Manly LGBT pride jersey

As a Christian, Here are My Reflections on the Manly Pride Jersey Saga

29 July 2022

4.2 MINS

As Christians, we are called to love every human, created in the image of God. We respect each person’s inherent dignity. But that does not mean we must be forced to affirm their behaviour. Could the Manly Sea Eagles have chosen an even more inclusive demonstration?

The Manly Sea Eagles have found themselves under an unwanted media spotlight over seven key players who refuse to wear the club’s new Pride Jersey.

Like many others, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Fitzsimmons has condemned the club for not consulting the players before they launched the jersey. And yet, Fitz doesn’t hold back on the 7 players who refuse to wear the Pride Jersey:

What the hell is wrong with you blokes that you don’t get it? You are prepared to trash the entire Manly season on this issue alone? In a world where rugby league has led the sporting fraternity in making change, in making it clear that the game is for all races, all genders, all sexualities, all religions you want to make a stand for… For what? Actually, while I’ve got you, can you explain it? And can we have a statement from the seven of you, to make clear your views, so we can all understand?

While I can’t speak on behalf of the seven players, I can say a few things as a Christian who has been following this story:

1) As a follower of Jesus, I want to follow in His footsteps and affirm the humanity and inherent God-given dignity of all LGBTIQ people

Manly coach Des Hasler pointed out that the Pride Jersey intends to affirm the dignity and human rights of minorities like the LGBTIQ community.

As a Christian, I, too, want to affirm the humanity and dignity of all LGBTIQ people, just as Jesus affirms the dignity of all human beings. Christians haven’t always done this (to some, that will be a massive understatement), but Jesus is clear that His followers are to love their neighbours as themselves (Mark 12:30-31), no matter what identity group they belong to (e.g. Luke 10:25-37). Every human being has infinite worth, being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), giving them certain inalienable rights (e.g. Genesis 9:6).

Jesus commands Christians to care for our LGBTIQ neighbours, friends and family. And He is grieved whenever we fail to do that.

Does that mean I should grab the nearest Pride Jersey?

It’s not that simple:

2) While the Pride Jersey includes the affirmation of the humanity of LGBTIQ people, it also means a lot more

While Christians must follow Jesus in caring for our LGBTIQ neighbours, we must also follow Him in understanding what the Pride Jersey represents.

Yes, the Pride Jersey symbolises human rights and inclusivity. (And to some, it’s nothing more than that).

But the Pride symbol is more than just human rights. It’s also a political symbol, celebrating and affirming the views, actions, and desires of the LGBTIQ community.

To wear the Pride Jersey communicates a high level of affirmation and agreement with all things LGBTIQ.

In much the same way that wearing a Cross or a Star of David communicates more than merely supporting the human rights of the Christian or Jewish community. In the name of religious inclusivity, would it be fair to demand all Canterbury Bankstown players wear the Star of David on their Jersey? (For those who don’t follow the NRL, Canterbury Bankstown is a club with many Muslim fans.) Would it be fair to require atheist players — or LGBTIQ players — to wear a Cross on their Jersey?

Thus, while Christians like me will gladly affirm the humanity and dignity of LGBTIQ people, we can’t affirm all things LGBTIQ by sporting a Pride flag.

This raises an urgent question:

3) What do true acceptance and inclusion look like? Jesus gives us a countercultural (and better) model

What do true acceptance, tolerance and inclusion look like?

The Sea Eagles — and our wider society — are struggling with these increasingly urgent questions (listen to Coach Des Hasler’s Press Conference).

Does acceptance and respect for other people involve affirming everything about them? Can we accept other people, even if we differ with their deepest beliefs, desires, views and identity?  

When it comes to LGBTIQ issues, there seems to be little room for disagreement. Either you affirm everything the LGBTIQ community stands for and wear that Pride Jersey, or you’re a bigot.

Now, if your definition of ‘bigot’ is not affirming all things LGBTIQ, then yes, those 7 players – and Christians like me who hold to the Bible’s view of gender and sexuality – are bigots.

But by that definition, Jesus was a bigot.

While Jesus was crystal clear about how God designed us to live (e.g. he reaffirmed marriage as the lifelong monogamous union of one man and one woman), He nevertheless loved those who didn’t live up to this standard.

Jesus loved the prostitutes (without affirming prostitution). Jesus loved those caught in sex outside marriage (without affirming sex outside marriage). Jesus showed love to all people — without affirming all their desires and actions.

He demonstrated that it was possible to radically love and accept people — be they gay or straight — without affirming their desires or actions.

I call that authentic inclusivity.

On the flip side, if our definition of inclusiveness requires affirmation, we’ll constantly be excluding people.

But if our definition follows Jesus’ model, we’ll forge inclusivity that allows us to live with our deepest differences while respecting each other’s humanity.

What Could Have Manly Done Instead?

With the above reflections, here’s what Manly could have done to model and promote genuine, authentic inclusivity:

Along with the Pride Jersey, they could have designed jerseys with symbols of other minority groups and let the players decide which ones to wear. Let the Christians wear a cross-emblazoned jersey. Let the Muslims wear a jersey with the crescent moon. Let the Polynesians wear their national flag. Let those who are concerned about antisemitism wear the star of David. And let those concerned about the LGBTIQ community wear the Pride Jersey.

In other words, model what genuine ‘respect amid diversity’ looks like.

Model what should go on across wider society, where people are free to live out their identity without fear of harassment or coercion. Show that people of different creeds, desires and beliefs can live together, work together, and play together. Even (possibly) win an NRL premiership together.

That’s a much better, a much more authentic form of inclusivity.

___

Originally published at AkosBalogh.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Bronwyn Bye 29 July 2022 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Yes! That would be a great idea because we know that the ‘letter’ group are not about inclusivity at all! People would see that they want exclusive!!! Nothing less. Brilliant idea!

  2. john 29 July 2022 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Yes BUT the NRL insist everyone wear the same jersey, no variation, hence the NRL are not wanting expressions of inclusivity

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