The last two days my newsfeed on Facebook has been filled up with news about Manny Pacquiao. First to do with people talking about the fact that he likened homosexual relationships to being worse than animals, then secondly to do with Nike getting rid of his sponsorship. Many of the more violent and hyperbolic reactions that I read about came from celebrities in the Philippines such as Vice Ganda, some came from friends I know and others came from general online comments about how 'Many has always been a homophobe.'
Now, if there's one thing I know it is this - Many was not acting wisely when he said what he said. It was clumsy and it was only guaranteed to trigger fireworks. However, the context of the situation is that he was asked for his opinion and he provided it. The backlash against that opinion ultimately in my eyes has proven to be completely ridiculous.
Take for instance the following two articles which are laughable in their sheer media bias and lack of reason:
Each suggest that Many Pacquiao has somehow just destroyed his entire legacy by what he said. As if they don't know about his history of rumors to do with being a womaniser and abuser of substances. If you read the articles, one would think he had committed adultery or murder or some such crime. What instead did he do? He made one statement which was his opinion.
I care more about the way in which a person lives their life than about the singular statements they make on a spur of the moment decision. Some might argue that this shows Many's 'hatred' and 'bigotry' but I challenge you that if you are simply willing to throw stones at him and not consider his point of view then you are the one acting in a bigoted manner. I saw a man who, unswerving, holds to his faith despite what the popular opinion might be. He was not trying to gather favour with people but with God by holding to a Godly standard of sacredness.
Now in the following three videos (each go for about ten minutes and are fascinating viewing if you can find the time) Ravi Zacharias makes some fascinating points about differences of opinion. He challenges people about the type of society we live in and when people argue that it is an autocratic society, wherein we govern ourselves, he challenges them about whether opinions only matter to us when our opinion agrees with someone else. Whether you agree with him or not it's great viewing.
Now Vice Ganda mockingly released a statement via Twitter asking along the lines of 'who even follows the entire Bible.' This is a common fall-back argument for many people that I have seen again and again. You know the answer? No one. I don't follow the entire Bible whatsoever. Not even a perfect looking church leader like Brian Houston or Billy Graham can. But you know what they do do? Possess a faith and a hope in the salvation of their lord and saviour Jesus Christ. They look to please Him before they please man on any issue of public redress and when God has made such a sacred thing as marriage they believe that humanity cannot mess with it.
So you see this is what I've concluded. You may not like Manny's opinion and expression of it. You might see him as bigoted, hateful or whatever choice phrase you pick. But I will support the right for him to have a decision and I challenge anyone throwing stones as to whether they can say that they are not being as hateful back in return.
I may not agree with your lifestyle. I will likely not support you in following that lifestyle necessarily - I wouldn't give a drug addict drugs; an alcoholic some wine; or a gambler money to spend on the races. But I will accept your human right to be human and make choices. Whether those choices are wrong or not - the choice is yours. As Dr. Ravi points out in the above speeches, it is part of our rights as humans and the beauty of being human is we have freedom of choice. However we do not freely choose the consequences of those choices. You can either choose to criticise and throw stones with the chorus or you can defend a fellow human's right to his opinion even if you disagree.
Not all beliefs, all religion, is equal. Dr Ravi stated that. It's the perfect phrasing of my own belief. Try criticising the Saudi government for their beliefs about gay marriage - in Saudi Arabia! You won't get very far. But that's the beauty of who God is: he unequivocally grants freedom to us to choose to love, to worship or to break the sacred commands he provides. Yet, humanity must ultimately pay the consequences of those freedoms and choices. The question remains - how are you using your freedom and will? Are you choosing to worship your creator or your own selfish desires? I believe that despite however clumsily Manny said it that he has made a conscious choice to look to his Lord first and that is truly the kind of admirable, excellent spirit that I am chasing after this year.