Grappling with Girls? Piper Says, “Just Say NO”

illustration-_wrestling_oubw3In the April 11th edition of WORLD magazine (a bi-weekly publication that contains news and commentary written from a Christian point of view), John Piper gives his views on the inclusion of girls in high school wrestling tournaments.

Piper, a Reformed Baptist theologian, preacher, and author of numerous books on missions, Christian world-view, and God’s sovereignty, urges fathers to make a stand, saying to their sons, “Over my dead body are you going to wrestle a girl.” Such a refusal, Piper says, represents a “bigger, noble vision of what it is to be a man. Men don’t fight against women. They fight for women.” He says of high school student Elissa Reinsma‘s participation as the first female to compete in Minnesota’s high-school wrestling tournament, “Some cultures spend a thousand years unlearning the brutality of men toward women. This is an odd way to make history. Relive prehistory maybe.” He alludes to Jesus’ description of women as “the weaker vessel.”

I’m afraid that while I respect Piper, and tend to agree that girls and boys shouldn’t be wrestling each other, I have to say, this argument just doesn’t ring true for me.

Before going any further, I must admit that I’m not a big wrestling fan; I’ve only attended one wrestling match, in which there were no girls involved. My son is not a wrestler (though I’ve seen him wrestle his sister plenty of times). I’m not really “up” on high school wrestling culture (I’m probably more acquainted with WWE/WWF type stuff, mostly from Project Runway’s Ring Divas” episode and the well done steroids documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which is something, but not much).

What I am acquainted with are countless movies and TV programs of my childhood, where girls showed no physical prowess whatsoever. More often than not, they’d end up on the ground, rubbing the ankles they’d just twisted. Or they’d complain of breaking a nail. Or they’d be on their knees, groping for their glasses. Or, heaven help us, they’d have no power, control, or say whatsoever in the man-heavy victim scenarios that the writers/producers had dreamed up. I don’t think that participation in wrestling is necessarily the answer to gender equality, but I do think that Piper’s idea of “manly gentleness” can certainly foster the kind of wrong-headed, helpless female caricatures with which we’re all so familiar.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that coed high school wrestling encourages the brutality against women that Piper suggests it does—at least not in a sportsmanlike, supervised environment. And maybe I’m naïve, but last time I looked, there were plenty of men and women competing against each other in business, conducting military exercises side by side, plowing through crisis and tragedy together in government service, civilian roles, and their private lives. There are also boys and girls all over the world smacking tennis balls at each other, engaging in hard-core academic competition, and, yes, working together in constructive, community-enriching service projects. Do these sorts of things do nothing to offset the fears that Piper has articulated?

I don’t think that girls should be in the wrestling ring because, darn it, it’s just sexually inappropriate. Then again, so are non-married actors in a steamy love scene, I suppose. Adults are one thing…but, then again, perhaps they’re not. Food for thought…and a topic for another day.

Yes, boys should be willing to “lay their lives down to protect girls,” as should any Christian to lay down his (or her) life for a friend (or for the cause of the Gospel), but women have been put at a disadvantage for too long in the name of protection (think, among other examples, of the Taliban‘s oppressive, misogynistic rule in Afghanistan). I don’t think that coed wrestling is going to cripple boys’ attitudes toward women, just like it alone probably won’t cripple their attitudes toward other boys. By all means, we should take a stand against girls in the ring, and a stand for boys growing into men—but let’s at least do it for the right reasons.

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Scheir Madness – On the Radio!

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I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until Friday for the next installment of “Scheir Madness.” That’s because I’ll be busy today talking to Char Binkley, of radio station WBCL’s Mid-Morning program. The program has a partnership with Today’s Christian Woman magazine, where my article, “Capable, Called…and Exhausted” has just appeared. At 9:30 this morning, Char and I will be talking (live on the radio!!) about my article’s topic: women who do too much.

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ll be on the radio giving “expert” advice, but if anyone knows about overdoing it, it’s me. In high school, I was the girl who freaked out so much about her schoolwork that the principal told me to play hooky once in a while. I’m the one who once set up tables and chairs for a missions dinner in the church gym almost singlehandedly—while I was pregnant. And I’m the one who used to think that you had to mulch the garden every time you expected visitors. Yup, that was me, but no more.

I know that tomorrow is Thankful Thursday, but I’m thankful today for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned from my perfectionist tendencies and my overachieving attitude. It has been exciting to see my article in print (it appears in TCW’s March/April issue—I can get you a copy if you’re interested). And I’m looking forward to the interview (it’s not a local Dover station, but you’ll eventually be able to listen on the station’s web archive at http://www.wbcl.org/programs/MidMorningTCW.asp; to listen click on “Click to Listen”—it’s today’s show, so give the station a little time post the recording).

Thanks everybody for your support and encouragement, and thank you, God, for showing me “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31): that whatever any of us does is just noise if it doesn’t have the key ingredient, love.

Self-Denial for the Modern Age

lent-cartoonLenten sacrifice is very hot right now.

Recalibrating one’s behavior in preparation for Easter certainly isn’t a new practice; once the Council of Nicea (comprised of bishops assembled by the Roman Emperor Constantine) nailed down the 40-day Lenten season back in the year 325, it was bound to catch on. No doubt, the early Church’s emphasis on fasting, abstinence, and meditation-motivated self-deprivation have spawned many Christians’ current practices of penance, self-discipline, more God-focused thinking, and the Friday Night Fish Fry.

If the media is any measure, 2009 seems to be a real banner year for sacrifice. Consider the following recently reported stories:

1. When NPR listeners weighed in on their personal Lent-based self-denial spins, they said that they’re giving up more than just chocolate. Other Lenten sacrifices included walking instead of driving, limiting Target shopping to once per week, using time otherwise spent on the computer to volunteer or catch up on household chores (a sacrifice within a sacrifice, in my opinion), taming the tongue by avoiding gossip, and, my favorite, giving up alcohol, as it has the dual benefit of giving one a clear head with which to meditate on Christ’s suffering, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

2. Readers of beliefnet.com say they’re giving up everything from bad attitudes to Little Debbie snack cakes. My favorite self-sacrifice resolution is from a contributor named Ed, who writes this: “For this Lent…I’m trying to overcome a weird addiction I have–I love to make myself upset by listening to people whose politics and attitudes differ from mine, i.e., Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly…. In some perverse way I’m addicted to the feelings of smug superiority and righteous indignation that come up in me when these people spout their hateful nonsense…but it diverts energy and attention away from God by focusing it on my own ego.” Whatever your political persuasion, I think Ed has a good point. Many of us have someone (or many someones) with whom we disagree and possibly even love to hate. Why not shelve our own “smug superiority and righteous indignation” in favor of peace, prayer, and perhaps a more open mind? Give it a try, and if a couple Little Debbie cakes will help you feel better about it, then you have my permission.

3. According to a story from the Associated Press, Italian bishops have recommended recycling, proper disposal of chewing gum, and bio-powered transport (i.e., walking) as other Lent-worthy sacrifices. They’ve also proposed a high-tech fast for Lent, urging the faithful to set aside iPods, e-mail, text messaging, and online social networking, if only on Fridays. No mention of giving up your favorite blog (two points for me, yeah!!). Incidentally, if you haven’t given up all things electronic for the season, you may want to check out the Vatican’s YouTube Channel, where the Pope’s weekly Angelus messages (and other items) are available in a variety of languages. Really.

As for me, my perspective on Lenten sacrifice has been skewed by my Catholic school classmates, several of whom used to give up cursing for Lent. I’m thinking that they could have made a little more of a stretch, but that’s coming from a girl who has 6 boxes of Girl Scout cookies floating around her dining room. Some of them aren’t opened (yet), but still.

Reporting, with Children

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Former soldier Lisa Pagan has gotten a lot of coverage for reporting for her Army reactivation…with her two children along. She’s been granted a discharge, but the story’s got me thinking. What are the least ideal jobs for bringing the kids to work?

I certainly wouldn’t want to report for the cross-country Iditarod dog-sled race with my kids. Not sure, but aren’t child safety seats required for all sleds with teams of 4 or more? And, if so, what’s the rule now—8 years or 80 pounds? I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble keeping track.

I’m also thinking that as impressive as wildlife documentary photography may be, it wouldn’t be ideal to show up for your Planet Earth rain forest assignment with your kids along. It’s hard enough to hole up in a camouflaged duck blind for 2 weeks waiting for the Superb Bird of Paradise’s crazy 25-second mating dance, but imagine killing all that time while also trying to discourage your kid from sticking who-knows-what kind of exotic and potentially cancer-curing seed pod up his nose. And the number of Goldfish crackers you’d have to bring along to keep the kid quiet—it’s got to be in the hundreds of thousands.

“Bring Your Child to Work” day’s got to be fun at NASA’s Mission Control. Unless, of course, the shuttle happens to be launching that day, in which case all employees are issued a gross of glow-in-the-dark, wrist-cinching zip ties and an extra large roll of child-restraining duct tape.

In closing, I’m sure that before he died, the late Evil Kneivel rethought his decision to report to work with his now daredevil son Robby in tow. Just imagine their father/son chats:

“Hey Dad, remember that time you set the World Record for breaking 35 bones all in one stunt?”

“You betcha, Robby.”

“You’re the coolest Dad ever. Hey, what would you think about me someday attempting a death-defying motorcycle leap over the fire-spewing Mirage Casino volcano with only my helmet and my stars and stripes white leather pantsuit as protective gear?”

“Sounds great, son, but don’t worry—If you broke my record, nobody’d be prouder of you than me.”

Got any other job ideas? Send me a comment!

Fertile Ground for Controversy

The Nadya Suleman Octo-mom” controversy has many of us wondering about the ethics of providing fertility treatment to a dubiously-financed woman who is already the mother of six. We’re wondering how robust a treatment would have to be provided in order to result in such a high order multiple birth. And, in the most practical sense, we’re also wondering when Nadya, her parents, or anyone else she knows will ever dig out from under 14 children worth of laundry.

In light of all those considerations, I was happy to hear yesterday’s Fresh Air broadcast featuring journalist Liza Mundy, whose 2007 book Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Our World covered the medical challenges, ethical dilemmas, and social issues related to the relatively recent boom in fertility treatment-generated multiple births. I haven’t read the book, but I did listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Mundy, and, to be honest, I had no idea about the behind-the-scenes of fertility treatment.

Not that it’s morally wrong per se; it’s just, well, complicated.

The cost of fertility treatment ($12,000 per course for artificial insemination, according to Mundy) was not news to me. But the wear and tear on a woman’s body, the mortality risk of often premature and low birth-weight multiple birth babies, the risk/benefit analysis involved in deciding how many embryos to implant and whether to selectively destroy some, and the possible developmental and long-term medical impact on the co-carried babies themselves—these are curves on the roller coaster of infertility that were not even on my radar.

Sure, I knew that some of these issues were out there, but I never really thought about a couple actually going through the decision-making process that asks hard questions like, is the possible benefit of having one healthy child worth the risk of finding ourselves with triplets (or quintuplets) 9 months down the road?

Talking about it with my husband last night, I found out that he’s more up-to-date on the infertility front than I am. Turns out that a former work colleague of his, along with his wife, adopted an embryo a couple of years ago; the embryo was implanted in the wife’s uterus and grew into the little person who is now—and I guess always has been—their daughter.

It’s controversial, I know. And, believe me, I don’t want to sound glib. But having had 2 children myself, and not having gone through any fertility problems, I’m curious. So I’d love for you to comment…

If you’ve gone through fertility treatment, what tough decisions did you have to make?

If you’ve had a multiple birth as a result of fertility treatment (especially one on the order of 4, 5, or more), how did you adjust to (what would be for me) the incredibly overwhelming prospect of that many babies going through infancy—and beyond—all at once?

If you’re having infertility problems now, would you ever consider embryo adoption? What pros and cons do you see in that approach compared to “conventional” adoption?

Drop me a line—I’m interested to see what you have to say.

Recession-Proof Employment, $4.99 a Minute

Today on NPR’s “Morning Edition” I heard the story of Alexandra Chauran, a working fortuneteller from Washington state. Our economy may be plunging further into its death spiral, but for her, apparently, business is booming. “It’s a good sign when people come to me,” she says.

(This reminds me of a conversation I once had with a mortician. I asked what made him decide to pursue that line of work. “Job security,” he replied.)

Just who are the people who are paying a whopping $4.99/minute (up from the pre-bust rate of $2.50/minute) for a glimpse into Chauran’s crystal ball? It’s a lot of realtors, she says, some of whom call on a daily basis to cosmically vet their clients.

Sort of makes you wonder what kind of voodoo is going on at the investment houses.

For Chauran, fortunetelling is a full time job, and she’s definitely busy. She does face to face consultations and is available for parties. She also does some online work, which must be challenging now that dial-up has gone the way of the dinosaur (as the Psychic Friends Network used to tell us, psychic energy is stronger over the phone lines).

No matter what shows up on your Tarot cards, though, don’t worry about Chauran raining on your parade. She says that, no matter what the content, a reading from her gives people the opportunity to change their lives and their futures for the better. “I’ve learned ways to give people a positive outlook without shutting them down,” she says. In other words, I guess, no news is bad news.

Besides giving me a bad case of the willies, Chauran’s evaluation of her profession’s role in our current climate seems itself to be a fulfillment of ancient prophesy: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” That’s from the Bible, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

No mention of whether the high cost per fable will be rising any time soon.