ESPN is reporting that Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin will be appearing shirtless (well, abs-uncovered at least) on the cover of next month’s August issue of Out magazine. Why, you might ask, would a straight male appear on the cover of the world’s most widely-read gay magazine?
According to the article by Cyd Zeigler, Irvin is attempting to honor the life and struggles of his gay brother, Vaughn, who died in 2006, by speaking out:
Now, after working through some of his personal demons with his long-time bishop, T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, Texas, Irvin is ready to talk about Vaughn. More than that, he’s become a passionate supporter of gay athletes and equal rights for same-sex couples.
Michael Irvin also has a pointed message for the African-American Christian community:
“I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”
[Note that 2008 California election exit polls indicated that an overwhelming 70% of the California African-American community supported Prop 8 (which sought to ban same-sex marriage), while the ballot initiative only passed with a slim 52.24% majority.]
Good for Michael Irvin. Irvin is now admitting that much of the womanizing he did in his younger years was, in part, due to the fact that he knew his brother was gay, and he didn’t want people to think he was gay. I applaud Irvin’s honesty, especially on a topic where many men are not honest. I firmly believe that many men oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples simply because they do not wish to be perceived as gay.
I know this from experience. Despite my wife and child, many of my “good ol’ boy” friends from back home in Madera and Fresno, CA (especially the Christians) and an even greater number of folks who only know me from appearances on TV or pieces I’ve written either assume I am gay, bisexual, or am no longer a Christian because I advocated so strongly against California’s Proposition 8 (here and here and here and here). They call me all the names you’d use to tease a gay man, as if I’d somehow be embarrassed or offended by names if I were. And while I don’t let petty name calling trouble me much, I do think that many other straight men (especially people of faith) are so afraid of the mere concept of homosexuality (i.e., that it might somehow “rub off” on them or, like Michael Irvin admitted, that it may be a genetic thing and they may carry a recessive “gay” gene that may present at any time), or are simply so afraid of being called gay, that they overemphasize their masculinity and vehemently oppose homosexuality, and even go so far as opposing equal rights for homosexuals. These men, who fear feelings and emotions they may or may not experience or understand, attempt to purge their minds of the perceived threat by condemning gays, opposing their civil rights, and insisting that men stick out their chests, work on their trucks, play football, cuss, suppress the roles of women, and “not act like a bunch of ‘chickified’ church dudes” who “wear sweater vests.”
Which brings us to Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll, who in this case study, must be viewed as the Christian antithesis of Michael Irvin and those of us fighting on behalf of social justice and civil rights for all persons.
Opposition to homosexuals, same-sex marriage, and what he calls “effeminate” men is nothing new to Mr. Driscoll. I’m referring to comments after comments he has made about both women and men he feels do not meet the Christian criterion for “dudes,” including “chickified church boys,” and “nice, soft, tender” men “walking around singing love songs to Jesus.” (see below. And, don’t miss the mash-up of the below video here.)
In the above interview (around the 1:50 mark), Mark Driscoll rants about “effeminate” men, saying they are:
“church boys wearing sweater vests and walking around singing love songs to Jesus…nice, soft, tender, ‘chickified’ church boys”
and arguing real Christian men should be characterized as:
“slaughter other men, heterosexual, win a fight, punch you in the nose, dudes”
Driscoll goes on to complain that:
“60% of Christians are chicks, and the 40% that are dudes are still sort of chicks…it’s just sad”
“You walk in and it’s sea foam green, and fuschia, and lemon yellow, and the whole architecture and the whole aesthetic is real feminine and the preacher’s kinda feminine, and the music’s kinda emotional and feminine…”
“and the innovative dudes are home watchin’ football, or they’re out makin’ money, or climbin’ a mountain or shootin’ a gun or working on their truck.”
Note that Mr. Driscoll is not specifically opposing gay men in the above clip, but “effeminate” men whom he feels are not real Christian men who, of course, punch people in the nose and climb mountains.
[Btw, I wonder how he'd feel about a 6'1", 220 lb., free thinking, sharp tongued, former redneck from Fresno who ate something his father shot four nights a week for dinner growing up, who is still an equally good shot with a 7mm Remington Magnum or a .357 Magnum, who has climbed that mountain, fixed that truck, won that baseball championship, and took on that bully, and who, now as a Mensan with a formal graduate education in biblical studies and ancient languages, regularly advocates for social justice and the civil rights of those being oppressed by Christian neo-fundamentalists like Driscoll? I wonder how he'd feel about the kind of man who is actually comfortable enough with his own masculinity to wear Uggs and regularly wear a leather satchel which his daughter refers to as a "murse" (i.e., a man-purse) to a professional conference of his peers? Because, you know, they're out there keeping people honest. Just a thought...]
And this isn’t a one-time thing for Mr. Driscoll. Just this past week, Pastor Mark Driscoll placed the following on his Facebook page. (And yes, since the public backlash best expressed by Rachel Held Evans and countless others), he’s since deleted it from his wall. But fear not, I always make screen shots ;-):
And Mr. Driscoll is not “just kidding around” as so many of his numb-minded followers are quick to assert in his defense. His neo-fundamentalist pattern of behavior (which I define as a 1950′s fundamentalist in an edgy screen printed hoodie and a pair of designer jeans) is consistent and unapologetic.
Here, when questioned about whether or not he’s “just kidding,” he defines precisely what he’s asking:
And, lest you think Mr. Driscoll felt he made a mistake, he defends his asking the question:
Unfortunately, bigotry like this is not limited to the (other) Mars Hill (the better, truer Mars Hill is here), and it is time for people of all faiths to stand up and combat racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.
This is what Michael Irvin and most sound Christian scholars, bloggers, advocates, and people of faith are combating. This is the bigotry and nonsense that has plagued the church for so long.
I may not understand the gay mind, but just because I do not understand something does not mean I should oppress the civil rights of those who do. In fact, when asked if I am gay, I always refuse to answer the question and usually reply with the classic “West Wing/CJ Cregg” response of, “It’s none of your damn business.” (See also this clip. And this one. And this one. West Wing said it best!) In a panel discussion at Pepperdine University on racism and homophobia, I explained that I say this because I believe that the sooner straight men stop answering the question, the sooner the question will stop being asked. It is not enough for straight men to say that they support same-sex marriage, but then when asked, “Are you gay,” respond with, “W/Hell no, I’m not gay!” as if there is something embarrassing about it. Straight men should speak out more often in support of marriage equality and we all should stop answering (and asking) the question “Are you gay?”
So I applaud Michael Irvin’s decision to face his fears, honor his brother, and speak out in favor of marriage equality. I’m not a Cowboys fan, and never have really been a Michael Irvin fan. But this decision has turned my opinion of Mr. Irvin to a favorable one, and I am now a fan. I applaud his decision, and I hope this is the beginning of yet another long and distinguished career of public advocacy on behalf of the oppressed for the heralded “Playmaker.”
P.S. If you’d like to contact Mark Driscoll’s church’s “elders,” you may do so here.
Filed under: gender issues, religion, sports, theology Tagged: | brother, cowboys, Cyd Zeigler, dallas cowboys, effeminate, equality, facebook, gay, mark driscoll, marriage equality, mars hill church, michael irvin, out magazine, prop 8, proposition, Rachel Held Evans, same-sex marriage, vaughn, west wing, wide receiver, youtube