Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wrestling with faith in Iowa

Faced with the choice of wrestling a female opponent, Joel Northrup decided that his faith and conscience wouldn't let him. So he forfeited the match.

Some may decry this as sexist; others may complain that his "right" to compete has been infringed upon and still more may declare him some sort of modern day "saint" for his "sacrifice.

All that aside, I think it was the proper outcome.

If Joel believes that his faith won't permit him to wrestle a female opponent, and varsity wrestling requires wrestling both male and female opponents, then Joel's faith limits his ability to wrestle at the varsity level. Rather than attempt to change the rules for everyone else, he accepted the limitation imposed by his faith and forfeited in such a way that he may win the consolation round (assuming no female opponents).

This is how religion should be treated in society, with everyone given equal access to opportunities, but people choosing not to act on some opportunities because of faith or other beliefs. This is pluralism. This is Humanism.

Looking at some of today's issues such as equal marriage and science education, the principle is the same-if religious believers feel that their beliefs don't allow them to share marriage with a same sex couple or to learn about Evolution, then they can live without civil marriage (still getting married in their faith tradition) and find an alternative educational path.
The early christians living in the pagan Roman Empire knew this when they avoided certain professions such as tutor, soldier and gladiator-let's hope their heirs can as respectful of modern secular society.

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