Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell told his coming out story on Outsports last fall, becoming the first openly gay Division II player. In his account, he touched briefly on the role of religion in his life, but expanded on it this week in a terrific column for Crooked Scoreboard:
I'm gay. I'm a Christian. I'm a basketball player. Until a couple months ago, I could never combine these sentences. I can now confidently say I am a gay Christian basketball player. None of my identities take precedence over the others, and now there is only one: just Derek.
The article delves into the conflict Schell had with reconciling his faith with his sexual orientation. Making it much harder was the school he is attending. Hillsdale, in Michigan, is one of the most conservative schools in the country:
Our four blocks of campus were filled with home-schooled kids who thought that the world revolved around the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was basically a second coming of Christ. I always tell people, "it's just different here." There were students reading Bibles in trees, and Sunday mornings were spent with church and political talk. Being gay was outwardly and clearly contradictory to common values. Professors and fellow students hated me without knowing it.
Slowly, Schell came to realize that his God did not make mistakes and was able to accept himself as a gay Christian. "I knew God did not want me to feel this way about myself or about the world, and that it was time to accept that this was his plan. Once I finally loved myself, it was easier for others to do the same," he writes.
Schell's perspective is important in that religion continues to be the single biggest source of pain and frustration for young people dealing with their sexual orientation. It is coincidentally similar to a story we just ran from Warren Perry, a former University of North Carolina swimmer, on what the church can learn from sports in regards to LGBT issues.
A lot of LGBT people wind up leaving their faith and church because of organized religion's stance on homosexuality. But others like Schell stay engaged and in the end will be valuable in helping to convince people that the two can coexist.