In July, the St. Louis Cardinals will host “Christian Day at the Ballpark.” Every year, a past or present Cardinal steps onto the mound after the game to share about his faith. It sounds like something from a previous generation. In a way, it is. This year, “Christian Day” celebrates its 30th birthday.
In today’s cultural environment, I’m surprised not to hear these questions: Why isn’t there an Atheist Day? Or a Jewish Day? Or a Muslim Day? None of those days, to my knowledge, exists in Major League Baseball (MLB). But there is a time dedicated to celebrating a non-religious minority: LGBT+ Pride Night.
And some Christian baseball players don’t want to participate.
Jason Adam’s Conviction
Jason Adam, pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, opted out of the Ray’s Pride Night uniforms, which included rainbow-colored logos on their hat and right sleeve. In his interview with Truth Over Tribe, he explained that the decision “wasn’t political at all,” but that he felt uncomfortable wearing something that celebrates something Jesus does not encourage, “just like Jesus tells me, a heterosexual guy, to abstain from sex outside of marriage. It’s no different.”
But Adam hasn’t convinced the media or many LGBT+ supporters that he’s not a bigot. Sarah Spain, speaking on ESPN’s Around the Horn, said,
This is what tends to happen when a privileged class isn’t affected by things. This is not just about baseball. That religious exemption BS which is used in sport and otherwise also allows people to be denied healthcare, jobs, apartments, children, prescriptions, all sorts of rights. And so we have to stop tiptoeing around it because we’re trying to protect people who are trying to be bigoted. . . . They’re trying to use religious exemptions to affect the opportunities, services, available resources for people who are LGBTQ+.
According to Spain, not wearing a patch is tantamount to bigotry, and participation in a conspiracy to deny LGBT+ people human rights. Exactly how a rainbow-less piece of clothing achieves so much is unclear.
But here’s what’s clear: in Spain’s view, someone’s right to have their sexual self-expression affirmed is more important than someone’s right to not say, do, or wear something that compromises their conscience.
Is This Really That Big of a Deal?
All of this can sound silly. It’s just clothing. But it’s not that simple. Imagine someone required you to wear a Confederate or Nazi flag patch. Would you do it?
All of this can sound silly. It’s just clothing. But it’s not that simple.
I’m not saying that a pride patch is the moral equivalent of a Nazi flag. So let’s move to some closer examples: a patch supporting Donald Trump or Joe Biden, perhaps. Or a patch in support of atheism, Islam, or Buddhism.
How would you feel?
The problems with the patch become even clearer when you compare Christian Day and Pride Night:
- On Christian Day, the celebrations are optional, taking place after the game. On Pride Night, the celebration is baked into the game and non-optional for attendees.
- On Christian Day, non-Christian players aren’t pressured to participate in the post-game activities. They’re free to leave without social or vocational consequences.
- On Christian Day, there are no special uniforms. There’s no pressure on atheists, Jewish, or Muslim players to wear a cross patch.
- No one claims that non-participation in Christian Day means you’re anti-Christian. No one claims that atheist players who leave after the game ends are in a conspiracy to revoke the human rights of Christians.
- Non-participation in Christian Day doesn’t draw the ire of mainstream media across the country.
If Pride Night looked more like Christian Day, I wouldn’t be writing this. Christians aren’t begging for special treatment; they’re simply asking to be treated the way they treat others.
This logic is unconvincing to some. One common objection goes something like this: Christians were never an oppressed sexual minority in the United States. This isn’t the case for the LGBT+ community.
This is a historically true statement. The deeper tragedy is that sometimes Christians were the instigators of violent acts and hurtful language against the gay community.
But is this what Jason Adam is doing? He did not condemn or malign LGBT+ people; he spoke explicitly in support of their personhood and rights. His conscience simply would not allow him to celebrate the sex lives of the LGBT+ community. Likewise, he said he wouldn’t wear patches celebrating the sinful sex lives of heterosexual people: premarital sex, affairs, pornography, polyamory, or his own sexual sins.
Moreover, while it’s historically true that the LGBT+ community could not expect the support of others, it is not true today. The news media establishment, the White House, the Congressional majority, Hollywood, Big Tech censors, the NBA, the MLB, Disney, and just about every major American corporation loudly support the LGBT+ community and condemn people like Jason Adam.
Should a Christian Wear a Pride Patch?
For Christians, these times require courage and compassion. In that regard, Jason Adam is exemplary. Despite an onslaught of ad hominem attacks, he responded in love.
But Jason Adam is not alone. Almost all Christians face similar questions in their workplaces and schools. I know CEOs whose HR departments tell them they need to send a celebratory email out during Pride Month. I know employees who must attend LGBT+ training programs that require them to affirm things they don’t believe and speak or act in ways that make them ethically uncomfortable.
Though these moments are becoming more frequent, we must be careful not to exaggerate their regularity. Instead, we should faithfully prepare our hearts so that our faith is resilient enough to face challenges with a Christlike posture. After all, Jesus warned his disciples that they would be persecuted for following him: “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11–12).
We should faithfully prepare our hearts so that our faith is resilient enough to face challenges with a Christlike posture.
We need Christian courage, not fear. Fear drives us to fight or flee. Christian courage, on the other hand, is rooted in the belief that Jesus protects you. It frees you to prayerfully seek God’s guidance, follow his Spirit, speak with gentleness, act in accordance with the truth, and love your neighbor (and your enemies!) as yourself.
Jason Adam (and scores of other Christians) can calmly refuse to support Pride Month because he’s not living in fear. He’s living by faith.