In full disclosure I’m an affirming follower of Jesus Christ, a former pastor in an Anabaptist tradition that flowed from the same Mennonite roots as James Reimer’s Mennonite roots. I have Choose Love tattooed on my right forearm and Yeshua on my left arm.
I respect every person’s right to religious freedom.
That being said, it does not mean my heart can’t be broken when a Christian chooses not to extend love to those on the margins.
Why was my heart broken?
Under the umbrella of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative the San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers, as most other NHL teams, chose to wear Pride jerseys during warm-ups in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Two Christian NHL players have openly declined to participate in wearing Pride jerseys.
The first player to decline was Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, on January 17. He didn’t issue an official statement. He merely said in an interview, “I respect everybody’s choice. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Prior to San Jose Sharks’ Pride night, on Mar 18, Sharks’ goaltender, James Reimer, released a statement explaining why he would not wear a Pride jersey or participate in the warm-up. His statement read,
“For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian—not just in title, but in how I choose to live my life daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and follow him. I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness.
In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.
I strongly believe that every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
I don’t doubt the authenticity of James Reimer’s commitment to follow Jesus Christ. But my heart is deeply wounded when a fellow brother in Christ has yet to be moved by God’s spirit as it teaches Jesus’ followers that the LGBTQ+ community have every right to be proud of who they are. Their identity as active members of their community is not putting their souls in jeopardy, nor should it be a reason to not extend them love.
I believe Reimer when he says he doesn’t have hate in his heart. However, his heart does lack the ability to extend love, compassion, and acceptance to everyone, as Jesus calls all Christians to. Unfortunately, Reimer’s faith is still grounded in a place that has yet come to terms with the way Jesus’ Church is evolving, as it always has.
I was once in the place that James Reimer and millions of other Christians are still at. It’s hard to break away from an entrenched set of indoctrinated beliefs. I once believed that homosexuality is a sin. A dozen years ago I would likely have also refused to wear a Pride jersey. So, I get it. But that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break when I see it happening today. I made the decision to open myself to gaining a deeper understanding of biblical interpretation. Ultimately, some ten years ago, while still debating the issue, I chose love. I figured it was better to err on the side of love. Since then, my decision has been validated time and time again.
I’m glad Reimer’s faith is based on the Bible, as it should be. The problem is that the Bible needs to be interpreted. As Christians, we’ve historically demonstrated we don’t always do a good job. Remember slavery being justified by the Bible, or women’s subjugation. Need I go on.
If you’re interested in learning more about interpreting the Bible in relations to what it might or might not have to say about the LGBTQ+ community’s role in the God’s kingdom you can do a quick read of Michael Coren’s article for TVO, What certain NHL players don’t understand about homosexuality and the Bible. It’s a good piece, whether you’re Christian or not.
If you’re a Christian who is open to learning how the Holy Spirit is moving millions of Christians around the world to gain a fuller understanding of what the Bible has to say, and not say, about homosexuality go to The Reformation Project, where you’ll discover more about advancing LGBTQ inclusion in the Church. These are just two resources. There are many others.
At the core of my religious beliefs is Jesus Christ, Yeshua in Aramaic. He calls us to love one another. I encourage us all to choose love.