inclined to have sex outside of marriage with other men was, "So what?" I think, in fact, I yawned between the "so" and the "what" too. It is not newsworthy. Gentleman should never discuss their sex life publicly. I suppose its only shocking in the way that Wilt Chamberlain's supposed 5-figured peccadilloes were surprising: we tend to have a cultural fascination with sex. Call it the pornification of the news for that's what it has become.
The sad reality is not the "outing" here, but that most of us have grown up around a sex-dripping culture for so long that we have to feign surprise when someone admits to having sex outside of marriage. We've been so desensitized to what is immoral that we yawn rather than recoil.
"Our culture needs to become more tolerant."
That is usually in the mix. Usually, its coupled with the concept of evolution, suggesting that our society "is evolving" or "needs to evolve" to support open homosexuality. President Obama started it, sort of, when he came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year, saying that his views had finally evolved from he prior primordial conviction that marriage was the loving and lifelong union reserved for one man and one woman.
Most recently, I saw Kelly Dwyer's version of this line when, writing for Yahoo Sports, he said: "Gay young men and women have an impossibly tough time growing up and attempting to fit in, even as our culture shifts to become more tolerant."
Unpacking the first part of that sentence requires a lengthy theological conversation. But, I challenge the premise. How hard can it be to, "fit in" to a society that encourages you to celebrate any and every conceivable form of sexual orientation - even ones not reduced to an acronym yet? Perhaps they're not, "fitting in" for a reason - a reason having nothing to do with the latter part of the sentence, but everything to do with the heart.
But, let's look at the second part of the sentence and ask this question: how much more tolerant can our society "shift" (or evolve)? Think of all that we do tolerate.
We tolerate open displays of homosexuality, men dressed like women parading through the streets, and every form of pornography imaginable (some of which we even tolerate being broadcast in prime time). We tolerate political dialog that is, at times, demeaning. We tolerate a President who says we should pass gun laws if only to save one child's life, but then turns around and give full-throated endorsement to Planned Parenthood's taking of hundreds of thousands of children's lives. We tolerate churches that deny orthodoxy and celebrate heresy. We tolerate Flavor Flav and Larry Platt. We tolerate full-contact juggling and Bob Ross. How much more tolerant can our society become? More importantly, why should we become more tolerant?
Dwyer cannot possibly mean we need to become more tolerant as a society of homosexuality. We had a national yawn when a basketball player said he likes to have sex outside of marriage with other men. What he must mean is that our society has to become more morally tolerant of what has been deemed immoral for most of human history.
That is, what Dwyer is saying on behalf of the rest of the "our society is evolving" folks is that those whose moral scruples still prevent them from a full-throated endorsement of homosexuality, and the moral virtues thereof, are - by definition - intolerant. Those who are truly tolerant will not . . . um . . . tolerate any other perspective, belief, or conviction. Rather, no longer are we able to agree to disagree and so tolerate one another, because you do not believe like I do, say the neo-tolerant, not only are you wrong, but you're morally wrong, bigoted, and homophobic.
Note also the arrogance here. Think about it. Implicit in this argument is that we are - today - the most evolved people that have ever existed. We are evolved physically, emotionally, mentally, and morally. What this means is that there has never been a people as wise, or at least as tolerant, as we are today. All previous iterations of cultural morality were primeval. Today's shifting morality is to be preferred, not only because its new, but because it's better. We are the capstone of civilization. Da Vinci? Not as tolerant. Einstein? Nope. Moses? Don't even get me started! Those were intolerant dunderheads that just didn't get it. In all likelihood, their failure to embrace homosexuality was bigotry. They are whom we have left behind in the primordial evolutionary soup of morality and culture for the more highly evolved people like Obama, Elton John, Lady GaGa, and Madonna.
If becoming a more tolerant society requires that religious people - and Christians in particular - lay aside the convictions of their faith for the feelings of an overpaid athlete, then this is an evolution we ought to avoid, not embrace.
For the rest of us, don't be bullied into the embracing of immoral behavior. Jason Collins is welcome to make whatever moral decisions he wishes to make with regard to his sexuality. He needs not to answer to me, nor seek my approval. For my part, I would happily chat with him about the discontinuity of the faith he supposedly professes or join him in a pick-up game of basketball. I'm neither intolerant of him, nor afraid of him.
But, I am also unwilling to encourage his behavior that his conscience will (if it hasn't already) instruct him is unhealthy, unwise, and immoral.
Leave me out of the coming societal shift.