You’ve doubtless heard of the young man in Iowa who refused to wrestle a girl who was also competing in a championship wrestling tournament. Here are two takes on the matter.
The first from Caryn Rivadeneira, writing at a Christianity Today site:
When Joel refused to wrestle Cassy, he took an opportunity away from her. An opportunity for her to shine using her own God-given strength and ability. An opportunity to win or lose, fair and square.
I don’t mean to harp on Joel. I’m sure he’s a good kid who clearly meant well. These thoughts aren’t so much for him as they are for the rest of us as we wrestle with these sorts of issues all the time.
As Christians, when faced with less-than-best-case scenarios, we need to be in the business of affording others equal opportunities. Usually this means expanding our view of other people beyond how our culture would have us see them or how we think they are and getting it more in line with how Jesus sees them. Doing this usually means things get awkward. Doing this means we’re stretched way beyond our comfort zone.
Doing this means we might need to step onto a mat and wrestle, not despite our faith but because of it.
The second from my colleague Mark Mitchell, writing at the Front Porch Republic:
The gentleman is a social role that implies a recognition of forms and limits that constrain action even as those very forms and limits elevate the meaning and nobility of actions they enjoin.
Forms and limits are not welcomed in a culture that sees freedom as the highest good, a culture that fairly worships at the altar of individual choice. The history of the liberal project has been a steady and determined attempt to defy limits, to destroy forms, to expand the idea and practice of liberation to all spheres of existence. How can the idea of the gentleman, the essence of which necessarily depends on the propriety of limits, co-exist with the goals of liberalism? One admits of limits and finds nobility in respect for them; the other finds limits offensive and seeks to break down any hint of limitation, form, or residue of difference. When seen in this light, the gentlemen appears to be a throwback to an older age, an era that progress has left behind, an ideal embraced only by romantics and the hopelessly and helplessly nostalgic.. . .
It seems to me that Joel Northrup was raised to be a gentleman, and when he drew his first opponent at the state tournament, this ideal ran hard into the leveling impulse of the age. Or to put it in old-fashioned terms, gentlemen don’t wrestle with ladies. Reversing the sentence provides another truism: ladies wouldn’t dream of wrestling with gentlemen or of wrestling with anyone for that matter. Now I am on thin ice here, for if I embrace the idea of a gentleman, I am simultaneously embracing the idea of a lady. Doing so must appear, through the caustic lens of liberation, to be suggesting that ladies and gentlemen are substantially different and that a gentleman treats other gentleman in ways markedly different from the way he treats ladies. Precisely.
Richard Weaver once wrote that when the gentleman disappears so too goes the lady. Both ideals depend on each other and a society that provides the space for each will be far different from a society where both are seen as quaint relics from another time. Still it is heartening to see a young man attempt to uphold the ideals of the gentleman. Perhaps that singular ideal can be sustained during our long sojourn through the wilderness of liberalism. If and when we emerge on the other side, it may provide a hopeful reminder of what is possible and how a decent society might be constructed around ideals that foster acts of nobility, deference, propriety, and kindness.
Notice not just what side both arguments come down on but the assumptions and the implicit philosophies that lie behind their arguments. Notice too that both writers are “conservatives” of one stripe or the other. Both are Christians of one stripe or the other.
Which one makes the better case? What can we conclude from these two arguments beyond the specific issue of boy-girl wrestling?