When I woke up late last Monday, the first things I saw trending on Twitter were "Tim Tebow" and "The Gay Athlete." Immediately, I thought Tim Tebow was one of the several gay NFL players who had mulled the idea of coming out. Would absolutely explain the whole "still a virgin" thing, right?
Alas, Tim Tebow was not the dude to make history or become our generation's Jackie Robinson. That title now aptly belongs to Jason Collins, former center for the Washington Wizards (and a whole shlew of other teams).
However, it seemed like fates aligned that day. Jason Collins made history for being the first openly gay player active in one of the four major sports in the country and Tim Tebow -- "God's quarterback" -- was unceremoniously released by the New York Jets. A perfect storm for conservative crazies to whip up something else to be pissed about other than Obama, women who do what they want with their vaginas, and the lack of prayers in schools.
The more tweets and comments I read about Collins, the more Tebow started to pop up in ways that didn't concern his release. "So Jason Collins gets praised for coming out as gay, but Tim Tebow gets mocked for being a Christian? Wow". Or perhaps my favorite rhetorical question coming from consummate hater and "former professional boxer-turned-just-lazy-out-of-shape man" Matt Barber. "We praise those who encourage sexual sin and mock those who follow the Bible."
People, seriously, stop. Stop with the whole, "Why is it OK to make fun of Tim Tebow for being a good Christian but we commend Jason Collins for being gay?" thing.
When Tim Tebow can legally get fired in 29 states simply for being a Christian, then we'll talk. Because in theory, if free agent Jason Collins signed with the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, or the Philadelphia 76ers, just to name a few, he could get fired just for being gay. It's like getting fired for being black. Or a woman. Or having an outtie bellybutton. Want to know how many states Tim Tebow could get fired in for being a Christian who likes to kneel on the turf? None. Zero. In fact, if any team ever fired Tebow for being a Christian, he could sue and he would win without a doubt. Why? Because in every state, personal chosen faith-based beliefs are protected, while orientation is not. Kind of ironic, considering orientation is an innate, immutable trait while people change their belief system every day.
When Tim Tebow can't marry his Christian partner, then we'll talk. When Christians become a persecuted minority without certain rights then we'll talk. When religion becomes an innate, immutable trait that someone doesn't personally choose, then we'll talk. Until then, asking why it's okay to mock Tim Tebow for kneeling on the field and talking about being a virgin for God, it's because he personally chooses to believe in an invisible hippie in the sky that hates sex and subscribe to some (but clearly not all) parts of an ancient book that says a dude lived in a big fish for three days. It is a personal choice and he opts to talk about it. It's like asking why is it okay to mock your friend who personally chooses to not shower, or personally chooses to listen to Indigo Girls. Because they choose to do it -- they weigh the pros and the cons of the choice they are making and opt that it's worth the opinions coming from the people who DON'T choose to do it. No one is born a Christian. No one's personal religion is unchangeable. Ironic, as that tends to be a vocal false argument from the other side regarding orientation. And the beliefs that come along in any religion are more often than not a little out there. So yes, those personal choices are open to ridicule because they are personal choices, just like hair style, clothing style, musical taste, food taste, dating taste, etc. Yet, they are personal choices that come with protections. No amount of mocking or questioning or dissecting or discussion about whether or not I agree with Christianity will outlaw Christian beliefs. On the flip side, there are daily discussions across the country about people's opinions regarding sexual orientation, and those discussions -- often headed by people who clearly don't have any understanding of orientation -- are making laws like DOMA and preventing laws like ENDA, subsequently denying rights to LGBT people and making their lives harder.
That is why Collins is brave, because sadly, there are still so many potential pitfalls that come with the acknowledgement of one's orientation. Tebow's biggest issue with announcing his Christianity is people like me who have an opinion and a blank Word document and nothing more. I can't take anything away from him (nor would I want to). Collin's biggest issue? Getting fired. Getting kicked out of an apartment. Denied service at a public accommodation. Being denied rights. Having the Matt Barbers and Peter LaBarbaras of the world call him a pervert, a deviant, a bad person, attempting to link him to things like incest, pedophilia and mental illness all because he said he was gay. That's why it's brave. That's why it's different than Tebow. Tebow has nothing to lose by professing Christianity other than a little ego when writers like me mock him for claiming to be a virgin. Collins has a lot to lose and he still chose to acknowledge his innate truth regardless. Yes, Matt Barber, that's brave.
But yes, poor Tim Tebow, a white Christian male. How did he EVER survive growing up in America? What a story of overcoming the odds and being successful, because so few white, Christian males ever are successful, what with all those hurdles holding them back in life. Tough life, that Tim Tebow has. Screw Martin Luther King Jr. Day, dude had it easy compared to poor Tim Tebow! Man can't even kneel on a field and speak to the invisible sky man without people chuckling or throwing shade! Come on people. Being chided for weird religious practices pales in comparison to getting fired for innate traits like handedness and orientation. They aren't on the same playing field at all.
I have never, in all my online newshound reading, come across a story about a Christian child who committed suicide because other kids bullied them for being Christian. I have never read about a Christian in the U.S. being denied service at a hotel, bakery, or florist because they believe in Jesus. I have never read about gay people tying Christians to a farm pole and leaving them for dead because of their beliefs. I have never heard of people being forced to endure shock therapy, or reparative therapy because they believe in Jesus or God or Mary. The importance of Jason Collins coming out not just to the sports world, but the world in general, can't be compared to the fact that people make fun of Tim Tebow because in the rare instances he does something right on the field he attributes it to God. Christians have never had a tough time feeling welcomed in a locker room - hell, how many football teams pray before games? Christians never had to endure terms like "fag" and "queer" being hurled while in an opponent's stadium. Christian kids were never at a loss for a Christian sports role model. But gay kids? To gay kids who play any sport, this makes a statement to them that they can be part of a team, too. They can contribute to a win. They can succeed regardless of those fans who might call them a fag. Or those bosses who might fire them just for being gay. Or those people who tell them they are going to hell just for being who they are. Comparing Tebow's chosen faith -- one that the majority of people in this country subscribe to -- to Collins innate orientation that still holds unwarranted stigma and a lack of civil liberties does no good for anyone. They are two completely different aspects of a person with, sadly, very different protections and rights. Those who seek to put Tebow on a pedestal for embracing a popular, majority belief are taking away from the epic moment in history that Collins just made, and the countless lives he might have saved in the young LGBT community. Leave Tebow and his turf-kneeling out of this.