To Ron Brown: Coach your own team

This is probably a generational thing, but, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why we are talking about whether homosexual Americans deserve equal protection under the law.

They do, in my opinion.

And poll after poll show an overwhelming majority of people of my generation and younger agree.

Yet, this is all we seem to be talking about lately — a fact at least somewhat attributable to this being an election year. President Obama said he believes gay marriage should be legal, a day after citizens of North Carolina made it unconstitutional. This debate even has infiltrated sports, which, on their best days (and somewhat ironically), provide insulation from the “us vs. them” attitudes that pervade so much of society nowadays.

Sports’ inclusion in the gay-rights debate comes courtesy of Ron Brown, the Nebraska assistant football coach who was preaching hell fire and damnation in March while speaking against a proposed ordinance that would safeguard Omahans from being fired for their sexual orientation.

“The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?” Brown asked an assembled crowd that day in Omaha, his words carrying more weight because of where he coaches and the import that program has in the state. “Ultimately, if you don’t have a relationship with Him, and you don’t have a Bible-believing mentality, really anything goes . . . At the end of the days, it matters what God thinks most.”

What I also fervently believe is a column is a conversation. And nine months into my relationship with you, my reader, it is long past time I answered a question that came after almost every Tim Tebow column I wrote.

Yes, I am a Bible-believing Christian.

And I wholeheartedly agree it matters most what God thinks.

What I cannot quite wrap my brain around in this whole gay-rights debate is why so many feel so comfortable speaking for Jesus — how He feels, whom He hates, why He thinks the log in their eye is OK and the speck in a brother’s is unforgivable, why He believes they are right and anybody who disagrees is wrong, preaching the sanctity of marriage while on their fourth wife, using Jesus as a defense for every vile and mean thing that flies from their mouths.

If the question is WWJD, I find no Biblical justification for the answer, “demonize, villainize and condemn to hell anybody who does not believe, or look or act as you do.”

This is not to say I believe Ron Brown deserves to be fired for what he said in Omaha or what he believes about gays and their rights. Just as Ozzie Guillen has a right to be an idiot, so does Ron Brown to his version of the Bible, however bigoted some might find his interpretation. What I do believe is Ron Brown, and really all of us, would be wise to embrace a basic tenet of sports.

Coach your own team.

This is not Biblical, of course. Jesus did not say this; at least, not exactly. Yet so much of His teachings had this theme of focusing on getting your own life right with God. He exhorted only he who is without sin to cast the first stone. He was constantly turning people’s judgment back on them in the Gospels, confronting them with their own fallibility and biases.

My favorite hymn growing up was “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” And I often wonder how well they know us now — certainly not by our love.

What do we tell people about Jesus when we condemn them to hell in His name? Or perform the lingual gymnastics of loving the sinner and hating the sin in His name? Or do anything except that which He commanded again and again, which was to love one another as we love ourselves?

“One of my questions for people like this who clearly see themselves on the side of the truth is, ‘What do you lose in this?’ " said my friend, pastor Daniel, when I called him posing this question. “What does Ron Brown stand to lose by this ordinance being enacted?”

I know what the argument has been over the years — that giving gay Americans equal protection under the law condones what some people of faith believe to be a sin, that gay marriage threatens their own marriage. None of which feels true to me; nor does this idea that treating one another with decency and kindness somehow diminishes my faith. It actually feels like a basic tenet.

So why do we do this, the faithful among us being the most incendiary about enforcing our views of Scripture on others?

“The problem is, everybody picks and chooses the verses they like and the ones that they don’t. And rather than being honest about that and having an honest conversation, they say, ‘I take everything in the Bible seriously and literally,’ " pastor Daniel explained. “What I would say to them is I will take you through the Levitical code, none of which you do. But you are going to pull this one verse out and the 26 others you ignore because they are culturally irrelevant to you.”

Bible cherry-picking has been used throughout history to justify things we now universally view as vile — slavery, discrimination against blacks and women, condemnation of interracial marriage. It is likely my 3-year-old daughter will one day say to me, “Mom, why on earth were y’all debating that?”

I do not have a good answer.

“This is going to sound terribly cynical. For a lot of people, a lot of religious people, one of the most important things is to want to be right, and sometimes our desire to be right and on the correct side of issues and history — to be on the winning team, to use a sports term — that is so important it trumps all rationality for people,” pastor Daniel said. “And I just think that blinds people, and it makes them unable to question themselves or be self critical or hold what they think with a little bit of humility.”

Humility requires Ron Brown and the rest of us to coach our own teams and let Jesus speak for himself when it comes to the sins of others.