University of Missouri football player, Michael Sam, celebrates during a game in Nov. 2013 against Texas A&M at Faurot Field Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. RNS photo by Shane Epping

University of Missouri football player Michael Sam celebrates during a game in November 2013 against Texas A&M at Faurot Field Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. RNS photo by Shane Epping


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) Michael Sam’s coming out party was no surprise to those who know him. Members of the University of Missouri football team suspected he is gay before he made the announcement to them last year. Students on the campus of the University of Missouri knew long before it was reported by The New York Times.

Sam, an All-American defensive end at Missouri, is projected to be a third-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. He was the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. He had a better season than Jadeveon Clowney, who, before the beginning of the season, was considered the best player to step on a football field since Herschel Walker pretended to be Superman in cleats.

I discussed Sam’s announcement with students in my journalism class at the University of Missouri. They all knew someone who knew. It’s no secret on the campus of the University of Missouri.

How did a story like this fail to be reported on a campus known for having one of the top journalism schools in the world?

Because, in the minds of the students on campus at the University of Missouri, Michael Sam’s being gay is no big deal. Why is the press making this news, my students asked? Their response forced me to consider their context.

Youth don’t care because they know things adults are unwilling to hear. Youth aren’t eager to condemn their friends.

Put another way, they love their friends too much to call them sinners.

That’s hard for people of my generation to comprehend. We’re nurtured from a context of vast hostility related to homosexuality.

We’re familiar with the harsh treatment and verbal muggings endured by gay men and women. We’ve heard the teasing and harassment launched at those who claim love with a person of the same gender.

Sadly, far too many participated in the pestering.

We were taught homosexuality is a decision made out of disobedience to God’s will. That message was pitched in churches. It was a common theme in music, movies, plays and dinner party chat.

Young people are in a different place when it comes to loving — despite their gender. As they perceive it, love is love.

Things have changed over the years, and the open-mindedness of youth sheds light on the rapidly changing dynamics regarding positions on homosexuality. Given the views of youth, could it be that congregations will find it difficult to remain vital in providing spiritual direction? If Sam’s coming out is no big deal, what happens to institutions that cling to the notion that God demands condemning those who are gay?

Pastors adhering to old interpretations of the biblical text may find it difficult to convince youth that God censures homosexuality.

Youth are rallying behind friends who have shared their struggle with the juxtaposition between what we assume the Bible says and what their body desires.

What happens when youth see past the act of sex in measuring the message of their faith tradition? They see beyond the notion of prohibited sex, and celebrate the love between those who share a common gender.

Ministers who continue to fight the wave of love will face being labeled bigots. It happened when white congregations conceded the humanity of blacks. It happened again when the sexism of the church was exposed in a way that forced the inclusion of female leaders. It happens whenever scholars force us to consider the historical/cultural context of the Bible. When that happens, we are strained to reframe our sacred text in a way that considers the limits related to previous understanding.

Is it appropriate for youth to facilitate changes in the way we share the lessons of faith? That’s a question for deep debate. As congregations ponder theological implications regarding homosexuality, the norms of common culture have shifted. Young people are speaking, and many older folks have jumped on the wagon.

Michael Sam will be the first openly gay football player in the NFL. More will soon follow. Before long, this will be an issue collected in the bag of ancient historical views. It will be regarded as another bigoted position held by congregations imploring an archaic reading of the text.

Congratulations to Michael Sam for telling his truth. He is courageous.

Carl W. Kenney II teaches journalism at the University of Missouri. He holds a divinity degree from Duke University. This column was written for Columbia Faith & Values. Photo courtesy of Carl Kenney/Columbia Faith & Values

Carl W. Kenney II teaches journalism at the University of Missouri. He holds a divinity degree from Duke University. This column was written for Columbia Faith & Values. Photo courtesy of Carl Kenney/Columbia Faith & Values


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The good news is his announcement isn’t considered news among journalism students on the campus of the University of Missouri.

What’s the big deal?

Let the youth lead the way.

(Carl W. Kenney II is an adjunct instructor in the journalism department at the University of Missouri. He holds a divinity degree from Duke University. This column was written for Columbia Faith & Values.)

YS/MG END KENNEY

16 Comments

  1. Ministers: it’s time for war.

    No, not with harshness, not with holier-than-thou, (and not with complacency and shoulder-shrugging either) but with prayer and fasting and Scripture, with love and healing and deliverance.

    These youth are going the wrong way, they’re leading older folks in the wrong way, (and some older folks are leading young folks in that wrong way likewise), and it’s just plain time for Christian leaders and laypeople to FIGHT that wrong way. It’s time for war.

    • You are not going to convince anyone you are extolling love, healing and deliverance when you actively preach treating others like they are less than people.

      Young people are just getting tired of the nonsense you guys are spewing. Instead of treating their acquaintances, relatives, neighbors and friends as “abominations” they are seeing them as people. The fact that you find that offensive can’t be hidden by homilies. You can’t preach hate and pretend its love. You can’t love thy neighbor and attack their ability to live with basic human dignity.

      Keep it up guys. You are doing a great service to humanism.

      • Oh, I fully affirm that all people are created equal. You do too.

        But people’s sexual choices, and chosen lifestyles, and chosen marriages, are NOT all created equal.

        In fact, some choices — like gay marriage and gay civil unions — are downright destructive to a nation and its families, and invite the judgment of God Himself upon that nation. (And also upon its young people.)

        So it’s not about looking down on people, but instead standing up for truth and turning away from the brink. While there’s still time. (Tick-tock.)

        • You affirm all people are equal, but some are less equal than others and deserve to be discriminated, ostracized and denied basic human dignity. So all people are not equal in your eyes at all.

          As for the dangers and “destruction” caused by marriage equality, that is just a load of crap. If you had an honest argument to make on that front you would be able to point to actual harm caused in places where it has been made legal. You can’t. There is none.

          Its very tough to keep up the pretense of loving thy neighbor when you are openly damning them them. Its your kind of double talking mendacity that drives people away. So just keep talking. You are doing a huge favor for humanism, for civil liberties and for making fundamentalism look like such a silly choice.

  2. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    There was a time when most cultures respected the values and wisdom of their older generations. Now we are supposed to follow in some sort of lockstep the values of a younger generation which grew up constantly being bombarded and brainwashed by media power and its version of morality?????

    • There was also a time when most cultures believed in pantheons of gods who controlled various aspects of nature. There was a time when people suffering what are now known to be epileptic seizures were believed to be possessed by the devil. There was a time when man was certain that Earth was the center of the universe. There was a time when people of color were considered to be less than human. And there was a time when it was believed that one’s sexuality was a personal choice. All of those beliefs have been proven to be false. I’m very sad for you that you can’t reconcile the last of those facts with the belief system you take for granted, probably due to indoctrination by members of an older generation before you even had the ability to question their so called “wisdom”.

  3. Mr. Kenny, thank you! A beautifully written article that was a pleasure to read.

    It is remarkable how the mind of a child will develop into a being of love and acceptance when not tainted by the hate and exclusion of dogmatic belief.

    This is social evolution at its very best. Adults have started to see the immorality in religion and have chosen to move away from it. In turn they are no longer compelled to indoctrinate their children into something they have learned just isn’t any good for us. This has allowed our youth to learn that love is universal, and that we all deserve to be in a loving relationship with someone else, regardless of what sex that other person is. That is beautiful!!

    Deacon, There was a time when most cultures sacrificed humans so they would get a good harvest, and that wasn’t moral either. Not many would expect that someone of your mindset, so deeply mired in the quicksand of religious beliefs would find your way out and change your way of thinking, but we can hope.

    Thankfully though, that will not matter. As our children replace us, and have children of their own, religious beliefs that are exclusive of anyone will be less and less tolerated, until one day they will free themselves from religion altogether. The human race will keep advancing in morals that are driven by love for each other, which excludes religious dogma, it is simply inevitable.

    Doc, I think it’s going to be difficult for anyone to believe your sheepish message of love, when it’s wrapped in the wolfish words “It’s time for war”. Just saying!

    Religion is poison!!

    • Mr. Gunter –

      Your comment “religion is poison” is just plain silly. Do you know that the Catholic Church feeds more people in the world than any other organization? Do you know that Catholic hospitals provide treatment for everyone? Insurance or not. Do you know how many people are helped everyday, around the world, by religious Catholic orders – like the Missionaries of Charity? I embrace my Catholic faith – I force it on no one. Not even an atheist can deny the good religion has brought to so many needy people in this world.

      • Do you know how often religious charity work is undermined by blatant proselytizing, sectarianism and organization politics?

        Do you know that Catholic Hospitals frequently prefer to uphold religious dogma than follow professional codes of medical necessity and conduct?

      • Dcn B? There is something inherently dishonest about hiding behind the anonymity of a pseudonym while at the same time boldly professing your beliefs, don’t you think?

        No one could argue that the catholic church, and many other religious organizations do things beneficial to society, but they do so for ulterior reasons, other than charity for their fellow man. They take advantage of these needy people and force them to listen to their proselytizing, or abide by their doctrine in order to get their “charity”. The catholic church is especially egregious at this. They invade third world counties, where poor, uneducated, highly superstitious people are ravaged by aids. They take advantage of their desperation and trade their charity for the opportunity to poison their minds with their fantastical beliefs, one of which is using condoms will result in the eternal damnation of your soul. This is simply vile, and devoid of anything most humans, outside of religious belief would recognize as moral. You can read about it here – http://www.rbmojournal.com/article/S1472-6483(11)00114-3/fulltext#b0260

        Another example of the charity of the catholic church would be allowing a woman to die, rather than give her an abortion. Please take the time to read this article and revel in the goodness of the catholic church – http://world.time.com/2012/11/14/ireland-abortion-scandal-death-of-a-pregnant-woman-prompts-

        I’ll just mention pedophile priests, but not get into details, as it speaks for itself

        I could go on an on, but rather I’ll just leave you with a challenge that has been posed many times to theologians by one of my favorite atheists, Christopher Hitchens that seems apropos. He said “Name me a moral action committed by a believer, or a moral or ethical statement uttered by one, that could not be made or uttered by a non-believer.” This challenge has yet to be answered, can you? He had another challenge however, one that is easily answered by anyone in just a few seconds. “Now name a wicked action performed, or a vile statement made by someone, attributable only to their religious faith.”

        Religion is absolutely poisonous!

        • Mr, Gunter,

          Since 1973, over 50 million unborn children have been killed. You paste the site of one situation, where the liberal media in Ireland, and the USA, ate it up and ran with it. Again, 50 million babies killed since 1973 . A holocaust. Each of these children had the right to live..to pursue happiness – a dignity given to all of us by our Creator. Mr. Gunter, you must have some compassion for these children.

          The Catholic Church has its issues. It is Divine and human. Being human, there will always be problems, it is our fallen human nature. But the Church is Divine – it is the bride of Christ. Holy.

          Mr. Gunter, let me tell you about the Catholic Church. I have a dear friend who is a Lay Missionary of Charity, an order of single and married Catholics who make the same vows as Mother Teresa’s sisters. The special vow is whole hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. This friend if mine spends her Saturday mornings praying at the door of an abortion mill. She does so legally. She is regularly cursed at by the employees. All my friend does is pray.
          And thank God, more than occasionally, young mothers stop and talk to her – and change their minds. My friend does all she can to help them, with shelter – financial help if necessary… All that is needed to make help a young mother bring new life into the world. And I have met many of the children she has saved. Maybe they will become doctors, poets, truck drivers….priests…President.
          This is the Catholic Church. A saving grave in the world.

          And I use a pseudonym as many people do. I am a Catholic deacon. My name is Brian. And I love my Church.

          • Deacon Brian ?, I see you only focused on the issues you can think you can defend, avoided the questions you couldn’t answer, as well as the one you don’t want to answer, but that’s alright, I’m used to this from christians.

            You also employ the tactic of discrediting the source of any information that doesn’t fit your beliefs. Once again, no surprise, it is unfortunately normal dishonesty from believers.

            Although I am not a fan of abortion, and think it should be avoided if possible, I am also a fan of the Declaration of Independence and the freedoms it guarantees. So American citizens can make decisions that effect themselves, like when women make the decision to have an abortion.

            Besides, if god created women, either by version one, as it is written in Genesis 1:27, or version two as it is written in Genesis 2:22, then he also created the way their bodies work. This means that god is responsible for many more abortions than man has every been responsible for, around 1 million each year. Read statistics here, if you dare – http://www.hopexchange.com/Statistics.htm

            Also, ironically in a conversation last night with a catholic friend who is also an avid hunter about our local deer population and the affect of the extremely heavy snow we have experience, I learned that if a female deer is pregnant, and unable to find enough nutrition to support both the life of the mother deer and the fetus, the mother deer naturally aborts the fetus so that she saves her own life.

            Once again, your bible tells in in Genesis 1:24 that god made these created, and “it was good”. So doesn’t your god not only create creatures that are by his design made to abort fetuses, but he also says it is good?

            Since the start of our discourse was started by my choice of closing statement that religion is poison, I would like to point out one more non-christian example so you know I apply my statement to all religions equally.

            However first I will comment on one more example in christianity and especially catholicism that is poisonous to the minds of humans. The ghastly ritual of communion is made even more poisonous by the belief in transubstantiation where the followers believe a priests can actually physically transform cracker and wine into the the flesh and blood of their long dead christ, then in a cannibalistic fashion eat it.

            Sam Harris once said in a speech, and this is not verbatim, if a friend told you his neighbor who he had great respect for was able to transform his breakfast of waffles and coffee into the flesh and blood of Elvis, and he loved eating it, you would most assuredly think he had lost his mind. However if it is in the context of religious belief, then you think he is just a christian. religious belief poisons the mind into thinking the fantastical is real, when it is not.

            Several mean hijacked two planes and flew them head first into the twin towers of the world trade center killing not only themselves, but thousand of other people.

            Please, tell me, assuming they were all not insane, what other reason than belief in religion would have caused them to do this?

            Religion, all religion, is poisonous, truly poisonous to humanity!!!!

    • Sometimes, Mr. Gunter, genuine love doesn’t just sit back and watch oozing, septic deception and moral cyanide slowly kill and maim the hearts and souls of the young people, and the families the nation itself.

      Some times love fights back. Sometimes loves goes to war.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      Religion is poison??? In one sense it is, I agree.
      Embracing a religion makes one a target for the atheist religion haters of the world –like Stalin , Lenin, Mao, etc.. Maybe someday all atheists will –like Antony Flew (once Europe’s leading atheist)— get over their bigotry. And when that happens who knows how many of them will look at religion more favorably.

  4. Everywhere you turn there is another “gay” story. Enough is enough. I’m sorry to say it, but these stories are boring. Soon we are all going to be completely burned out by these boring stories. Let’s stop talking about gay and straight. How about stories about real heroes. Those good people who really make a difference in our world – people on the front lines – helping those in need – finding jobs for the unemployed – helping the homeless get off the streets, especially on these cold winter nights – volunteers in soup kitchens. Please, let’s have some stories about “real” heroes.

    Let’s talk about the real issues – what are we going to do

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