30 April 2013

NBA, fantastic. Also now a social controversy.

1) The NBA and NBA affiliated athletes have been sort of at an unusually high place for things like diversity and tolerance for a while now (for instance, by starting the unwatchable but equally available WNBA, and obviously being a bastion of support for Obama's candidacy and Presidency), so the idea that an NBA player would be the first male athlete to come out as gay while still active, more or less, is not all that surprising. There were numerous signs this would probably be the case, from stories like Kenneth Faried's two moms, Magic Johnson's son, and so on.

2) I understand some, maybe most, of the public kerfuffle surrounding and attacking Chris Broussard's comments on OTL when ESPN (finally) got around to covering the Collins story. I'm not sure I agree with most of it though. I don't think it was hate speech to declare his beliefs, he made no overt political suggestion (regarding his views on gay marriage for example), and he clarified, as he had before, that he didn't think it should disqualify a player from playing in the NBA. I think it is fine to disagree that his interpretation of the Christian faith should apply to other Christians, or to people who are gay and Christian, and so forth. I'm not sure he rises to being a bigot on the basis that he thinks something that some other people do is a sin however. Lots of people presumably believe adultery is a sin under a Christian interpretation. They are not bigots for believing this to be a serious flaw of people who are unfaithful in their marriages. People in other faiths or with different interpretations of Christianity think alcohol or pork or working on Sundays are sins too. Again, these are not bigotry based associations for alcoholics or bacon lovers or football players. It could rise to that level if, according to that belief, one felt they should discriminate against athletes and work to prevent their ability to play in a professional league (as it would if they discriminated against someone who was black or Jewish or Muslim or Christian, or a bacon loving alcoholic for that matter), and to some extent if they believed public policy should share their personal religious beliefs and discriminate against homosexual couples, or people who are unfaithful in marriages or who consume alcohol, or whatever else is classified as mortally wrong by some religious text and its interpreters.

But so far as I can tell, Broussard made no such statement, and mostly repeated something he had already said sometime before. To be honest, if there is anyone to be mad at here, it is ESPN for putting him on to say something that didn't contribute to the conversation significantly. Certainly there may be NBA players of a devout and particular religious interpretation would will be uncomfortable around a homosexual player. I don't think we needed Broussard to tell us that. Collins or Granderson could have said as much just as easily, and he had already said this himself some time ago. In general however, I do not think they needed to deny him a platform, that they should fire him, or that anything he said rises affirmatively to the level of some variety of hate speech. So I don't get the level of ire that was involved in him saying something unpopular. It was unpopular and unpleasant and it was from a strain of Christianity and beliefs associated therein. And that's pretty much all he said.

3) That said, when someone says something unpopular and is publicly castigated for doing so, this is not equal to the levels of repression involved or the difficulty and emotional turmoil and anguish involved in say, someone coming out publicly as gay. There are still significant parts of the country where this is not greeted warmly and matter-of-factly, where there are parents who may disown or shun their own children or (former) friends, where there are churches who will not admit someone for worship, and where there are schools and communities where one may be ostracized, beaten, or even killed, for such an admission as "I am a gay man". There are not, in general, such communities in the United States, or Western educated, industrialised societies as a whole that would do so for an admission like "I am a Christian and this is what I believe". There are places in the world where such an admission may be dangerous in those ways, and pose a particular hardship, but such places generally share an aversion both for Christians and for homosexuals (say, Iran or Egypt) and are matched by places where the STATE, not merely the extralegal use of repression by violently bigoted people as with honor killings in Brazil for example, may kill and detain and punish people for homosexuality in ways that it would not for Christians. Many of these on the strict basis of Christian teachings (say, Uganda).

I already have long tired of the mythological rantings of Christians as a persecuted minority in a nation where they assemble into an overwhelming majority of the public, and by this impose all manner of public policy upon the lot of us (blue laws, various vice laws, various forms of censorship, etc). But this latest incident of such claims of how hard it is to be "a Christian" is flatly ridiculous. There are particular views of some Christians that are commonly ridiculed, or attacked as unfair and unethical, or as unfounded or otherwise unsettled for debate in theological scholarship. I would agree this happens, but I'm not sure it is oppressive to state disagreement with these views or that these views are not held by others, or that there are theological interpretations and scholars that differ widely as to the appropriateness of those views. Likewise, there are particular groups of Christians with very strict or peculiar interpretations (say the WBC as one of the extremes, or the KKK) who are attacked for their expression of these unpopular perspectives. But being called names and being offended by the popular representation of oneself in culture is hardly a new experience when someone has had something unpopular or unpleasant to say, nor a basis for thinking one to be oppressed. These are not true hardships or emblems of persecution for other people to disagree emotionally and strongly with your beliefs, to call them bigoted, prejudiced, or ignorant.

It is a form of coercion, yes. But it is not required that one must be welcome at a NYC or San Francisco cocktail party of moderate and liberal elites in order to be free to spout opinions, facts, or even total nonsense as an American. It is not required that people agree with you for your freedom of conscience and belief to be respected and your speech unimpeded when expressing it. It is not even required that people do not socially discriminate against views they find repugnant for these things to happen. Indeed, for the coercion to have any effect, it must first cause us to reexamine these unpopular notions and beliefs, look for better more convincing or socially acceptable ways to express them, and ultimately chill our speech and expression with self censorship if we cannot do so or do not evolve in our ways. I see no evidence even that this process is mandated upon Christians as it might be for say, racists. No one is forcing a change in Christian theology and dogma upon Christians on this point.

4) Look. Christians. If you want to understand real oppression. Try being an atheist in your society here in America. Very nearly HALF of the population would not want someone like me to marry their daughter. Half of you automatically dismiss me in one of the more meaningful ways a human being can want to be (not that I'd want to marry a religious woman anyway and am quite comfortable around secularists and atheists personally for such things as surround my sex life and intimate attachments, but it's not like I'd automatically dismiss the proposition if someone were to have been otherwise suitable). A third of the population would not want to hire an atheist as a waiter or waitress, over half as a teacher, and two thirds wouldn't want one as a child care worker. Employment discrimination continues as much as possible as a result. Numerous states still have on their law books (if unenforceable and unconstitutional) religious tests preventing atheists from public service positions, and precious few public officials are elected as atheists or secularists. All while large quantities of evangelicals, Catholics, and so on continue to be elected and re-elected. To be sure, one wouldn't expect a first-past-the-post electoral system to elect many non-Christians in a society where almost 80% of the population evinces a Judeo-Christian ethic. To be sure, atheists have advantages over Muslims in that we have few obvious and open associations from which to be base a coercive system of surveillance and police profiling. To be sure atheists have precious advantages over many oppressed minorities in this society, in that their lack of belief need only never be openly expressed while racial intolerance needs only eyes, or a homosexual (or perceived so) need only appear in the company of their same-sex affectionately in any public manner. Nevertheless, this is a community of people that is told, repeatedly, that it is not trusted, unworthy, is openly disliked, and even openly discriminated against. That is not the community of Christianity, or even evangelical Christianity.

Let me know when Christianity reaches that point in America, where half the public won't trust a young Christian man with their daughter or large percentages of people won't trust someone wearing a cross necklace to serve them food in a restaurant or won't hire such a person in the first place. Or even, where we reach a point where that seems like a plausible future for our children or grandchildren to grow up into. There is no evidence such a society is likely, even with a growing number of disaffected young people from organised religions. At worst, a moderately secularist future where traditional religions are tolerated and respected private institutions as in Europe is your future. And not a society where native Christians are hunted down, beaten, cast out of society as might be arguably the case in parts of Egypt. Much less the society atheists observe for themselves today.

So. Until then, I don't want to hear it. Go fuck yourself with your sense of entitlement.
Post a Comment