Charlton Click here for video Click here for audio [REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: There was quite a media frenzy around the announcement by Washington Wizards center Jason Collins that, quote, “I’m Black and I’m Gay.” An insightful analysis of one component of this coverage appeared in the pages of Religion Dispatches Magazine - and I'm so glad it did. "Why Jason Collins’ Faith is Ignored... And Tebow’s Isn’t" was written by T.F. Charlton, and I am delighted to welcome her now to State of Belief Radio. T.F., welcome to our show. [T.F. CHARLTON, GUEST]: Thank you so much for having me, I'm excited to discuss this. [WG]: Good! Me, too. There's a lot to digest in your very articulate column, but I'm going to ask if you've got a short answer for the question that's the headline of the piece. So, why was Jason Collins' faith ignored, when Tim Tebow's is the thing most people know about him? [TC]: Right, well, the answers I give in the piece boil down to maybe three or four soundbite answers. One is race, both in the sense of racism and the lower profile of black athletes in the media in general, on certain issues, and also ignorance of black culture and black religiosity. The other is that black Christianity often isn't politicized in the same way that white Evangelical Christianity, that Tebow exemplifies, is politicized. And we have a media that's very attuned to culture wars, and Collins' faith really doesn't fit within that framework. And finally, of course, related to that, he's presenting himself as a gay Christian, which again, doesn't really make sense in our media culture, where you can either be gay or you can be Christian - there's not really room to be both. [WG]: You know, I understand all three of those answers, and I wonder if there is one other - and you'll know this better than I - but in the statement that he made, I saw pervasive honesty and humility. He wasn't kneeling in an end zone; he wasn't genuflecting as he ran down the court; it was just an honest statement about, "I want you to know who I am." And that's not as exciting in the media as all of these other kind of gymnastic signs that are supposed to be religious. [TC]: Right, and that's something I also kind of touch on in my piece, that

Tebow's faith is very performative, it's very theatrical, it's made for a particular kind of media climate; and Collins' faith is really not as friendly to the sort of flashy media self-presentation that people are used to, both in athletics and in discussions of religion and Christianity, in particular. I agree, his statement was very matter-of-fact: sort of, this is who I am, and not in your face in the way that many people feel that Tebow's is. [WG]: T.F., I wonder about your thought, how important was it for Collins to come out in the way he did, including his mention of values and faith? Even if it got pretty much ignored, was it important that he do that? [TC]: Well, I can only speak to my reading of his statement. To me, it seems fairly clear that situating his sexuality - and his identity, more broadly - in the context of his faith and in the context of his family life was very important to him. He talks a lot about his coming out to his aunt; about his grandmother; about coming out to his brother - and they're all Christians too, at least that seemed strongly implied by the piece: this is a shared family faith. And I think, to me, it read as though that was a really important part of what he wanted to say: that he didn't want to be chopped up into little bits and presented just as a gay man; that he's a gay black athlete in this close-knit Christian black family, and he wants to be seen as that whole picture. There was a very striking line where he said, "I should be able to come out on my own terms; I shouldn't have T.M.Z. do it for me." So I think it was very much about taking control of his own story, and presenting himself in the way that he wants to be seen. [WG]: Yeah. Which is also a good model, I think, for others to see. Why do you think that there's this utter disconnect between something that plays into progressive values - like coming out as gay, or working for inclusion, or school anti-bullying programs, or any number of issues, and religious faith? Because it's going to be only the conservatives that are portrayed as acting on their religious convictions. What's going on there? [TC]: I think one thing is that progressive movements - the most visible progressive movements - tend to shy away from religious motivations for their activism or for their ideology. Perhaps because the "opposition," for lack of a better word, is so vociferously religious that it might seem like something that progressives want to position themselves against. You know, I personally am no longer religious in a traditional way, but I grew up very religious. And the reason I'm a progressive today is because of what I grew up learning about Jesus - even though I grew up in conservative communities. So I think there's actually a lot of power in articulating religious and spiritual motives for progressive values, but a lot of progressives seem to be very wary of that, at best, and often very prejudiced against even progressive religious people, which I think is a mistake. And I think, also, the other piece of it is that - much as is the case in general with progressive politics versus conservative politics, progressive Christians and other progressive religious people tend, in my perception at least, to not be as on top

of messaging and being "out there" in the way that conservative Christians often are. Conservative Christians are actually fairly organized and more media savvy than I think the left often gives them credit for, and a lot of the left is very disorganized in that respect. So I think there needs to be a lot more organizing around religious circles. [WG]: That's a very good point. You describe how you observe the overt faith of pro athletes as only seeming to serve a cultural purpose when those athletes are white. Expand on that narrative, if you will, because I'm interested in that. [TC]: Well, one of the examples that I offer is the quarterback for the Redskins, Robert Griffin III, who is actually also a fairly conservative Christian - and a much more successful quarterback, at least in this past season than Tim Tebow - but hasn't gotten the same kind of attention as Tim Tebow has for his faith. And I think a big reason for that is just that our media in general is very centered on whiteness and white people. We don't see many faces of color in our media much less who's producing our media is actually even less diverse than who we're seeing on screen, or who we read about in the paper. So I think Tebow is just more palatable for that kind of media culture: he's an all-American guy, and all-American all too often means white. [WG]: I think I understand what you're saying. It occurs to me that Griffin, however, has probably come closer to the Tebow-like image than anyone else I know, though his label is as a great football player, not necessarily as a great religious person. [TC]: Right. And he also is fairly flashy with his faith, which actually makes it even more interesting that he doesn't have the same profile as a Christian as Tebow does, because he also engages in these theatrics in the end zone when he makes a big play. So it's pretty interesting that he doesn't have the same profile as Tebow, despite, in many ways, being a very similar kind of Christian as Tebow. [WG]: T.F., I don't want to go far abroad, here, but do you see this same principle playing out with other public figures beyond professional sports? Do you see it in entertainment, for example? [TC]: One place where I see it - and this might be a little bit of a niche example, but I do a lot of feminist writing, so a lot of people that I have in mind are public feminists - I've noticed that in which celebrities in Hollywood are high-profile feminist women: so, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Ashley Judd are fairly highprofile celebrity feminists. But black actresses and latina actresses like Carrie Washington or Eva Langoria, who are often even much more explicit about their feminist motivations in their work and in their activism than a lot of white actresses, don't have the same profile among feminists as some feminist white actresses do.

[WG]: When you wrote this article on Jason Collins' coming out and his faith being ignored, what inside of you was driving that? What made you want to write this piece? What did you want people to know from what you wrote that they might not think of otherwise? [TC]: Well, one of the motivations was just the meme that was going around, comparing Tebow and Collins, claiming that Tebow was being persecuted for being an open Christian whereas Collins was being celebrated for being an openly-gay man - which both, erased Collins' Christianity, and also, I felt, minimized the bravery it took for him to make this statement. I'm also a queer person - I'm bisexual - so it was, as a bisexual woman of color, it was important to me that the step that Collins was taking, the step out into the light and say, "This is who I am, and I want to be accepted for the full person that I am" really resonated with me. A lot of what he said very much resonated with me. And I come from a somewhat similar family background as well: my family is also very religious - we're Nigerian-Americans, so our cultural context is a little bit different, but I also really related to what he was saying about how important his family was to his identity and his culture and his history. And I really didn't see that being fully acknowledged in responses to his statement, and I wanted to write something that would bring both his faith and his culture and his values back into the center of the discussion. [WG]: Well, you sure did that, and you made - at least to me, and I'm sure a lot of other people as well - think seriously about the themes that you wrote about, and also about the implication of those themes in our society. T.F. Charlton is the founder/editor of "Are Women Human?," a space for queer feminist and critical race analysis of religion, media, and pop culture. Her article "Why Jason Collins’ Faith is Ignored... And Tebow’s Isn’t" appears at I encourage you to go look it up and read it for yourself. T.F., I really do appreciate you taking the time to be with us today on State of Belief Radio, and I hope we can hear from you again! [TC]: Thank you so much for having me, Welton. It was a pleasure. ———————— State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.

Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion. Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world. ———————– Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana. In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes. Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, ABC’s World News, and CNN’s American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets. While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the convention’s Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77. Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.