Daniel Murphy, second baseman for the New York Mets, is a Christian who believes homosexuality is morally problematic. In an interview quoted on Deadspin, Murphy spoke about tolerance on the team. Excerpt:

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

[…]

“Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality,” he said. “We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”

“Lifestyle” is a very clunky word, but then, we don’t expect professional athletes to stay on top of the latest sensitive language used to express delicate concepts. But this is clearly a decent guy struggling to be true to his convictions while being as loving and as collegial as he can to a gay colleague.

That, of course, is not enough for Deadspin writer Kevin Draper, who says:

Murphy seems to be more toward the “oafish but well-meaning” end of the anti-gay spectrum than the “Family Research Council” one, but that doesn’t mean he deserves a pass. He can say whatever he wants about how he would welcome a gay teammate. What matters is that he evidently doesn’t understand that when he says he disagrees with the gay “lifestyle”—which doesn’t exist and can’t be disagreed with—four times in one interview, a lot of people, including gay ballplayers, are going to hear, “I don’t like gay people and am saying so in what I take to be a socially acceptable way.”

We all knew this was coming: it’s not enough to be tolerant; you must approve, or else!

What if this were about an atheist trying to cope with having an out-and-proud Christian in his workplace? What if he said:

“Maybe, as an atheist, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on Christianity,” he said. “We love the people. We disagree the religion. That’s the way I would describe it for me.”

As a Christian, I would thank the man for his tolerance and liberality. I could not possibly expect more from him. He would have my friendship, and my support. Why shouldn’t he?

But this is not about belief, you say; rather, it’s about an immutable characteristic, like race. Well, what if this were about a racist black man trying to cope with having a white man on his team? What if he said:

“Maybe, as a black man, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing why it is hard for us to embrace a white man,” he said. “We love the people. But given the racism in American society, it’s hard for us to be as affirming as white people may want us to be. That’s the way I would describe it for me.”

Despite rejecting and regretting his racism, I would still be grateful for the black man’s honesty, and try to see things from his point of view. If he said he wanted to love me, but it was hard for him because of other things he believes, but he was still making an honest attempt at friendship, then it seems to me that I would be bound to do the same, even though his racism would bother me.

But that’s not the way things are policed anymore. I am reminded of something an old literature professor in Daniel Taylor’s new novel Death Comes for the Deconstructionist says about the academy today:

“It’s just that we used to divide ourselves by specialty or even century — Victorians, medievalists, Shakespearians — and we could talk to each other. Now we divide by ideology and politics and causes and we are infused with suspicion. It’s ironic, Mr. Mote. We have never been so opposed to talking about the moral dimension of literature, and yet we have never been more moralistic and judgmental.”

This is the paradox inherent in the Law of Merited Impossibility: that we are all about setting moral judgment aside, and when, having set it aside for the thing that we are after, we impose harsh judgment on you, there will be no contradiction because you will deserve what you get.

Advice to orthodox Christian baseball players and others: watch what you say. It can and will be used against you. You. Must. Approve.

UPDATE: A reader who always sends me great stuff passes along gay former Major Leaguer Billy Bean’s response to Murphy’s comments. Excerpt:

Expecting everyone to be supportive right away is simply not realistic. If you asked anyone who has competed in high-level men’s professional sports, I believe they would agree with me. This doesn’t change the way I go about my business, or my belief in what I am doing, but it’s reality.

After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.

I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start.

The silver lining in his comments are that he would be open to investing in a relationship with a teammate, even if he “disagrees” with the lifestyle. It may not be perfect, but I do see him making an effort to reconcile his religious beliefs with his interpretation of the word lifestyle. It took me 32 years to fully accept my sexual orientation, so it would be hypocritical of me to not be patient with others.

Inclusion means everyone, plain and simple. Daniel is part of that group.

That was graceful, and I appreciate it.