Credit Daniel Murphy for taking the question, and engaging. It is Tuesday night. He played baseball all day, and parented all evening. And now we’re talking about religion and sexuality.
But it had to be asked, in light of his earlier comments: If you tell an openly gay teammate that you “love” him, but disapprove of his lifestyle, is that enough to make him feel safe and welcome in the clubhouse?
“Honestly, I probably don’t have that answer,” Murphy says. “I don’t. I just know how I try to approach people I come into contact with. I try to invest in them on a sincere level. I just try to love people. And I tell you, I fail miserably a lot of the time. And I’m still trying to love all humans.”
We’re talking because of what happened earlier in the day. Sandy Alderson, treating baseball like the social institution it should always be, invited gay ex-player and MLB ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean to Mets camp.
Murphy later told the News’ Kristie Ackert that he “disagrees with (Bean’s) lifestyle,” and went on to say this to the Star-Ledger:
“I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect…Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100%.”
These are Murphy’s religious beliefs, and they are shared by many of his fellow MLB players. He is entitled to his views, and deserves credit for voicing them. Complex reality is always preferable to B.S. At least we know.
When Murphy and I engage in a civil debate about his comments, it underscores the lingering gap between groups of Americans on the issue.
Doesn’t he realize that gay people are hurt by the term “lifestyle,” and the implication that their orientation is a choice?
“You and I have a disagreement,” Murphy says. “That’s why we’re having a conversation right now. And I completely understand why someone who believes it is not a choice, that you’re born with it, would take issue with my beliefs, that it is a lifestyle.”
But if he had an openly gay teammate, would it be enough to hear that Murphy “accepted” him?
“I feel like acceptance, embracing — that falls short. You understand what I’m saying? I love this person. The same way I love my wife, even though I don’t always agree with everything she does, I love her. I can love a teammate, even though I disagree with the choices he makes.”
Again — choice? This is an insurmountable disagreement, at least tonight. But Murphy wants it known that he does not believe in condemning anyone.
“One thing that gets caught up a little bit when it comes to believers in Christ is that always, we’re condemning,” Murphy says. ‘We condemn homosexuals…’God hates this,’ or ‘God hates that.’ God doesn’t hate people. He loves them. Jesus loves them.”
The disconnect remains. How can someone feel fully loved, while being told that his or her sexuality is wrong?
Jonathan Farer is a lifelong Mets fan who was moved by Alderson’s words and actions on Tuesday, and disheartened by Murphy’s.
“It was a pretty lonely experience growing up as a gay kid in NYC 30 years ago,” Farer told me. “I was different than other kids my age and different from the rest of my family. Baseball was something I had in common with my friends and my family…I have stuck with the Mets through good times and bad.
“I was really moved by Sandy Alderson’s decision to include Billy Bean in Spring Training. It felt like tremendous progress until I read about Daniel Murphy’s views around tolerating gay teammates. I am now married to a man I love very much — something I thought would never happen in my lifetime. Murphy’s comments made me realize that despite the progress that has been made, there is still a long road ahead.”
A long road, toward anything approaching agreement.
“You gotta write what you gotta write,” Murphy says. “Whatever you write, I’m still going to believe what I’m going to believe tomorrow. I don’t think either one of us got on the phone thinking we would convince you of the other side.”