Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Football, Rape, Respect, and the Church

I read a very disturbing editorial this past weekend about two football players who were convicted of raping a girl when she was passed out drunk.

I was not disturbed by conviction of the players.  I believe they got what they deserved.

I was disturbed by a whole host of other things.  Things which made me shake my head in disgust and bewilderment.  Hopefully you have read the article by now and I do not need to go into all the details, but I am still disturbed.

You see, I was a high school football player.  I excelled at the sport although I did not play at the collegiate level.  I received all-district honors three years on the offensive side of the ball and was a unanimous all- district player on the defensive side of the ball my senior year.  I was privy to all the locker room banter.  I knew all about the weekend parties and the drinking that occurred in my small town.  And honestly, can we get over the apologies for kids doing such things in a small town because there's "nothing to do."  I mean, from what I read and hear, kids in the city do the same d@mn things.  It isn't a small town problem.  There's something more.

The addition of technology to this issue is both a blessing and a curse.  Without it, those football players would never have been accused of rape and convicted and held accountable for their actions.  Yet, with it, there is now a culture of sexting, recording sex acts, and sharing pictures and videos of things that should remain private.  Yet, I am convinced technology is not a part of the problem.

You see, I will freely admit that I did not have sex with any of the girls I went to high school with.  I never got drunk.  I attended very few parties.  I had reasons for doing so, then.  But this story took me back.  It took me back to those days when I did have several girls throwing themselves at me.  But I never took the bait.

This story caused me to stop and think, "Why?"  Why didn't I engage in that culture?  Why didn't I engage in sexual promiscuity when I was a youth and full of vim and vigor?  Why didn't I give in to all the opportunities when they were so readily available?

Yes, there was some fear of the long-term consequences of getting a girl pregnant.
Yes, there was the influence of my faith in terms of saving sex for marriage.
But I think there was a different aspect of my faith that was driving things which was related to the concept of marriage and relationships--it was respect.  Respect for the ladies I went to high school with.  Respect for them as people.  Respect for them as friends.

As I think about it now, I believe I felt very uncomfortable with "using" someone for my pleasure.  Sex without a relationship is just that. 

You see, as a Christian, I believe that when two people engage in sex, they become one flesh.  This is rooted and grounded in the story of Adam and Eve, when God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.  God removed a rib and created Eve.  She was called "woman" for out of "man" she was taken.  Understanding ancient Judaism is crucial to this text here, for when God removed a rib from man, he was no longer complete.  He was no longer whole.  He was lacking something, and that something could only be found with woman.  This is why the biblical writer says, "The two become one flesh."  It is in relationship, that man and woman are made whole.

Now, one could take this two ways.  One could say, "Well, then if I am made whole with woman, then I should be made whole as much as possible."

Yet, if this attitude is taken, then one must remember, for a time you are made whole, but when that relationship is severed, there is a great rending in one's spirit.  Consensual sex has consequences.  Spiritually, you have been joined with someone, and that is not simply undone and walked away from.

Therefore, the other way has been promoted in the Church for centuries: be patient.  Find the one you were meant to be with.  Find the one who completes you spiritually, and the physical will take care of itself.  This requires discipline.  It requires putting off short term pleasure for long term joy.  It is the path least trodden in a culture which promotes sex as the best way to become a man--or hold power over men.  It requires members of both sexes to hold the opposite sex in the highest regard with the most respect possible.

The article highlights the utter and reprehensible lack of such respect.  The article highlights the utter and reprehensible lack of dignity of another person.  And the article highlights the utter and reprehensible understanding of that culture that this is just what people do.

Maybe it is what some people do, but it does not make it right.  There is another way.

And that way might just work wonders dealing with some of the other major issues that arise in our nation:

Like 54% of all children are now born out of wedlock thereby increasing their chances to live in poverty.
Like half of all marriages ending in divorce.
Like the culture of sex and the drive to be beautiful/hansom/well toned, etc.

There is a reason the Church has taught what it has taught regarding sex, respect, dignity, and the worth of another human being's body and soul.  Unfortunately, through an inability to articulate this in a modern culture which is more enamored with sex and sports, we are confronted with such stories. 

Is it possible for things to change for the better?

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I am a generation or two older than you, so my experience was a little different. In the 1950s -- in the Midwest -- boys and girls grew up slower than they do now. In my case, I liked to go to church and Sunday School (to this day I don't know why) and I listened to Pastor Milhouse and my teachers. They basically told me -- or this is what I understood -- that if I went "all the way" (that was the term back then) and died, I would go to Hell. I believed this at a deep level.

When I went away to college (I was relatively pretty), I had a few "boys" throwing themselves at me. Some were good-looking and rich. I found one who I decided to marry. It was the '60s. Everybody was doing "it."

I could not get the image of Pastor Milhouse and Hell out of my mind. I didn't "do it."

I wish I had been more philosophical and intellectual about it -- like you -- but I did not have the maturity. The Fear of Hell worked for me.

It still does.

Even now I am very fearful -- I am afraid to say what needs to be said -- even on my own blog. Steubenville -- The Franciscan University of Steubenville. How dreadfully ironic. The Church. I am afraid to say more.