Alex Blaze made an excellent post about Tony Dungy's appointment to the Office of Faith-based Initiatives. Frankly, I'm not here to debate that issue whatsoever: I'm not a fan of the organization, but as they say, "Somebody's gotta do it." If Dungy's good with it, I'm okay with it.
No. My issue isn't with the appointment at all. What really worried me was the way my gut responded to the news. When I read the post I could almost hear a voice screaming in my head: "Darn. Now I have to learn to hate Tony Dungy." The guy came through in the end, refusing the appointment due to time constraints, but the fact that the thought crossed my mind is more than a little worrisome.
Despite his position against homosexual marriage, I really like Tony Dungy.
For sake of full disclosure, I must admit two things. One, I have been raised to be a Colts fan. I spent years watching the team, good times and bad, and the changes made to the program by Dungy are great in more ways than the team's win-loss record. Two, I have a strict non-dismissal policy when it comes to decisions I don't agree with. It's a side effect of being trained as a teacher: one bad idea doesn't ruin a whole bunch of great ideas.
Let's take a moment to look at what Tony Dungy has brought to the table, outside of his Focus on the Family connections: he funds and raises awareness for autism groups and youth education initiatives, runs the "All Pro Dad" organization he created during his tenure as an NFL coach, encourages players to be role models for children instead of simply being stars, and takes an active role as a community organizer in the state.
Does Dungy oppose gay marriage? Yes. Does this make him someone I have to dislike? Signs point to no. This, more than any other part of Dungy's potential appointment, really worries me.
In the fight for equal rights and acceptance, people get whitewashed. Good, outstanding people who affect a net social positive are turned into bigots by their perspective on the GLBT issue. Isn't this the precise type of thinking we're trying to stop? Sure, I'm a GLBT activist, and I'm all for marriage equality, but I would hate it if someone discounted my other accomplishments and passions because of that one stance. Yet here we are, throwing "homophobe" onto an otherwise good man, much the same way I may be labeled "tranny" despite any number of good things I bring to the table.
I know this is a war, and I know we're excited to have our voices heard and answered. But at the same time, I worry that GLBT activists can become blind to the other issues tackled by these faith-based groups. Yes, many groups want to see that homosexual marriage remains illegal. However, these same groups battle alcoholism, gambling, poverty, family issues... everything that they see as destructive to society. Dungy worked with IFI, but we must also recognize that the institute does more than fight against GLBT issues. I don't think its fair to dismiss the good someone has done because of one decision we don't agree with.
By the same token, the ACLU fights for anybody - Satan-worshipers and Atheists and Christians and Gays and straights alike. Would it be fair to slam a donation to the ACLU as a donation to the Church of Satan, or to Godless Atheists looking to destroy our nation? Hardly. The tapestry is far more complex than that.
To a certain degree, though, this is precisely what we must do, if for no other reason than the fact that anti-gay groups are painting GLBT people as destructive to society.
Most people that see the GLBT umbrella as a sin are able to look past the hype: here there be happy, well-adjusted people whose contributions to society cannot be denied, even though their lifestyle isn't proper. Thus, the old yarn "hate the sin, not the sinner."
Maybe this is what's at the heart of this whole problem. In our lust for marriage equality, equal rights, and constitutional protection we have done the very thing of which we accuse our accusers of doing: whitewashing. Instead of recognizing the utility of faith-based initiatives we see an enemy, an Other, a faggot from a parallel universe. We close our ears when they should be wide open, and that's a true shame.
So, for the sake of irony and a sense of duty, I say bravo to Tony Dungy for the appointment, and kudos for turning it down. Here's a man who has strong convictions and stands behind both his word and his promises to the community. I don't care what side of the fence he's on: to a certain degree, I respect that kind of commitment, and refuse to look down upon someone who does so much good in my community.
Hate the sin, not the sinner, right?