Just a week after Marine Corps General Peter Pace received heavy criticism for his statements about homosexuality in the military, Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy waded into similarly unfriendly waters. He accepted an award from the Indiana Family Institute, a leading supporter of an amendment that would uphold heterosexual marriage.
"I appreciate the stance [the Indiana Family Institute] is taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said in his acceptance speech.
Dungy has earned for himself a reputation as an all-American good guy: from the fortitude he displayed in the aftermath of his son's suicide last year, to his modest acceptance of his Super Bowl victory in February.
But even America's sweethearts can fall out of public favor really quickly, especially if they dare to speak out their Christian beliefs—and especially if they are willing to speak out with an unpopular opinion about same-sex "marriage."
In his acceptance speech at the award banquet, Dungy said he agreed with the Indiana Family Institute because he believed they were taking the biblical position on marriage—not because they were anti-gay.
"We're not anti-anything else," Dungy said. "We're not trying to downgrade anyone else . . . we're trying to promote family values the Lord's way, just like I'm trying to win on the football field the Lord's way. No different."
Dungy's Christianity has been evident from the moment he hit the spotlight, and this was not the first time Dungy spoke out on the "Lord's side." But, it was probably the most controversial. Like General Pace, Dungy has not earned public brownie points for his opinion on gay "marriage."
Gay activists have been quick to jump on this one. The editor of a gay-rights blog accused Dungy of treating gays as second-class citizens. And a blogger at the Washington Post compared Dungy's views on homosexuality to condemnation of interracial marriage.
Dungy is not surprised. Before he attended the banquet, he knew he would receive criticism. "It was even suggested to me that I should say, 'Thank you, but the views of the [Indiana Family Institute] don't necessarily reflect my personal views,'" he said. "And, a lot of people would love me to say that. They don't know me very well."
We need more folks like Dungy—men and women who know how to winsomely and articulately defend a biblical worldview, despite what popular opinion may dictate. Dungy was not afraid to speak truth, even when he knew he would be unjustly characterized—neither should we.
As Paul said in Colossians, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
It does not mean looking for an argument, but it also does not mean avoiding the major issues that end up facing us in our generation. And, perhaps, we can soften unpopular opinions by presenting them tactfully and by arguing positively from a biblical worldview. That's what Dungy did. Clearly and firmly he said, in effect, that marriage between one man and one woman is God's plan. And God's plan is good.
Now that's an argument worth making.
From BreakPoint®, May 2, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries