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In the Spirit: Revisiting a controversial column on homosexuality

In the Spirit: Revisiting a controversial column on homosexuality


Two weeks ago, I profiled Steve McConkey in this space. He’s the Madison resident who, with his wife, founded 4 Winds Christian Athletics, a sports ministry dedicated to supporting Christian athletes and helping them spread the faith.

The focus of the profile was McConkey’s opposition to homosexuality, especially changes that allow transgender athletes to compete at the Olympics and that require U.S. athletes in the Olympic Games to agree to a non-discrimination clause protecting the rights of gay and lesbian participants.

We both got a lot of blowback. Critics said McConkey is a lone wolf in the wilderness, and they chided me for giving him an uncontested soapbox. The Rev. Michael Schuler, pastor of First Unitarian Society in Madison, put it eloquently in an email, which he gave me permission to quote from.

“While I appreciated learning of this man’s organization (which seems to boast a very small following), I was surprised that you did not include any qualifiers that might inform the casual reader that McConkey does not by any means speak for ‘Christians’ as a group and that he is, in fact, an outlier whose views Christians in the mainline community would never support,” Schuler wrote. “While I appreciate your willingness to make room for minority voices in the print media, I would suggest that you may be remiss in not adding some sort of qualification so that readers know that McConkey is not a credible spokesman for Christianty.”

It’s a fair point. The column would have benefited from at least a sentence or two of context, which I will now seek to provide.

Overall, societal views on homosexuality and gay marriage have shifted dramatically in just a few years, with supporters of gay rights clearly claiming the momentum. The Pew Research Center reported last year that the share of Americans who say homosexuality should be accepted by society has increased from 47 percent to 60 percent over the past decade.

Views among religious people also are tilting more toward acceptance of homosexuality, though a poll last May by Pew found that among those who attend religious services weekly or more — sometimes called the deeply religious — homosexual behavior continues to be viewed as a sin by a wide margin (67 percent to 24 percent).

As Schuler noted, Christians differ greatly in their views on this issue. A majority of white mainline Protestants in the poll — 53 percent — said they do not view homosexual behavior as a sin. Black Protestants are a different story, with 79 percent saying it is a sin.

Fifty-three percent of U.S. Catholics also said they don’t view homosexual behavior as a sin. That’s significant, in that the survey results go against the strong teachings of the Catholic Church. In the same poll, 71 percent of Catholics said homosexuality should be accepted by society.

However, McConkey is a white evangelical who attends a nondenominational church, and in that realm, his views are embraced. A lopsided 78 percent of white evangelicals in the Pew poll said homosexual behavior is a sin.

“I really don’t feel like a minority in this situation,” McConkey said in a follow-up interview. “At the same time, it really doesn’t matter to me if I am. When I face the Lord, he’s not going to ask me which opinion polls I read.” McConkey said he wants people to know he’s “not a hater.”

“What people have to realize with my testimony is that I was on the very bottom due to drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I was living a very immoral life. I’m a fallen person. I don’t hate (homosexuals), because I understand the human condition.”

You can reach reporter Doug Erickson at or 608-252-6149.

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