Don’t Call Me Ignorant

For the first time ever, an athlete from one of the four major sports has come out publicly and announced he’s gay. Jason Collins, an 11 year NBA pro, was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story recently to make the big announcement. News articles are all over the place, but in case you missed it, you can read one of them here. Not surprisingly, there have been a lot of interesting reactions. The majority of public response has been positive. A lot of other athletes and voices in the media have poured out their support for Jason. Naturally, there are some who have reacted negatively. But it seems, as even Jason said himself, that this seemed like the right time for a pro athlete to come out and be honest about his controversial sexuality.

Now, let me say a few things here before anyone freaks out on me. First, I admire Jason Collins. It’s true that it took guts to do what he did. And I think he did it for the right reasons (ie. not for publicity sake). Everything I have heard about him has been very positive – team guy, caring individual, gives back to the community, the whole nine yards. Rock on. I’m all for that stuff!

Second, I don’t care if Jason Collins is gay or not. At least not personally. It doesn’t really change the way I think about him. I don’t think it’s necessary to broadcast anyone’s sexuality, but I get why he would do it. It’s another small victory for marginalized people everywhere, knowing that it’s okay to be proud of who you are and not feel like you have to hide it. I’m sure what Jason has done is an encouragement to others who fear “coming out”.

But here’s my beef with the whole thing. And it’s not so much with this particular incident as it is with the whole gay issue. I’m getting annoyed at being called ignorant. If you haven’t figured it out, yes, I’m one of those Bible-thumping Christians who believes that homosexuality is a sin. I can do this without hating anyone, believe it or not. I’m not anti-gay. I am pro Jesus. I believe that everyone is a sinner, and we all sin in various kinds of ways. My sin may be different from yours, but it’s all the same really. I’m no better than anyone else. I don’t look down on others (at least I try not to). I don’t single out being gay as the worst sin ever, or worse than my own. I just believe, like the Bible says, that all sin separates us from God and therefore we need a Saviour. That’s why I’m a Christian. I recognize that before God I am guilty, and so I trust that Jesus pardoned me by dying in my place for my sin. I think everyone needs this and therefore I encourage everyone to become a Christian.

Does this make me ignorant? By definition, ignorance is a lack of knowledge. It is being naive to something that causes you not to treat the issue properly. One of the words that I keep reading and hearing since Jason went public is that those out there who disagree are ignorant. Really? That could be true of some, I suppose. But to call someone ignorant because they disagree with you doesn’t make sense. One example is a tweet sent out by NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who tweeted of Jason’s announcement: “Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.” Why is the word “ignorant” always used? I have the same beef with the phrase “homophobic”. It annoys me because I am neither ignorant nor homophobic. I happen to be well informed on the gay rights issue and the history surrounding it. I know people who are gay and what they sometimes go through. I’m not naive to the whole thing. And I’m not afraid (phobic) of it all, either. I know the same stuff as you, I just come to a different conclusion. I don’t see it the same as others. But that doesn’t make me ignorant.

Can I encourage anyone reading this to drop the label “ignorant” as a general term for anyone who disagrees? Just say it like it is – we disagree. My opinion and your opinion are both valuable. They should both be respected. They may also be very thoughtfully crafted. That does not equal ignorance. Try saying it a different way, like “those who don’t agree” or “those of a different mindset”. Just as we should show respect for someone like Jason coming out, we should show respect to those who see things differently. Don’t be ignorant by calling people ignorant. 

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