Rick Reilly's wide world of sports, apparently, has little use for conservative evangelical Christians and their convictions. Last year he mocked a teenage Christian wrestler who defaulted rather than wrestle a girl. Now the ESPN columnist has set his sights on Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown, who has been politically active in local government debates about expanding anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation. [Related item: ESPN Columnist Agitates for Coach's Firing for Proclaiming His Religious Beliefs]
"Like to meet one of the doomed sinners who has Ron Brown so inflamed?" Reilly asked rhetorically before introducing readers to one Brett Major who "thanks to Ron Brown himself" became a Christian:
"He came and spoke to a youth group I was in," says Major, now 24. "I think I was 11. He was such a dynamic speaker. And he was a Nebraska football coach. We idolized anybody that had anything to do with Nebraska football. I just sat there and went, 'Wow. He's cool and he's Nebraska football and he believes in God.' And that's all it took for me."
At the frenzied peak of his speech, peppered with Huskers football stories, Brown called any listeners who were ready to devote their lives to Christ to come stand with him and join his "team." Brett Major came forward. Ron Brown took him by the hand.
"That was a milestone for me," Major says. "I decided I wanted to live a Christian life from that moment on."
And now Coach Brown says he's going to hell.
"I couldn't care less," says Major, who is getting his master's in psychology at Wake Forest. "I know God doesn't make a mistake. He didn't put me on this earth to be banished to hell."
It's a cute convention upon which Reilly is building his column: pitting a young man who became a Christian, and an outwardly devout one at that, thanks in no small part to Brown. Of course, Reilly is hardly a theologian or Bible expert, so he found a liberal Christian to bolster his argument, all in service of damning Brown as a hypocrite who is "living a lie" and will one day answer to an angry Jesus Christ (emphasis mine):
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."
The Omaha anti-discrimination law passed, despite Brown's fiery warnings, and now Lincoln is considering a similar law. Public debate begins Monday. Brown has not said if he will be there to campaign against it, but he has the right. Apparently, he can spew whatever bigoted, hateful, un-Christian message he wants, without risk of losing his job.
"It reflects so poorly on the state and the team I love," Major says. "Nebraska is known for respect for everybody. Even if we get beat in Lincoln, we stand up and clap for the other team. I'm proud of that. Ron Brown is not only going against what his own university wants, he's going against our unwritten law of respect for all."
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.
But the question I have for him is: What is he going to do with Jesus?
Reilly appears to be conflating Ron Brown's statements on public policy with the sort of extreme, un- and anti-Christian hatred that spews from the mental gutters of say the Westboro Baptist Church folks. But at no point can Reilly produce anything that's actually "bigoted, hateful, [and/or] un-Christian" about Brown's public testimony on proposed anti-discrimination laws.
Reilly would do well to stick to sports and lay off the theology until he's actually prepared to cogently examine the questions involved in a fair and intellectually honest manner.