File this under “things I never expected to see in my life.”
(Along with a great many other things that I’ve seen recently.)
This brief article recounts how a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins has filed suit against the cheerleading team organization because she felt that she’d been discriminated against for her decision to not engage in sex with anyone but her future husband, and then only after marriage. The issue came up in the course of a conversation where her teammates pressured her to provide details about her sexual practices, which she couldn’t because she didn’t have any yet.
It’s the fallout from this that is telling. According to the lawsuit filing, in her next “review” with the cheerleading team management, the cheerleader was told by the team director that “As far as [the team] is concerned, you have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful and you’ve made it dirty.”
If this is an accurate account of what was said, then it’s one of the finest examples of moral inversion that you could hope for. Keep in mind that this young woman wasn’t trumpeting her virginity, or seeking to persuade her teammates to emulate her, or in any way “shaming” them (for the uninitiated: “shaming” is one of the only mortal sins recognized by our culture.) She’d made what our culture would call a “lifestyle choice”, a choice that just a couple of generations ago would have been considered normative. Furthermore, we’re not talking about the Vegas stripper circuit or the Hollywood starlet culture. These are performance dancers for a professional football team, a group of amateur women drawn from the hometown area and in some measure trading on the wholesome girl-next-door image. Yet in their midst, apparently, someone who made what was once considered a normal and commendable choice is now branded an aberrant freak and a source of tension.
This example is noteworthy because it illustrates what Christ’s disciples can expect as the culture around us grows darker and our testimony becomes clearer. No matter how “non-judgmental” and inoffensive we try to be, if we are obedient to Christ we will give offense. The very witness of our obedience will be like fingernails on the chalkboard of the souls of some. The contrast of our obedience with the disobedience of those around us will be abrasive, not because of anything we say, but because of the voice of their conscience. We will see Wisdom 2:12-20 in action.
This is important to keep in mind as we explore ways to more effectively speak the Gospel to our culture. While practicalities such as better service times and innovative use of communications channels have their place, we need to acknowledge from the outset that there will rejection, which at times will be fierce, that will have nothing to do with the sophistication of our message or the elegance of its delivery. The witness of holiness is to some fragrant perfume and to others a harsh stench, depending on the state of their soul. There’s nothing we will be able to do about that.
May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to continue our witness despite opposition, and obey in clear conscience that we seek to give offense to nobody – but offense will inevitably be taken, because of the nature of the Gospel message.