In the car the other day, I was listening to two hosts on Toronto’s sports radio station.
They were discussing the decision by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov not to wear a rainbow warmup jersey during the pre-game skate-around.
The jersey was meant to show that the Flyers are “inclusive” of the LGBTQ community.
It was a solution in search of a problem.
Provorov said donning the jersey went against his Russian Orthodox Christian beliefs.
He told the media: “I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m gonna say.”
The National Hockey League has a policy stating that no player should ever be forced to do something that goes against his beliefs. So Provorov has not violated any rules, except those of public opinion.
The two radio hosts attempted to dissect this incident. Was Provorov right or wrong? Should he be punished or not? And so on.
But it was the comment of one host that confirmed for me modern society’s poor understanding of what true religious belief means.
The host said he knew lots of people who are very religious but are more open-minded than Provorov.
These phantom religious people he knows were cast as the good guys, because they don’t take too strict an interpretation of their creed.
The message: Be religious, but don’t overdo it.
On the Sportsnet.ca website, Bayne Pettinger, a hockey agent and former NHL player who came out as homosexual three years ago, said he was concerned that Provorov’s position would set back progress hitherto made.
“We take these steps forward and we have all these initiatives and we start to show great signs within the game, and then people use their platform to damage that and say that you’re not welcome here,” Pettinger said.
First off, Provorov was not using a platform. He was reacting to questions about his refusal to wear the jersey by reporters.
Second, the idea that one man’s refusal to wear a certain jersey would change the course of history is a classic example of hyperbole.
The societal norm today is built on secular views, and those who dare to cite their religious beliefs against those views are outliers.
I’m not sure why the Flyers felt it necessary to do this publicity stunt. Up until now, no one who buys tickets to a hockey game is asked his or her sexual preference.
There was no indication that homosexual fans were made to feel unwelcome
Rather, it’s what many businesses do today to pander to this group or that, so as to fend off any future accusations of bigotry. It’s called “woke capitalism.”
Provorov is a hockey player. He’s not a politician or the head of an advocacy group. He does not own a pulpit.
But in today’s world, not approving of someone’s lifestyle is akin to being a raging bigot.
As a Catholic I’m aware that my Church hasn’t made itself popular by refusing to bless same-sex arrangements. It’s sticking to the Christian definition of marriage as between one man and a woman. That’s our right, and yet we don’t exclude anyone or hate anyone.
Many Protestant denominations have taken the “woke” path and as a result have seen their attendance drop like a stone … or perhaps tablets, in this example.
For deeply-believing Christians, religion is not a popularity contest. It’s about being faithful. It’s a guiding principle.
During the two world wars, Quakers refused to carry guns. They were considered traitors and cowards, even though they volunteered to serve as unarmed medics on the battlefield.
They took seriously the New Testament admonition to turn the other cheek.
In 1965, the great Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to play in the first game of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish days. He was honored for putting faith before a game — even one as important as a World Series game.
Where does all this stop? Should everyone march in a Pride parade for fear of public scorn? Should we fly rainbow flags to show our support in a public way just to make sure we’re seen as being on the right side of things?
Maybe that’s hyperbole, but at least there is evidence behind it.