The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Friday, September 14, 2012

The NFL and Gay Marriage

It's a culturally defining topic with old logic. The September 13th USA Today cover story of the Sport section asks, "Are gay rights views shifting in the NFL?" The article reflects the ongoing momentous cultural progress for the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in a pocket of society that once rejected the lifestyle wholesale – professional athletics. “Being gay” used to surface in the locker room when a jock was having his manhood challenged, not as a topic of sociological discussion. Until now.

That the acceptance of homosexuality is now gaining some traction within some circles of masculine athletic competition – and now in the most popular sport in the United States – should come as no surprise. The cultural forces behind the gay agenda – from social action groups, to political lobbying, to the media – have been extremely successful in their goal of the widespread social acceptance of homosexuality, and that in a relatively short period of time. The USA Today article discusses the recent public advocacy of two specific NFL players, Brenden Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, who support gay marriage. After reading the article, it would seem that neither NFL player quoted is gay. The catalyst for their vocal support for gay marriage was the recent story of a college football player being kicked off his team for kissing his boyfriend in public.

How are we to react to this USA Today story? First, it should be said that we reject the athletic culture of mockery that would use the lifestyle of homosexuality as a weapon of insult regarding manhood – whether in “friendly” male bantering, motivation to play through pain, and/or competitive trash talk. That should never be on our lips as men and women of God – whether watching, participating, or coaching in athletics – and we should stand against it whenever we hear it.

Second, we ought to be concerned with the growing acceptance of homosexuality in any area of society – be it the NFL or when voters support gay marriage on a state ballot in November. While there are many academic and theological attempts to hermeneutically twist the plain meaning of Romans 1.24-27 to make it say what it doesn't say, the Bible is clear: homosexuality is sin. And, like any and all other sins, a lifestyle of homosexuality excludes one from eternal life (I Cor. 6.9-11) and enjoying the promises of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1.18 – 3.20 with Rom. 3.21ff.).

Third, we must not allow the logic of Brenden Ayanbadejo – the Baltimore Ravens' linebacker and player most quoted in the aforementioned article – a logic prevalent in our secular society, to intimidate us in the public debate. After quoting New York Giants lineman Will Beatty on the social debate of gay marriage as saying, "I'm against it. It's just my religious background and, from what I understand from reading the Bible, it's a sin. I mean, we all have sins. No one's perfect. That doesn't mean I'm for sin," Ayanbadejo responded: "The disconnect is that religion is not law. And some guys have trouble seeing the difference."

Ayanbadejo's logic is faulty – revealing his erroneous worldview, which he's learned from the social air he’s breathed his entire life. He's implying – as many secularists do – that Beatty's response implies a "legislation of morality." In other words, keep your religious convictions to yourself; they have no place in the area of public law. To say nothing of the hypocrisy of this position (if you, like me, see secularism as a form of "religion" that’s aggressively defended and advocated in the public square by its proponents), I reject Ayanbadejo's assertion that there ought to be a dichotomy between religion and law.

My presupposition is that God – the ultimate Giver and source of all right and proper law – best determines what is most conducive to human flourishing (in the home, church, and civil sphere); therefore, to promote and advocate His moral law in the civil sphere is both proper and right. This is not advocating a theocracy – namely, that every line of the Pentateuch becomes law; this is advocating a Judeo-Christian foundation to society in its legislative and judicial spheres. There’s a difference.

Ayanbedejo – and the secular worldview he represents – assumes humanity (severed from any hint of religious conviction) is to determine law in the civil sphere of life. He sees "the difference" between religion and law as something that must never intersect; they are two separate universes that are to never invade or encroach upon the other's sacred space. This reasoning tells those of us who differ to, basically, keep our (religious) mouths closed when it comes to any public debate on moral and ethical issues. The forces of secularism have determined the rules of what qualifying factors can be considered in the discussion and what cannot. Religion cannot. Case closed.

This is absurd – and, again, fails to see the blinders they themselves wear (ironically, blinders Ayanbadejo mentions we have in our "seeing" of the topic of gay marriage). Christians have allowed themselves to be pushed out of the public debate on this and many other topics for far too long because of the following reasoning: you can't bring God/religion into the logical equation of the (said) discussion. When we hear this, we often respond like the social outcast in the school lunchroom who's been silenced with a pithy one-liner by one of the "in-crowd" after voicing an opinion. We put our head down in shame…and walk away from the discussion.

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating shouting back or becoming obnoxiously aggressive to the bullies of secular culture on this issue (or any other heated topic). Christ and His book wouldn't encourage that at all. But I would encourage us to speak – with tact and the winsome grace of the Spirit of Jesus – against the growing cultural momentum on the topic of gay marriage. Our presupposition that God is the Creator Who designed "love" and marriage – along with our conviction that homosexual marriage grievously distorts the gospel-centered nature of matrimony (Eph. 5.22-33) – must not be something we embarrassingly avoid in this public discussion, but these truths must be the very foundation of our kind and loving apologetic. In doing so, we will have the privileged opportunity to speak of the Savior Who both died to reconcile us to God (Rom. 5.6-11) and created everything that exists (John 1.3; Col. 1.16; Heb. 1.2) – love, marriage, sexuality, and, yes, even the enjoyable autumn gift of football.


  1. Very good post on a very real issue.
    My thoughts were taken back to a cultural issue in China's attempt to take into their fold the breadbasket of Cambodia. They tried and tried to defeat the tribal structure of Cambodia but failed over and over.
    Finally, someone in the Chinese hiearchy came up with the idea of aprehending young children from the Cambodian tribes. They took them back to China and fully indoctrinated them on Chinese culture and politics, then returned them as young men to their tribes. Completely accepted back into their homes, they began to influence the leaders and became leaders themselves.
    China won the hearts of the Cambodian culture and this country became a "breadbasket" for China to this day.
    Children in secular schools in the USA have been and are being indoctrinated into a secular culture which accepts and promotes "tolerance" of licenscious behavior ... one such behavior is open homosexuality and cocommitantly homosexual marriage. This is a mockery of God's plan and purpose for marriage to which secular society thumbs its sinful nose.
    But for the grace and mercy and timing of God's eternal plan, America would have already been turned under, a farming practice done to a field being prepared for future planting.

    1. Gene,
      I appreciate your feedback. You bring up one reason why I'm concerned to see the acceptance of gay marriage among NFL players as a concern. Make no mistake, the NFL is an enormous influencer of culture, among not only adults but children and youth. It's a machine of pop culture that has enormous sway. Think about this: could we be looking at a month of wearing rainbow shoes and wristbands in support of homosexuality, not unlike we have in the league every fall for breast cancer awareness with the color pink?