Last week, in an article in Sports Illustrated, NBA player Jason Collins admitted to being gay, making him the first male player from a major sport to do so. The sports media and media in general were nearly unanimous in expressing support, as were other NBA players, some of whom were known for making derogatory comments toward gays in the past. However, ESPN’s Chris Broussard, in a statement on the air, said, If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says, ‘You know them by their fruits.’ It says that that’s a sin. And if you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality — adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals — I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ, so I would not characterize that person as a Christian. He seemed to be responding to Collins’ assertion that he was gay and Christian. ESPN felt it necessary to issue a statement regretting Broussard’s statement and, as Jim Burton said in an excellent article on the Standard-Examiner, Broussard was vilified across all forms of media, being labeled ‘homophobic,’ a ‘bigot’ and an ‘idiot.’ I don’t understand, Burton said, why those who demand we use inoffensive, politically correct language at all times, are often the first to break out offensive, hurtful language to respond to those who disagree? And to be fair, a number of sources supported Broussard on the basis of free speech.
Broussard’s statement is a perfect example of Dogma on two counts. First, it is a doctrine held by a religion as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system’s paradigm (Wikipedia). And secondly, as so often happens with Dogma, it makes a statement as to what one can (or cannot) do as a Christian, even though just a little research would indicate that not all Christian denominations would agree. Of course, a dogmatic Christian might claim those denominations were not truly Christian. At sixty-eight, I think of myself as one of the least dogmatic people I know. One of the reasons I am not religious is that I found it impossible to accept in toto the Dogma of the religions I’ve encountered. I know plenty of people that are able to practice a religion but selectively discount … or ignore … certain Dogma. I’m not built that way. In the years that I was an agnatheist (that’s someone who says he’s agnostic because he’s afraid to say he doesn’t believe in God), it was easy to consider the beliefs of others outmoded or archaic because I didn’t believe in anything spiritually. But at this point in my life, I believe in a Higher Power and have a moral code based on what I believe that God expects of me. So, I find myself in the surprising position of understanding Dogma in a way I never have before.
To get back to Chris Broussard, I not only respect his right to say what he said, I respect the fact that he stands by his moral code, even though I disagree … vehemently … with his belief in this case. Changing one’s moral code … or as Wikipedia puts it, shifting one’s very paradigm ... should not be taken lightly. An awful lot of people these days seem to expect everyone else to instantly believe what feels good or what’s popular. As surely as dogmatism has the potential to hold us back as a society, keeping us in a world where women are stoned for committing adultery, relativism … in which no belief is held sacred … can lead us to a place where we have no moral compass. And, as with most things, I believe salvation lies in the balance. I seem to recall that someone of some importance in Christianity said, Judge not, lest ye be judged thyself. Heeding that, I think, could contribute to the balance we need.