ESPN And Courage Redefined

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At next month’s ESPY Award ceremony, the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner is scheduled to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

This isn’t a post bemoaning the fact that ESPN isn’t handing out the Tim Tebow Christian Conduct Award. But it does appear that courage is being redefined in our culture. Perhaps we should consider what it really means to be courageous.

But first, as Christians, we need to be careful when we talk about Jenner. We need to remember that he’s not the enemy here. He’s misguided. His story is tragic. It’s sad, not funny. It’s more depressing than it is disgusting.

The real issue here is the culture that not only accepts transgenderism but parades it and gives it the same labels that were once reserved only for people who fought to secure a hill or defend a land.

Whenever a Christian writes or says something about Jenner that is anything less than teary-eyed adoration and approval, we can expect two things.

1.) We will be called something-phobic.

Homo-phobic.

Trans-phobic.

Kardashian-phobic.

2.) We will be told to mind our own business.

“How is this any of your business?”

“What does what people do in the privacy of their own homes have to do with you?”

Two questions. One answer. Here it is.

I’ve never watched the Kardashian’s TV show. I don’t even know if it still comes on. Until the day when I read an article to see if it was true that Jenner was going to get an ESPY, I’ve never read about him. I’ve never thought to myself, “What is the Jenner/Kardashian crew up to these days?” or “I wonder what the Jenner/Kardashian team has to say about parenting.”

But I still can’t get away from the Jenner story. It’s all over magazine covers at the grocery store. It’s on TV. It’s in the trending news section on Facebook. And now, it’s on ESPN.

True, what someone does in the privacy of their own home is none of my business. But when my kids walk by those allegedly private actions on some magazine cover, I suddenly have something to say about it. The privacy of your own home end of the bargain hasn’t exactly been held up too well over recent years.

In reality, ESPN isn’t concerned with brave sports figures. If they were, Devon Still would probably be getting an award. He’s the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle whose daughter is fighting cancer. Many men have abandoned their families under such circumstances. By all accounts, Still is doing all of the fighting he can for his daughter. That’s courage.

When I think of courage in sports, I think of men like Still. And I think of those before them who fought even bigger battles, men like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. When it comes to courage in the world of sports, pretty much everything else falls short of the standard set by Owens and Robinson.

But there are lesser examples.

Like a nearly crippled Sid Bream rounding third with his team’s hopes for a championship hanging in the balance.

Or, more recently, there’s LeBron James single handedly taking his team to the NBA Finals. He had developed a bit of a reputation for not being able to win it all without having two other all-stars around him. This year, one of those all-stars had a season ending injury. The other missed a significant portion of the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron could have faked an injury, worried about what losing would do to his legacy. Actually, he wouldn’t have had to fake that injury. He really is hurt. But he has continued to play, perhaps the best he ever has. And, as much as I hate to say it, he dominated the Hawks to take his team to the finals. As far as sports goes, that’s courage.

But a few years ago, in a board meeting somewhere in Bristol, ESPN decided to stop being concerned about sports. That’s why a lot of their programming looks more like Entertainment Tonight than sports news and highlights. Sure, ESPN still shows the games. But the game has become a vehicle for an agenda.

And Jenner, much like Michael Sam before him, is just another instrument for promoting that agenda. Sam, you may remember, won the courage award last year for letting us all know that he is gay.

Again, neither man is the enemy. Jenner and Sam, just like you and I, need the grace and forgiveness that only God can give. As Christians, it is our love that will likely point them and others like them in that direction.

But true Christian love doesn’t join in with the culture when it confuses sin for courage.

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