By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist pastor and seminary professor says Satan is pleased with comparisons being drawn between Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player drafted by the NFL, and Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947.
Sam, former defensive end for the University of Missouri, was recently drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft. Upon learning in front of live cameras on ESPN that the St. Louis Rams had selected him as the 249th overall pick in the draft, Sam broke into tears and gave his boyfriend a kiss.
Robinson, subject of a 2013 biopic film titled “42” and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, became the first African-American major leaguer when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
David Prince, pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., said in a commentary posted on the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website that while both Sam and Robinson are black athletes, the similarities end there.
Prince, a professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., noted that while Robinson endured hatred and persecution because of the color of his skin, Sam is being celebrated for his “self-identification” as a homosexual.
“Robinson initially sought to avoid media attention that was not directly related to his baseball performance,” Prince said. “He was not simply trying to overcome unjust laws and practices. He was trying to change the mind and hearts of ordinary Americans who foolishly thought blacks did not possess the mental toughness and personal character to compete with whites in professional sports and other walks of life.”
Sam, on the other hand, who if he makes the team would become the first openly gay player in NFL history, faces a different environment than when Branch Rickey signed Robinson, Prince observed.
“The media has almost uniformly celebrated Sam’s announcement and immediately began hailing him a hero of Robinson proportions,” Prince said. “Robinson encountered death threats, threats of violence on the field, teammates who refused to play with him, opposing teams that threatened not to take the field against him.”
Black baseball players in the 1940s and 1950s could not stay in the same hotels as white teammates or eat at the same restaurants, Prince said. Sam’s introduction comes as 17 states have legalized same-sex marriage.
Unlike attitudes toward race in Robinson’s era, Prince said, “Much of the institutional and structural authority in America is committed to aiding the cultural momentum to normalize homosexuality in all aspects of American culture.”
“Many are using Sam to advocate a dream that is at odds with the core message of the civil rights struggle,” Prince wrote. “It is a call not to judge one by the color of their skin or the content of their character. Homosexuality is a sin and we must have enough gospel courage and love for people to tell the truth about sin and to point sinners to the gospel of Christ.”
Prince said he is committed to pray for Sam and hopes he makes the Rams’ 53-man roster. “I am praying he follows in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson’s faith in Christ and that his Christian teammates befriend, love and serve him in Jesus name,” he explained.
Prince urged Christians to “meet the challenge of the sexual liberationist movement with that same call” that challenged Jim Crow with a call to faith and repentance a half-century ago.
“Satan is pleased with the narrative that Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson, because it is his same old temptation to look at the world without the cross of Christ (Matt. 4:1-11),” he said. “But the evil one would be equally pleased for Christians to look at the world without the cross of Christ from the opposing direction by declaring war on Sam as a two-dimensional enemy in an abstract culture war as if his failure would be our victory.”
National media have recently done stories suggesting a new generation of SBC leaders may be taking a more tolerant approach to homosexuality than in the past. Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., told pastors at a recent ERLC leadership summit on sexuality to “stop telling Adam and Steve jokes” and to reject “redneck theology” when it comes to homosexuality.
Meanwhile, Dwight McKissic, an African-American preacher in Texas, says he would like to see the Southern Baptist Convention pass a resolution at its upcoming annual meeting in Baltimore declaring it “inappropriate for children to be subjected to having to watch same-sex couples engage in public displays of affection while watching a sports-related event on allegedly family-friendly channels.”