Athletic Superstars and Their Faith

Published May 3, 2013 by sojournerfanny
Via creative commons by Mariselise

Via creative commons by Mariselise

The sports news of the week is that Jason Collins, a veteran center in the NBA, has become the first active male athlete in a major American team sport to come out as gay. Admittedly, I don’t follow basketball that closely and I had no idea who he was until the announcement was made. I don’t have a lot of gay friends, so the news was just a side-note in my peripheral vision. Interesting, nice, and important, but not life-changing for me in any personal way.

Then I read this article by T.F. Charlton in Religion Dispatches comparing the media’s attention to Tim Tebow’s faith and Jason Collins’ faith.

I hadn’t realized Collins was a Christian. Then again, I didn’t even know he existed until he came out and made the news. I did know about Tim Tebow, but that’s mostly because I’m from Colorado. The article talks about how the media pays lots of attention to Tebow’s Christian faith, and all but ignores Collins’. Now, that may be more because Tebow is more forward about it. I don’t know. What was more significant to me was this:

Being an athletic superstar, and being gay.

Big news.

Being an athletic superstar, and being a Christian.

Old news.

Being an athletic superstar and being black.

Really old news.

Being black, and being Christian.

Even older news.

Being a Christian, and being gay.

Almost as groundbreaking as being a gay athletic superstar.

Being an athletic superstar, black, Christian, and gay.

Apparently, this is so confounding, the media simply chose to leave out the Christian part.

But why is this so confounding? I’m not asking this from a Liberal “Oh my God, why can’t everyone just love everyone else for who they are already?” point of view. I’m asking this from the position of a black Christian woman.

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. Most of my friends were white or Hispanic. Honestly, maybe it was just the way my parents raised me, but race just didn’t really seem to matter. I was just as fascinated by my white friends whose hippie parents ate yogurt as I was by my Hispanic friends’ parents who made their own tortillas. It wasn’t a bad difference or an extreme one. I was teased more because my Dad listens to classical music than I ever was for being black.

That’s not to say I never felt the stigma of color. You can’t be black in the US today without feeling that at some point in your life. But while I know that many black people grow up feeling and experiencing discrimination every day of their lives, I felt it only as something subtle and distant. I’ve had bullies yell racial epithets at me on the playground, but they also called me fat and that simply wasn’t true. I was a beanpole. Both kinds of insults just kinda rolled off as being ridiculous, and everyone knew it.

So, if it’s normal to be black and a Christian, why is it so difficult to accept a gay person as a Christian? Again, I suppose I must have led a sheltered life because it never occurred to me that either of these things could ever be an issue.

But what stymies me most of all is…why is it more difficult to be accepted as a black gay Christian? Or am I imagining that too?


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