The website for NBC’s Today Show reports that twelve year old Madison Baxter has been banned from the school football team. It is not because of misbehavior. It is not because of a lack of skill or ability to play in an almost wholly male sport. Her school, Strong Rock Christian School, banned her because her team mates might have “impure thoughts” if she continued to play.
It is time for Christians collectively to grow up. I know some Christians think that teachings about ‘impure thoughts’ come from Jesus himself. Jesus warns that what we imagine in our minds we pretty much have already done. Jesus also warns pretty strongly against lust. But God gave us bodies in which, for most people, finding members of the opposite sex attractive is far from an impurity within us. It is as natural to us as wanting food, air, and water. And Christians do damage to the faith when we basically tell people that their sex drive is evil and until we are over eighteen, married, and can fully financially support ourselves all such thoughts are straight from the devil. Christians set up teenagers for a 100% failure rate when they tell them thinking about sex is wrong.
This is not to say I am disagreeing with Jesus! Lust, if we look up the definition, has to do with being consumed with a thought (be it sexual or something else we are desiring). And I believe there is a big difference between finding someone sexually attractive and going over and over in our minds what it would be like to be with them. Sex is a powerful drive within the human body and it should be exercised only at the right times. And compulsive thoughts do lead to sinful actions. No doubt about it. But the school’s solution is not the right one.
Miss Baxter has an interesting outlook on it all. She said, ““I just thought, OK, I don’t think you know my friends very well. They are really good kids,” she said. And, she added with a laugh, even if they might develop a crush, she’s probably not their first choice. “I know that we’re growing up, but honestly wouldn’t those thoughts mainly be directed to the cheerleaders – not someone who is in full pads?”
She’s probably right in most cases. Yet, I suspect the school is right that one, or more, of her team members would be attracted to her. But, in the end, the school should be saying, “Ok, when this happens, how are we going to teach our boys to act appropriately?” Not, “we are going to deny Miss Baxter the chance to play football because of something the boys will be thinking.” Using Miss Baxter’s argument, are they also going to remove the cheerleaders because the boys might have impure thoughts about them? Where does this lead? Are we going to start putting our teenagers in burkas?
I just find stories like this disappointing as a Christian. It is bad enough seeing gender discrimination going on but then to see faith used as its justification makes it even worse.
People do have impure thoughts – of all ages. If our thoughts are about doing something wrong, especially over and over, psychologically and spiritually we are doing whatever it is. And it is so easy at that point to take the next wrong step. But the church (and Christian schools) need to be places where people can confess such thoughts and without judgment have people there able to offer them good counsel on how to repent and get in a better mindset.
But simple sexual attraction is not impure nor is thinking about sex in general. And denying anyone a chance to compete based on our fears and bad theology is simply wrong and does not help spread the faith. The church needs to lead the way against gender description, not encourage it.
I hope Miss Baxter finds a team who will let her compete and she can enjoy the game she likes to play.
Until next time,