Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Bring Biblical Ideas to the Public Square

I've never claimed to be on the cutting edge when it comes to current events of cultural commentary, and this post is more proof of that.  A few weeks ago, Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards came out as the first openly gay professional basketball player.  His coming out created quite the hubbub in the sports world and in the media.

Even more of a stir was created when Chris Broussard, an analyst for ESPN, called homosexuality a sin on live TV while talking about Collins' coming out on a live show on the network.  Calls were immediately made for Broussard to be fired, and my Facebook news feed was clogged up with outrage about Broussard's comments.  The entire interview is below.  I highly commend it to you.  Broussard's comments on the biblical view of homosexuality begin around 8:30.

Even though this is old news by now, it's worth some attention here, I think, because what we see in this interview are the marching orders for how Christians should bring biblical ideas to the public square.  Chris Broussard masterfully brings the biblical worldview to bear on this discussion, and does so politely, lovingly, and yet firmly.  Let's think for a few minutes about what he does right in this interview.

1. He appeals to the Bible as his authority.  This is something that most Christians have failed to do in this debate, and when it has been done, it has mostly been done poorly.  Unfortunately most Christians are quick to run to Leviticus and misuse Old Testament passages as proof that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Broussard does not do this.  He just says that the acceptance of homosexuality as a biblically viable way of life is an affront to the message of scripture.  Why does he hold these views?  Because the Bible tells him so; not a study, not some statistics, but the Bible.  The eternal, never-chaning word of God upon which we base our salvation.

2. He identifies sin as being open rebellion toward God.  Not only does Broussard appeal to the Bible, but he unapologetically identifies homosexuality as sin - as something that separates people from God.  Not because they are unlovable or because they are somehow worse than other people, but because it is sin.  Welcome to the human condition.

3. He mentions the name of Jesus Christ.  While this may seem rather insignificant, you won't find many Christians in venues like the one Broussard was in who will actually insist on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.  This, in a roundabout way, opens the door to the gospel.  More on that in a minute.

4. He does not differentiate between homosexual sin and heterosexual sin.  This is important, and something that Christians should be emphasizing when they enter into the conversation on homosexuality.  Ray Comfort always said that when he witnesses to homosexuals he doesn't even bring the issue up.  Why not?  Because there's enough to convict people of their sin without even having to bring it up.  In other words, people are big enough sinners that they can be convicted for their lies, theft, murder of the heart, lust, dishonoring of parents, etc., that you really don't even need to bring it up.  Or if we do bring it up, we need to make sure to stress that homosexuality a deviation from the biblical prescription for sexuality, as is lust, fornication, adultery, promiscuity, etc.

5. He promotes tolerance - true tolerance.  What is tolerance?  Two people disagreeing with each other in a civil manner.  It is not forcing people who disagree with you to abandon their convictions and adopt the status quo and then calling them bigots when they disagree with you.  When we speak about tolerance in the public square, we should openly reiterate what tolerance actually is.

Another interesting thing to note is what I believe to be Broussard's very fair and unbiased assessment of this situation during the first half of the interview.  It's interesting that Broussard's comments caused such a stir, considering that most of them were fair and unbiased.  He only offered his views because it was relevant to the conversation the guys in the interview were having.  And yet his head is being called for.

The other interviewee, who is openly gay, has nothing but respect for Chris Broussard, even though they are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue.  But yet (gasp!) they get along!  They can have a conversation peacefully without accusing one another of being hate-filled bigots!  The relationship that these guys have is one of tolerance - true tolerance - not the kind that says "either agree with me or shut up."  Apparently the openly gay guy on the other end of the interview wasn't offended.  Why were so many others?

If Broussard's presentation on this program could have been improved in any way, it simply would have been to reiterate that, although the Bible does say that homosexuality is sin, and that sin separates people from God, there is good news: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.  He saves homosexuals and heterosexuals who are steeped in sin.  But let's not be too hard on Broussard for this omission, because it is one that Christians have made almost every time they come into the public square.  It seems that we are very quick to denounce homosexuality as sin, but are less quick to affirm that Jesus saves sinners.  This must be a part of our conversation.  After all, we're gospel people.  We revel in the forgiveness of sin and application of grace to our lives.  Let's talk about how Jesus made us new, even though we were utterly hopeless and lost in sin, and how he can do that for anyone who comes to him.

I should know, he did it for me.

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