FIRST-PERSON: Gay men in the NFL

Tags: manhood

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) -- ESPN recently published a story in which Kansas State offensive tackle Scott Frantz identified himself as a gay man. CNN quickly seized upon the story, prognosticating that the NFL would soon have its first openly gay player. The media was similarly entranced with Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay man ever drafted by the NFL in 2014.

Clearly those who seek to normalize homosexuality see a gay man playing in the NFL as the next Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage which constituted a significant step toward the normalization and acceptance of homosexuality.

An openly gay NFL player would be seen as a cultural victory -- a Jackie Robinson moment for those who, wrongly, equate the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement.

Stereotypes of American manhood are heavily influenced by the NFL. "Real men" are big, tough and muscular. The quintessential American man is exemplified by the likes of Joe Montana, Russell Wilson and Bo Jackson. He takes hits and keeps going. If a gay man plays in the NFL, the message is clear: Gay men are "real men."

How should Christians respond? Perhaps surprisingly, Christians should be unmoved. Openly gay men will undoubtedly be successful and appreciated in the NFL just as they are in a variety of other vocations.

The real battle that should concern Christians is not the NFL but cultural assumptions regarding manhood. For too long, Christians have allowed culture to unduly influence our views of manhood. This latest news about the NFL is a good time for Christians to assert a biblical view of what it means to be a "real man." Hint: It has nothing to do with a football.

Biblical manhood is first and foremost about fearing God, and not about inspiring fear in other men (see Proverbs 1:7, 1 Timothy 5:8, Romans 13:1-7, Ephesians 5:25).

Biblical manhood is not measured in rushing yards and passing percentage, but in love, service and holiness. The end zone of biblical manhood is faithfulness to Jesus and His local church. Hall of fame men are faithful to their wives, provide for their families and finish the race. Biblical men only resort to acts of violence when life and liberty are on the line, not for adulation or entertainment.

Of course, it is possible to play football and embrace biblical manhood; the two are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, where there are conflicting versions of masculinity, Christians should take notice and remain faithful to Scripture.

Gay men playing in the NFL may cloud the cultural picture of manhood, but not the biblical picture.

Adam Groza is vice president of enrollment services and associate professor of philosophy at Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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