Disagree with ESPN’s Rick Reilly? You’re fired.

Much attention has been paid to the recent diagnosis of conservatives as biologically flawed. The argument is essentially that conservatives are oblivious to science, facts, whatever; and vote the way they do due to inherent brain chemistry. As Lady Gaga might say, they’re “born this way”. Would liberals then support legislation outlawing discrimination against conservatives? Like the discrimination they face in academia and Hollywood? Don’t count on it.

Likewise, it is doubtful Rick Reilly of ESPN would support such a law, but he clearly finds anyone who’d oppose the Nebraska law adding homosexuals as a protected class to be, well, “an abomination”. He begins his most recent column by pulling a quote with no point of reference and sticking it between two poorly worded summary assertions:

Homosexuals are an abomination in God’s eyes, believes Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown. Recently, he threatened the Omaha city council with eternal damnation if it passed a bill that would keep businesses from firing workers because they’re gay.

“You will be held to great accountability for the decision you make,” Brown scolded. “The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?”

Like to meet one of the doomed sinners who has Ron Brown so inflamed?

This effort is cheap journalism and a cheap argument. The only person “inflamed” in this story is Reilly himself, who alternates between subtly and blatantly accusing Brown of condemning homosexuals to hell. The only problem is that Brown has done nothing of the sort. Here is a fuller quote from Brown that Reilly neglects to mention, probably because it contradicts almost every other word he writes:

“I think Christians should love a homosexual teammate just like they would any other teammate,” Brown said. “Let me tell you what else is in that locker room. There are thieves, liars, people who lust, people addicted to pornography, even some players who are alcoholics. There are all kinds of sinners in that locker room. You put your arms around that person struggling with homosexuality and you help walk him or her to the truth of Jesus Christ, just as you would any other player involved in any other sin.”

Love homosexuals and bring them to the truth of Jesus Christ, huh? That doesn’t quite fit in with Reilly’s description of “spew(ing) whatever bigoted, hateful, un-Christian message he wants…” But it unsurprisingly matches Christian teaching, which condemns the act, not the person.

A discussion about the tension between religious belief and homosexuality in our society is a difficult, nuanced one… that Rick Reilly has no interesting in having. It is easier for him to caricature his opponent’s position, then criticize the context in which it is offered:

Brown, 55, speaks out often about Christ and against homosexuality, which is his First Amendment right. But Ron Brown wouldn’t get one-tenth of these offers to speak if he weren’t a Huskers coach. He’s an in-state celebrity. He admits he uses Huskers football as a platform to get his message out.

The big irony of that passage? Just as Ron Brown uses his sports platform to preach about Christianity, so has Rick Reilly used his sports platform to preach about Christianity and ideological uniformity on university campuses. But since the implication in the above is that this is unacceptable, should all famous people, including Reilly, just shut up?

And to these  next two sentences: why and so what? Does this mean Reilly speaks for ESPN, and that ESPN has launched on a crusade to redefine Christianity via Rick Reilly’s inane summary of it?

His personal opinions can’t be separated from his job. There are three paragraphs in the Nebraska media guide about his Christian work.

Next he provides the tired catch-all of state funding:

But should a man who campaigns for the right to discriminate against anybody — gays, Asians or pregnant women — be employed at a state-funded university that has a specific policy against such discrimination?

Liberals always use ‘state funding’ to invoke the thought police to enforce ideological conformity with the state. That is, when they agree with the state-approved message.

Apparently attempting to utilize every lame rhetorical technique in human history, Reilly then makes a bandwagon argument:

There are millions of Christians who think Brown is wrong on homosexuals. “The Bible gives no account of Jesus encountering homosexuals,” says Pastor Craig Finnestad of the Water’s Edge Methodist Church in Omaha. “Jesus loved everybody and his love for others didn’t depend on their behavior or beliefs.”

In the interests of brevity, I’ll leave Pastor Craig’s butchering of Christian teaching alone, other than to point out that the above is a non sequitur and fails to differentiate between Jesus’s love for others and his condemnation of their behaviors.

Continuing:

No, Ron Brown shouldn’t be fired. He should quit. He works for a school that welcomes homosexuals as equals. Which means he’s being paid by people who don’t share his moral values. He’s living a lie. He should retire from football and campaign full-time for our right to fire each other purely for being gay.

On top of again misrepresenting Brown’s beliefs, is Reilly implying that all Christians, Jews, and Muslims should quit university jobs? The teachings of all three major religions condemn homosexual acts. They all have varying doctrines and moral beliefs in other categories as well. Forced silence on these beliefs turns the idea of church/state separation on its head.

Reilly’s closing line:

But the question I have for him is: What is he going to do with Jesus?

Like the rest of his column, I don’t get it.

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