There was a day when America listened when its spiritual conscious shouted “sin.” A day when America had a spiritual conscience. That day is gone. Welcome to the unadulteratedly secular America. Secular and proudly so. Today, America bristles when anyone dares to speak to its once spiritually attuned conscience, like a child being asked to eat broccoli for the first time. So what happened? The answer is summed up in one word: secularism.
Secularism is a state of being, apart from spiritual or religiously-based views or values. It is an approach or perhaps even a worldview that excludes God from the day to day realities of decision making. Religious people can be secular, and secular people can be religious. But, since real Christianity has little to do with religion and everything to do with taking up your cross daily, and being transformed in the image of Jesus Christ, it is essentially impossible for a Christian to be a truly secular person. (It would be a miserable thing to try… the worst of both worlds). Thus the current “rub” in our culture wars in America.
A few weeks ago an “active” player in the NBA, Jason Collins, “came out” as a gay man. (Collins is a marginal talent who is also a free agent and it remains to be seen if he still has any basketball at the NBA level left in him or not, but you get the idea). This is a rarity among active elite athletes in this country. Collins was widely celebrated by a transparent media-driven bandwagon as this generation’s Jackie Robinson for gay America. Based on the marginal nature of his talents and the general yawn the “coming out” received from the American public, it is hard to imagine Collins mentioned in the same breath with Jackie Robinson. The dialogue will heat up again, I am sure, if and when he takes the court in the upcoming season, so I suppose time will tell. But that is not specifically what draws my attention to the incident for this blog.
The part of the story that drew my interest was a very peripheral happening. An ESPN contributor named Chris Broussard committed secular America’s most heinous cultural taboo… yes, worse than cursing your country, burning your flag, slandering your president, or even a host of felonies and misdemeanors (many ESPN hosts have had some DUI issues and the like, but I doubt you saw much attention given to those events), worse than all that… Chris Broussard uttered the “s” word in reference to Collins. No, not the French “S” word… the Biblical “S” word: SIN.
To set the context, Broussard is an outspoken Christian as well as a very well-known sports journalist. Broussard is president and CEO of the K.I.N.G. Movement. Their by-line is “Empowering Men Through the Lord Jesus Christ” and they focus on men fulfilling their roles as spiritual leaders and godly mentors to kids, etc. Broussard did not go looking for a camera to shout hate to, he was pointedly asked to reconcile biblical teachings with Collins’ open homosexuality, and Broussard bravely acknowledged that you cannot… that it is sin, yet he also suggested that this is a free country and he expressed hopes that Collins would not be singled out, ostracized or taunted, but supported and accepted by teammates and fans. He has since emphasized that point repeatedly.
Here is exactly what Broussard said in reference to the sin portion of his comment, “Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you are living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin,” said Broussard. “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” Thank you, Broussard for being honest! Wow! On the other hand, I wonder how the average ESPN viewer will take such comments. It did not take long to find out.
Of course, ESPN came under a Twitter barrage for Broussard’s use of such “hateful” language and ESPN executives knocked each other over trying to be the first to issue an apology for Broussard’s insensitivity.
Why such outrage (even if a large portion of it is feigned outrage)? Because sin is a conversation America can no longer have. This is the inevitable path of unbridled secularism. America may think it is the path to peace, harmony, and utopia. You know if the religious nuts would just be quiet and keep their views to themselves wars would cease, the economy would revive, and dogs and cats would finally get along. The means of making the “CoExist” bumper stickers come true has finally been discovered… believe nothing too strongly and we will all get along fine. Europe went down this path about a century ago… look at how well it worked out for them (sarcasm slip up there). Whoops—they ignited two World Wars and countless recessions and many countries are now experiencing an alarming rise of nationalism and a return of anti-Semitism. What happened? In the Bible, Paul describes the path Europe went down, and that America is going down quite precisely in Romans 1:26-28…
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
The part about “God giving them up” seems particularly chilling.
So, as a pastor, here is what I am asking myself: How effective will it be to discuss “sin” with this newly minted and highly secular America? I suspect not very. I am not criticizing Broussard’s comments, which I find brave and admirable and honest. I just think they will do little good. They are the ultimate illustration of what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:6:
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
So what conversation can people of faith have with secular America, if we steer clear of the “S” word? Are we just to be silent, subdued citizens? God forbid. No, but we are going to have to love godless, secular America like we have never loved it before. In loving our neighbor, and living a godly life before them, there will come a moment when they will invite truth into the conversation… because it is hard to live in denial when standing really close to a bright, perfect light.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Jesus rarely dealt “initially” (first contact) with people at the point of their sin, unless, of course, it was the pseudo-religious self-righteous types. There were a few exceptions, but not many. Jesus said… let me show you the power of God’s love, then people swarmed him like moths to a flame. Then he was able to speak deeper, and more painful truths… even using the “S” word when necessary.
And the truth shall set you free…