FIRST-PERSON: A football coach, under fire for biblical beliefs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) -- Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com is not very tolerant of longtime Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown's behavior. Wojciechowski finds Brown's publicly vocalized views on homosexuality in breach of his role as a representative of a state and federally funded university.
Brown, you see, has been vocal in opposing a proposed Omaha gay rights law.
Wojciechowski recently began an ESPN.com commentary with these words: "Let's say there is a gay running back on the Nebraska roster. And Ron Brown is his position coach. Now what? Think about that for a moment. And then think about Brown's very public stance against homosexuality."
Wojciechowski has given it some thought and arrived at the conclusion that Ron Brown should be fired. That's right, fired -- for expressing beliefs on a subject that are consistent with the prevailing view of Americans for the vast majority of our nation's history.
Of course, the majority of Americans no longer hold a negative view of homosexuality. According to Gallup research, the perceived acceptability of gay/lesbian relations crossed the 50 percent threshold in 2010. But does that mean that homosexuality is healthy and acceptable behavior?
Statistically, homosexuals experience greater levels of addiction, depression and diseases. Some, though, place the blame for these problems at the feet of the condemning portion of the populace. In other words, if we eliminate social rejection of homosexuality in our society, these negative statistics associated with it will recede to normal levels.
However, extensive research conducted in the Netherlands -- one of the more liberal countries on the planet -- has revealed that the likelihood of psychiatric disease being attributed to social rejection or "homophobia" is very low.
Wojciechowski even took offense at Brown's office voice message, which says: "I praise the Lord Jesus Christ for today. I hope you're having a blessed day. Not able to answer my phone right now. Give me a try back and Lord willing, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day." That, Wojciechowski said, conflicts with the "separation of church and state."
The thought of tax dollars going to pay the salary of a man who actually takes the Bible seriously seems unconscionable to the senior national columnist for ESPN.com.
What grieved me most in reading Wojciechowski's column is the fact that he engaged in assassinating Ron Brown's character without referencing the opinions of anyone who worked closely with the man. Wojciechowski would have done well to call upon Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, a practicing Muslim.
If anyone would be able to attest to the supposed bigoted, narrow-minded, discriminatory behavior of Ron Brown, it surely would be Abdullah. After all, Ron Brown believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, something Ameer should take great offense at, considering his Muslim beliefs.
But an Omaha World-Herald story from last September dispelled any notions that Ron Brown was discriminatory in his relationship with Abdullah. In fact, the opposite is clearly the case, with writer Dirk Chatelain painting the picture of a non-discriminating, compassionate coach who treated the Muslim running back with dignity and respect
Yet we get Wojciechowski asking questions like, "Would you want to play for a coach who thinks God loves gays less than women or African-Americans? Would you want to play for a coach who preaches compassion and love, but is willing to turn his back on a fellow human being because of that person's sexual orientation?"
If the reader is not familiar with the logical fallacy of the straw man, here is a classic example. By asking these ridiculous questions, Wojciechowski has erected a straw man, torched it, and proclaimed victory, while the real Ron Brown, godly, compassionate and committed to God's truth, stands untouched by these false accusations.
Brown is more concerned with faithfulness to Scripture than cultural trends. The Scriptures are clear that homosexual behavior is sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:26-27). "The same thing that was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today," Brown has said. "The thing that was right 2,000 years ago is right today."
I've taken Wojciechowski's advice to heart. I've thought about what it would be like for a gay running back to play for Ron Brown. And I've arrived at a different conclusion than the esteemed ESPN.com columnist. I believe Ron Brown would treat that player with dignity and respect and love, even if disagreeing with his personal, private behavioral choices.
The University of Nebraska would do well to support their loyal employee's right to free speech and not cave in to the pressure from those who are naively and intolerantly calling for his job.
Brett Maragni is senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville, Fla., and a frequent columnist for BP Sports (BPSports.net).Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).