The month of June was recently declared “LGBTQ+ Pride Month” by President Joe Biden. His official proclamation is a continuation of the precedent established by two of his predecessors, President Clinton and President Obama. Even if you did not read Joe Biden’s official proclamation, you most likely have seen some of its effects. Pride flags are raised on many flag poles just below the American flag, department stores are marketing rainbow merchandise in the front of their stores, and most websites and television channels are broadcasting pride promotions to communicate their full support. Some of this support has even carried over into professional sports.
For years, professional teams have hosted “Pride Nights” at their ballparks or arenas. On these nights, they encourage the LGBTQ+ community to come to the ballpark for a night of support and celebration, and the teams usually communicate that support through rainbow banners, signage, and various messaging. However, the Tampa Bay Rays took their effort one step further on Saturday. Following the example of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, they chose to incorporate pride symbols into their official team uniforms. They added the rainbow colors into the “TB” on their ballcaps and added a colorful sunburst to their jersey sleeves. But these colorful touches have not been the focus of the headlines this week. The focus has been on the athletes who refused to wear them.
Pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson were among those who chose to not wear the rainbow flagged uniforms, instead electing to wear their standard gear. Of course, the media wanted to know why these athletes would go against the grain and not support the LGBTQ+ community as their ballclub’s management recommended. Jason Adam was chosen to serve as the spokesperson for the group and he explained:
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision. So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different. It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
So to sum it up, these five Christians said they had a deeply rooted spiritual objection to wearing the pride symbol. They said doing so would communicate them taking pride in something that their faith says is sin. This position of course infuriated many across our country. NY Times writer Tyler Kepner wrote a response article titled, “An Attempt at Inclusion Proves There Is More Work To Do.” In his article, he says “By creating special uniforms for Pride Night, the Rays were expressing their beliefs as an organization. As the primary messengers for the franchise, the players should have been expected to reflect that position.” In his article he also quotes author Andrew Maraniss who said, “When people use their interpretation of religion to justify discrimination against people for the way they were born, it’s really an indictment of them and their faith. Acknowledging that people are people and all fans are welcome, that’s not something you should be able to opt out of.”
Maraniss said that those five players failed to acknowledge “that people are people and all fans are welcome.” I find that accusation puzzling because if you re-read the statement from Jason Adam, he actually said the exact opposite. He said, “we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.” So how could this author, and millions of Americans, view these players as discriminatory when they said that they love the LGBTQ+ community and want them there? I would argue it’s because the LGBTQ+ community is not seeking our acceptance; they demand our affirmation. They don’t want Christians to just receive them. They want Christians to give them the one thing that they cannot give: the celebration of their sin.
This perspective is exactly why this article was titled with the phrase, “there is more work to do.” What is the work that needs to be done? It is the removal of the traditional Biblical worldview from our culture. For many in our country, it does not matter how nice a Christian may be or how welcoming they may present themselves. They will no longer accept your acceptance. They want your ringing endorsement instead. Anything less is viewed as unacceptable, and their mission will proceed until they have fully shifted the moral fabric of our society.
This puts Bible-believing born again Christians in an increasingly difficult position because the Bible is rather clear on the issue. The Scriptures speak against the sin of homosexuality pretty straight forward in both the Old and New Testaments (Cf. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10). The Bible tells us that God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2) and Jesus said marriage was designed for a man and woman to be brought together by God to become one flesh just like our first parents, Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-7). I realize some will read my words and say, “that’s just one interpretation.” You are correct, it is one interpretation. But it is the literal interpretation of God’s Word, and it is based on thousands of years of Judeo-Christian heritage and tradition. Indeed, there are other modern, progressive interpretations that are littered with tainted presuppositions and personal agendas which drive them. But the church must not be surprised or swayed by those alternative teachings.
The apostle Paul affirmed the authority of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and then he charged Timothy to preach that Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2) because others would stop preaching it themselves: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Church, those days are already here. People have accumulated teachers to suit their own passions. If you have a behavior or vice that you want affirmed, you can certainly find a church somewhere to do exactly that. Consequently, people have wondered off into myths just as Paul warned. But that is exactly why we must listen to the same instructions that Paul then gave Timothy: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
We have to be “sober-minded” in this season. We cannot let our discernment be clouded by cultural influences and competing ideologies. Instead, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we must be prepared to “endure suffering” for doing so. If you do not fall in line with the cultural pride movement, make no mistake about it, there will be consequences. This is the general pattern for whenever you stand for God’s Word. Jesus himself was rejected and cancelled by His own culture, so why should we expect a better treatment? Do not be surprised for “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). We must endure any form of suffering and continue to “fulfill our ministry.” We cannot become so fixated on the problems of this world that we fail to move forward with the mission Christ has given us. Paul is telling Timothy, it isn’t time to cower. It’s time to get to work.
So what should that work look like? Traditionally, whenever the church sees evil in the culture, it has felt compelled to respond via boycott. In fact, some are calling right now for boycotts of the various entertainment companies, amusement parks, sports teams, and retailers that are supporting the pride movement. And if you have taken that position, I’m not here to tell you that you are right or wrong. But I am going to encourage you to consider Paul’s words: “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23). You have the freedom to boycott anything you may choose, but my question is, “is it helpful?” I’d encourage you to consider three things to process that question:
First of all, what is the purpose of your boycott? Usually, the purpose is to financially penalize an organization in hopes that the inflicted pain will force their hand to change. If that is the driving mission, it seems that most Christian boycotts have historically failed. Even in my young life, I’ve seen more Christian boycotts than I can count (Disney, Target, Starbucks just to rattle off a few), but I cannot recall any of them making a lasting impact on the company’s bottom line. The targeted organization tends to continue business as usual, and eventually the opposition begins to fade and grow tired. I believe the lack of effectiveness is in part because Christians are simply outnumbered. Jesus told us, “For the gate that is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many (Matthew 7:13). Christians can try to cancel businesses if they’d like, but it seems that the world will offset their inflicted losses.
Secondly, consider how wide is the scope of your boycott? For instance, some might say every Christian should start boycotting the MLB right now. Fair enough, but are you prepared to boycott everyone else? The truth is virtually every large business, bank, retailer, sports league, university, or professional organization has adopted some form of a LGBTQ+ affirming position and policy. Even in the last week, I’ve personally seen rainbow flags on my emails, commercials, and ads for Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube, Amazon, the NBA, NFL, and MLB, Old Navy, Target, The Gap, Kendra Scott, NASCAR, Columbia, Petsmart, Yankee Candle, my banking institution, and the US Army. That list could go a mile long, but those are literally just the first few I can remember interacting with in the last few days. So if you’re going to champion boycotting, it’s worth considering, “how far will you champion?” Where do you draw your own personal line of conviction? That line might end up going way further than you originally intended.
Thirdly, consider how will your boycott align with your mission? To me personally, boycotts seem to work antithetically to the Gospel mission. The Bible doesn’t tell us that sinners are the problem and they must be avoided at all cost. The Bible says they are the mission and they are in fact to be pursued. If we go live under rocks and wait until Jesus comes back, we will have neglected the sacred mission that Jesus gave His church to go and shine light into dark places. Jesus didn’t say “Go and make disciples if they are easy to reach and don’t offend you.” But He did say that He will build His church and the gates of hell won’t stop Him (Cf. Matthew 16:18). Isolating ourselves away from the world only prevents us from engaging it, and it robs us from seeing the Gospel advance into places of darkness. This is why Paul told Timothy to instead “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5).
Instead of focusing on boycotts, I’d encourage Christians to focus their energy on three things this month. First, focus on prayer. Pray for those in our country who have been swept away by the teaching of the Pride movement. Pray for Jesus to awaken hearts that are currently trapped in sin and spiritually blind to their ways. Pray for God to soften hearts and bring conviction and clarity to Christians who have been brought into the confusion. Pray for our children, that they may not fall into the snares of this ideology, but instead they will be rooted and secure in God’s Word. Pray for salvation to continue to come to the LGBTQ community and for more lives to be radically transformed by the grace of God.
Secondly, focus on courage. Hold the line on your convictions this month. We don’t need Christians apologizing for God’s Word. God’s Word stands on its own power. I’m proud of those five Christian baseball players who were willing to count the cost to live out their Biblical convictions. It’s one thing to go into a business with a pride flag, but it is another thing to be forced to wear the flag in a business. I’m proud of their decision, but I’m also proud of how they communicated it. They did not condemn and cast stones at the LGBTQ community. They simply spoke the truth with a whole lot of grace. Our culture needs more men and women to rise up and follow their example.
Thirdly and finally, I encourage you to focus on the coming elections. President Obama was correct, elections do have consequences. And there are leaders right now in our country that want to push the Equality Act into our society. The title is deceptive, and it is not about equality. They want to legislate a new morality and silence the biblical convictions of business leaders. There are politicians who want to target states and schools that have chosen to protect young women from having to compete against young men in their own sports. Be educated in the political realm, and vote for politicians that preserve religious liberty, uphold Biblical values, and advocate for policy that reflects truth and common sense.
I truly do believe many Christians are floundering right now on this topic because they don’t even know what is right. Many pastors and churches have avoided speaking to these things due to fear and a lack of urgency. Some pastors have thought they don’t need to address this because they are “preaching to the choir” on Sundays. Those days are gone. Choirs and entire churches are divided and filled with as much confusion as the world, and part of this is due to their own pastor’s silence. A lack of teaching will always create a vacuum (especially in young lives), and people will seek out teachers to fill those voids. Pastors and Christians, you must speak truth on these things to combat the many voices that people are already listening to. Church leaders must be less worried that they may become irrelevant if they speak truth, because I assure you they will become irrelevant if they do not.
Stories like the Tampa Bay baseball game will only continue in the days ahead. But even as darkness clouds our world, do not forget that the light of Jesus Christ is still with you. We are not called to take pride in this month’s movement, but we are called to take pride in our Living Savior. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). May we all walk on our knees this month and find our power and pride in the cross of our resurrected King. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).