Arminian Today

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Why Jackie Robinson and Michael Sam Are Not The Same (And Never Will Be)

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of Major League baseball in 1947.  Robinson made baseball better because of it.  Robinson also was a star on and off the field even after his retirement from baseball.  His number “42” remains the only number to be retired by all MLB clubs to this day and I suspect it will forever be that way (though Hispanics want Roberto Clemente’s number retired in all clubs as well).

Today ESPN and others are pushing for Michael Sam to be hailed too for he is about to be the first openly homosexual player in NFL history.  We are being told over and over and over again how brave Sam is for doing what he is doing and how he is changing the game the way that Robinson changed baseball (and sports) for the better in 1947.  Sam is being compared to Robinson in every way.

But there are major differences between the two.

First, Robinson, before 1947, was banned from Major League baseball for one reason: his skin color.  This was nothing he could change.  Sadly, many Negro League players could have been MLB stars had they been given the right to just play baseball.  Great Negro League players such as Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige (when he was in his prime), and many others.  We also forget that Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and many other black players started in the Negro Leagues because of racism.

Racism is profoundly different from homosexuality.  A man cannot change the color of his skin.  His skin is sacred because his skin color has been given to him by God.  Underneath, a black man is no different from a white man nor a white man different from an Asian man.  Our skin pigmentation might be different but inside, we are still humans.  A black man could marry an Asian woman and produce offspring that while mixed in their skin color, they would still be human.  Skin color then is precious before God.  Racism is the sin of thinking that one skin color is better than others.  We must remember God’s promise in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV).  This is not taking away our unique sex given to us by God nor our skin color nor our language, etc.  It is simply pointing out that in Christ Jesus, we are one.  God’s children are those who have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26).  In reality, God sees people either as in His Son or outside of His Son (John 3:36; Colossians 1:13).  We are either sheep or goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jackie Robinson could never change his skin color.  But he could be a great baseball player.  And he was.  He won the 1947 National League Rookie of the Year and went on to lead the Dodgers to the 1947 World Series (which they lost).  He won the National League MVP award in 1949.  By the end of his career (10 years!), Robinson would retire with a .311 career average.  He hit 137 home runs and stole 197 bases.  His team was in the World Series 6 out of the 10 years he played and won the World Series in 1955 (by the way, Robinson’s Dodgers were 1-5 against the New York Yankees in all those World Series’).  Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Now Sam has yet to play a down in the NFL so it’s actually not fair to pit stats from Robinson against him and they do play two different sports but my point is that Robinson was proving something, he was showing the world that the color of a man’s skin has nothing to do with his talents.  Robinson was showing that a black man could play with the white players in the Majors.  His skin color had nothing to do with his greatness on the field.  Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame for being a great baseball player first and foremost and not just for the fact that he was the first man of color to play in the Majors.  I suppose that would have been the case had he not had a great career but Robinson left no doubt about his talents.

On the other hand, Sam is being praised for being the first openly homosexual in the NFL.  Again, he has yet to play a down.  Most are picking him to be a mid round pick meaning that he still needs some work to become a great NFL player.  Perhaps he will be but perhaps he will not.  Yet sports writers are praising Sam as if he is Robinson, as if he has performed at the same level.  He has not.  Not yet.

Further, Robinson was a humble man.  When asked why he was trying to make it with the Dodgers, Robinson simply said, “I just want to play baseball.”  Robinson knew what was at stake but he also knew that baseball was meant to be colorblind.  After all, a box score doesn’t show a man’s color.  It only shows what he and his team did that day.  Robinson opened the door for other men of color from blacks to Hispanics to Japanese to become Major Leaguers.  He is right to be praised.

Sam has made one decision here.  He has announced he is a homosexual.  A position, by the way, that he could change (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  Robinson never had that chance.  Sam has been praised for his sexual desire and lauded by ESPN as being so brave to go into the “manly” NFL as an openly homosexual player.  This is an issue of choice and not an issue of skin color.  To this day there is no proof that a person is born a homosexual.  It is a lifestyle choice.  It is a choice about sex.

Robinson (and others before him) were banned from baseball because of their skin color.  A fact they could not change nor needed to.  This was not a choice.  This was not a sin.  The sin was others racism toward them and not their own.

Sam has not been banned from the NFL.  In fact, the NFL nor any other professional clubs ban homosexuals or any other person from trying out for them.  They are concerned only with helping their teams win.  If you can make the team, you are in the NFL.  Homosexuality is not the same as the skin color ban of the former professional sports.  Not even close.  Jason Collins is still playing in the NBA as an openly homosexual player.

In closing, I wish Sam no ill will.  Perhaps he will make a great NFL player.  Perhaps not.  Either way, I don’t think this will be because of his homosexuality.  If Sam makes it in the NFL, it will because he played good football.  Meanwhile, Sam (who is black), will play next to all skin colors.  None of them will be banned from playing for their skin color.  Nor will Sam be banned from playing because of his sexual desires.  But Sam will play because of Jackie Robinson.  Had Robinson not done what he did in 1947, Sam would not be allowed to play in the NFL nor would he have played for Missouri in college.  He would be watching or playing in a Negro League because of his skin color.  Robinson changed that.

In the end, Sam will never be like Jackie Robinson.  Robinson’s skin color was obvious.  He represented a whole group of people who were banned from the Majors for one reason: racism.  Homosexuals are not the same.  There are black, white, Hispanic, Jewish, etc. homosexuals.  There are no people groups whom we can point to and say, “Homosexuals” like they could at Robinson.  Homosexuals are linked together by one prominent idea: a sexual preference.  Skin color is not even an issue.  These two men were completely different and represented totally different things.

Let us pray for Michael Sam.  He can be transformed by God’s grace and mercy.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/23/2014 at 7:00 PM

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