A commentary on current events this week in the world of the broadcasting business. Some lessons on avoiding a trap for spiritual people in the public eye.
There is something compelling about the recent furor regarding Chris Broussard commenting on Jason Collins coming out and announcing he was gay. In case you missed the story, Jason is the first professional athlete in the four major sports (football, hockey, baseball, basketball) to do this. Following this, Chris Broussard, who is a reporter with ESPN who is known to be a Christian, was widely reported to have said that “Jason Collins is a sinner for being gay.” The inevitable furor and bigotry (from multiple directions) ensued.
This is one of those times where it is important to understand the context of the supposed quote and to listen to exactly what was said before reaching a conclusion. First, the setting for the statement was an ESPN television broadcast where a moderator had two specific guests; a “pro-gay” reporter and a “Christian” reporter (note both labels are in quotes because this is how they were described, which of course this writer can’t verify). The second important background item to know was that the issue being discussed was focused on Jason Collins describing himself as gay and a Christian. With this background, listen to the entire response by Chris Broussard.
After reflecting on this for some time, similarities to situations Jesus faced became apparent. Consider the following:
Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him:
“Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their duplicity and said to them,
“Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. Luke 20: 20-26
Check this one out as well:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus,
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her,
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared.
“Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11
Notice a trend here? Jesus was brilliant at recognizing a trap and rather than being drawn into offering an opinion, he turned the question back on those trying to entrap him.
These weren’t the only times he deployed this strategy. Reflect on other interactions:
Pontius Pilate (“Are you the King of the Jews?”) Jesus (“You have said so.”)
His disciples (“Whom do you say that I am?”)
Nicodemus (“You are Israel’s teacher and you don’t understand these things?”)
What is the common theme among these and many other similar interactions? When Jesus discerned He was either being led into a trap or in a very delicate situation, He brilliantly turned the issue back towards the other person or persons either through questioning or provocative statements. More importantly, He resisted the temptation to offer his opinion when that was exactly what the other(s) wanted. We would do well in the 21st century to ask for wisdom and follow a similar strategy.
However, to be fair to Chris Broussard, what could he have done differently? He is a reporter. It is his job to offer his opinion. The sports media was all over the story of Jason Collins. He is and was expected to respond to the questions put to him. However, perhaps Chris could have put the onus back on his questioner with:
“What do you think the Bible says about being a Christian and practising sex outside of marriage?” or “What has been the consistent teaching of Christianity on sexuality?”
Could there have been a wiser response or was this a defining moment where the truth needed to be clearly and respectfully put forward? Listen to the quote again and ask yourself if that was the case.
Most importantly, what we can learn from this is that we simply must discern the situation we are in and follow Jesus’ example to lead people to examine what is in their own hearts before being too quick to offer a righteous opinion. With all due respect to Chris Broussard, it seems that western Christians may be more known for offering opinions than for listening and loving those they disagree with. Perhaps the outpouring of vitriol towards him is more about that issue than anything he actually said?
What do you think?