Terrell Owens was a mess of a human being – but in his prime, he was one hell of a wide receiver. In his heyday, he was bigger, stronger and faster than anyone who ever tried to cover him. If you attempted to defend T.O. by covering him with one defensive back, you were asking for him to beat you all by himself, as evidenced by one fateful day in 2000 in which he abused my Chicago Bears to the tune of 20 receptions for 283 yards. Yeah, in one single game.
Over time, however, T.O. became known as much for his colorful and flamboyant celebrations after touchdown catches as he did for his football ability or even for his not inconsiderable personal problems (which, from my layman’s perspective, probably included some serious battles with mental illness and at least one probable suicide attempt). Wikipedia has compiled a fairly complete list of his post-touchdown antics here – of which the most famous was probably his dive into the star at the 50-yard line of Cowboys Stadium while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. The central theme of Owens’ public persona was that almost everyone (except for the fans of the various teams he played for) hated his excessively gaudy post-touchdown celebrations.
Towards the end of his career, Owens gave an interview with SportsCenter and was asked the question if he ever intended to tone down his celebrations or if he cared that they seemed to rub almost everyone the wrong way. Owens’ response, essentially, was “not really,” followed by a statement that social conservatives would do well to take to heart after last week’s Obergefell decision: “If you don’t want me celebrating, keep me out of the end zone.”
Easier said than done, but still the only proven way to shut up an obnoxious gloater.
I thought about good old Terrell Owens and his words a lot this weekend as I was mostly unplugged from the Internet due to coaching a weekend baseball tournament. Although I wasn’t really commenting on twitter or Facebook or responding to many emails, I saw a lot of legitimate (and probably well-deserved) anguish from conservatives about what a bunch of obnoxious, football-spiking douchebags liberals have been in the wake of the Obergefell decision. My own thoughts on the decision are set forth at some length here – personally, I am not upset with the result but am very upset and disturbed about the process that was used to obtain it. And I, too, have found the distasteful gloating and hatred towards sincere Christians to be as insufferable and tiresome as anything that has come out of the Westboro Baptist Church in the other direction over the last few years.
So here the social conservatives are. A weekend of complaining and kvetching about the obnoxiousness of liberals has passed. Now what?
Well, look, you and I both know that they are not done trying to score touchdowns and spike footballs. As Erick has noted, they are already on the march again. Here is the reality: if social conservatives adopt the same game plan for keeping liberals out of the end zone again, then once again they will be gnashing their teeth about the obnoxious post-victory celebration the liberals are enjoying.
By and large, the social conservative coalition has taken two divergent paths in terms of messaging and tactics. For the most part, the pro-lifers have gotten smart and professional about their tactics. You still have your spokespeople out there who are basically SBC pastors in a new profession, but the movement has also trained and adopted a large swath of spokespeople who make it a concerted point to tailor their message to people who are not devout Evangelical Christians and/or culturally conservative Catholics. The pro-life movement, by and large, has learned to argue without reference to the Bible, God, or religion at all, but rather with respect to actual public policy goals that have illustrated that abortion is a legitimate subject of Government interest – regardless of how one feels about the religious aspects of it.
The folks who were really involved tooth and nail in the fight against same-sex marriage, quite frankly, did a terrible job of this for the most part. There was a tremendous disconnect between point A in their arsenal – “The Bible defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman” and the key question people today (for better or worse) demand an answer to – “Why is this view something the government should enforce?” There was a surfeit of people proclaiming a message behind pulpits that their congregations already agreed with, but a dearth of people who were willing to put in the legwork to explain to an increasingly secular world why they should give a crap, from a governmental standpoint.
SSM opponents have got to get better from a tactical and messaging standpoint in fighting the next battle. Because, as it happens, I stand strongly with them in the next battle – which is to say, respecting the clear First Amendment Free Exercise rights of churches to not participate in SSM if their doctrine so dictates. And not only for that reason, but also because the sickening desire to gleefully gloat over the demise of Christendom by the vanguard of this particular fight should be thwarted, for the good of the Republic as a whole.
The left’s next touchdown dance will be even worse than this one. We can either complain at their obnoxiousness or we can get to work devising a working plan to prevent it from happening. But to do that, we have to keep them out of the end zone first.