I’ve been following your career for years—but not by choice. I went to Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, the rival of the school you later played football for, Nease. After graduation I attended Florida State University (go Noles) who you famously defeated, leading the Florida Gators to two national championships. I’ve listened to countless friends and family members praising you for your athleticism, all while I’ve seethed. You’ve been causing me pain since 2005.
We do however, have one major thing in common, besides our hometown.
We’re both Christians.
When I fell in love and married a life-long gator, I knew discussions of you would not be ending anytime soon. To my surprise, after the Broncos and Jets debacles, I brought up the conversations—and I began defending you. Coaches, players, fans, it seemed that overnight, everyone in the NFL turned on you. Nastily. Even I, a die-hard Nole, thought you were being treated unfairly. When talks surfaced about you joining our home NFL team, I actually admitted (to the joy of my Gator friends) that I wouldn’t mind you being a Jaguar. I’ve come a long way towards accepting you, since the days you destroyed FSU in Doak.
That’s one reason I was so sad to hear you were going to speak at a Dallas church with an anti-gay pastor. When you cancelled, I was relieved, and proud of you. But still, something felt not right. Something that I felt I needed to say to you, despite my blue and orange blooded husband pleading me not to.
Tim, right now, the world is watching you. You have everyone’s attention. And what I want you to know, is that you could do immeasurable good, if you’d come out as a Christian LGBT ally.
Now, before you get argumentative, remember the thing we have in common, the thing that is more important than our alma maters. Christ. And I can assure you, I am committed to Christ above all else. Even the Seminoles. Christ is the one who has led me to see the great harm the church has caused to LGBT communities, and itself.
In his book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate, (that you and every Christian should read) Justin Lee says this:
Political issues matter, from war to abortion to poverty to same-sex marriage. As Christians, we ought to care about these issues, because they affect people’s lives. But Jesus was known for his compassion, not for his politics. The messiah people were expecting was a political leader; the Messiah they got was a suffering servant. If his followers are now known more for our politics than for our grace, something is wrong.”
Judging by the way my gay friends have been treated by their Christian friends, family, and churches, something is wrong. Christians aren’t doing their job to spread love and compassion to their gay and lesbian neighbors. A divide has been drawn, one that’s only growing wider by the day.
I’m doing what little I can to try and reverse the bad information and theology that leads Christians to think you can, “pray the gay away,” or use the Bible to justify treating gay people like second class citizens. But you Tim, you could do so much.
You might not know this, but the church in Jacksonville you are a member of, lobbied this past summer to deny LGBT citizens legal protections. Your pastor said that Jesus would not support a bill that would prevent gay people from being fired over their orientation.
That bill failed in City Council, thanks to Christians like this pastor.
Think of what could have happened, if you had came out in support of that measure. If you had made a stand for the people in your city, who have been told by the largest church in Jacksonville, that their rights don’t matter. You can make a difference Tim. You can choose to take a stand that some NFL players have, and show love and compassion to their LGBT friends, family, and communities. Only you can do it from a position of faith. One that will show the world that not every Christian out there is more concerned with protecting their own rights, than loving those without them.
I urge you, when choosing churches to speak at, writing up press releases, or answering interview questions, to think about the millions of fans you have. Think about the ones who are gay. Or the ones who have parents, friends, or loved ones who are gay. Think about those fans who have heard, from the mouths of Christians, that there is no place for them in the church.
Think about your young fans who might have been struggling their whole lives to change their sexuality, only to be told that they’re not trying hard enough. Think of the players you may know who are still too scared of backlash to come out. Think of the church, who desperately needs more people like you to make a stand and say, “it’s not OK for us to keep acting like this towards our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
I’ll be praying for you, professionally, and personally, to succeed and realize your full potential. Not because I’m a fan of what you did for the Gators, like so many others who follow you. But because I’m a fan of your character, and faith. And I know that despite how much you’ve done, there’s still so much good you can do.
There’s still so much that needs to be done. Good luck, and God bless.
Emily Timbol is a blogger and author who writes faith, life and humor related essays. She has published multiple pieces on the Huffington Post, the Burnside Writers Collective, and RELEVANT magazine online. She is currently seeking representation for her first book, Leaving the Religious Lifestyle, about her journey from religious fundamentalism to faith based support for gay rights. You can find Emily on her blog and on her Twitter, @EmilyTimbol. She can also be reached by email, at email@example.com