This blog focuses on sports content, not religion or politics or my thoughts on life. I have no intention of changing that. But the biggest local sports story of the weekend was Ron Brown’s decision not to testify this afternoon in front of the Lincoln City Council.
Brown, as you know, is opposed to homosexuality, and Lincoln — as I write this — is considering an ordinance that protects homosexuals from discrimination.
Bringing up the Brown story — even linking to a national column about him — is like dropping a match in a lake of gasoline. But it’s an important topic, one where sports and life intersect. In order to weigh in, I feel like I need to write about myself.
I am a Christian. And since childhood, athletic role models have been an important part of my spiritual journey. Perhaps no one more than Ron Brown.
When I was a kid, I read his book — “I Can.” It opens with the story of Victor Stachmus, a Nebraska football recruit diagnosed with leukemia. Right before he died, Brown writes, Stachmus accepted Jesus. It’s riveting testimony.
During high school and college, Ron Brown helped me come closer to Christ multiple times. Once, after hearing him speak, I ended up at the front of a church on my knees. Once, after reading a popular book that examined religious fanaticism, I sought his guidance.
Ron Brown is part of my spiritual story — I can’t change that if I wanted to.
That doesn’t mean we always see the world the same way.
Is Brown right from a religious perspective to condemn homosexuality? Is he right to speak out as a prominent employee at a state institution that espouses anti-discrimination? For me, the answers are complicated.
I think it’s lazy when national columnists misconstrue Brown’s views and make him a caricature. When they question how he’d treat a player who doesn’t buy his beliefs. When they can’t distinguish between disapproving of a person and disapproving of a behavior. When they call him a bigot.
But I also think it’s crazy to call Brown a victim. He hasn’t been fired for whom he falls in love with. His sexual orientation isn’t subject to constant judgment and scorn from complete strangers.
I question what it means to our society to censor someone like Ron Brown. But I also question to what degree our laws should reflect religious doctrine. And I wonder how Brown would feel if our legislation was guided by Islam or Judaism or Hinduism.
I want to do right by God. I don’t always know what “right” is.
I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. I also know what it says about compassion and empathy. About loving your neighbor — a commandment Jesus ranks second behind loving God.
I believe that Brown sincerely seeks religious truth. But the anti-discrimination proposal, as I understand it, doesn’t threaten the core principles of the Christian faith. It reinforces them.
Which is why I believe Brown is wrong.
Whether he’s trying or not, Brown’s words belittle homosexuals in a way that reflects negatively on Nebraska and — more importantly — on Christianity. I believe his tone and rhetoric over the years on other social issues has occasionally been heavy-handed and off the mark.
Does this mean Ron Brown has become more radical? Probably not. Perhaps I’ve changed, both as a person and as a Christian. Perhaps I’m wrong. I don’t know all the answers.
I do know that Ron Brown is one of the most eloquent, charismatic, passionate people I’ve ever met, Christian or non-Christian. He’s helped thousands — perhaps millions — of people, Christian and non-Christian.
I don’t want Brown to reserve his faith for Sunday mornings. I want him to lead. I want him to be a Christian voice on larger societal issues. I want him to promote not only what behavior the Bible prohibits, but the character traits it encourages. I want him to break down barriers between Christians and non-Christians, not compare council members to Pontius Pilate.
I want him to help people experience the same spiritual high I did reading about a teenager from Oklahoma who, on his deathbed, embraced Christ.
Mostly, I want Ron Brown to be a positive influence for his God. And mine.
(I understand the wishes to comment on Brown and the ordinance, but please, please do so respectfully.)