In recent days, news outlets have been buzzing with the story of a six-year old Detroit girl who was kicked off her cheerleading squad when her parents protested the use of a cheer that involved words like “tight skirt” and “booty” and involved some gyrations, chanting and dancing that are wholly unwholesome for a six-year-old to be performing (and anyone else for that matter to my admittedly puritanical perspective.) Now the family in question is touring the morning news shoes, talk circuit, etc… as they enjoy their 15-minutes of fame.
As the over-arching theme, I think it is a good topic to be discussed. Over my lifetime, I’ve seen cheerleading move away from being a “spirit” exercise to a cross between a burlesque show and a Vegas-style chorus line in many cases. I had some discussions at the last Christian school where I worked with key leaders about the amount of skin that was shown and the inappropriate dancing that was being performed to music that was equally inappropriate by the cheerleading squad before I was “shown the door” for, among other things, being too pushy about integrating a truly Biblical worldview into an institution which had lost its way in many areas.
It is mind-boggling to me to see parents, coaches, dance intructors and fashion designers continue to be part of the sexualizing of these little girls. Heavy make-up, micro-mini skirts, hip-thrusting dance moves, saucy phrases that are crude to the point of vulgarity and the general push to make these little waifs look and act like sexually maturing adolescents is a sad commentary on our culture and in my opinion, tantamount to child abuse. Why ANY thinking man would allow ANY ONE else to influence their daughter to be trained and sexualized this way defies comprehension. It’s time for some real men to step up and say, “Not with my daughter, you won’t!”. But that’s another rant.
But there’s a secondary issue here. No sooner had the stupid decision been made to dismiss the girl with discerning parents off the squad, there has been talk of lawsuits, protests, etc… Make no mistake — it was a cruel, heartless and unnecessary decision. She could have been permitted to sit on the sidelines during the offensive cheer, they could have adjusted the cheer to a more appropriate presentation or any one of several other rational compromises. But obviously there is a mentality there that thinks it is wise and positive to have their little girls act as slutty as they want them to be. (You can bet, that most little girls didn’t start off the season pushing their sponsor and parents to act like strippers — someone has an agenda that is being pushed.)
But let’s make something clear — taking a stand will often require you to pay a price and that’s a good thing. Dead leaves and dead fish go with the flow. Taking a stand causes ripples and waves. Turn on a light and watch the cockroaches run for the shadows. Put some salt on ice and watch things start changing. Taking a stand on matters of propriety, morality, philosophy, ethics, values and conduct is going to exact some sort of price at the hands of those whose values are different than yours.
We should expect nothing less.
Years ago, my oldest son (now 22, but around 10-11 at the time) was on a city baseball league that made it to the playoffs. He was a pitcher and was scheduled to pitch one of the playoff games. The problem was that the game was scheduled for 10:00 on Sunday morning. At 10:00 on Sunday mornings, our family is in church. Everyone on the team knew that we didn’t miss Wednesday nights or Sunday services for baseball. Thus, he got there late and was a relief pitcher instead. Now a decade plus later, I have no recollection whether or not we won the game, but we do still talk about taking a stand for our priorities as a family. We had told the coach that the first day of practice. Sometimes we’d come to a game right after church as it was a few innings old and sometimes we left a game a few innings early to get to church, but it was church first, baseball second. We didn’t ask for special consideration, we didn’t start a petition drive to change the game times, we didn’t gripe when it meant that he didn’t get to play as much. It was just the price of having priorities that were important to our family.
(I often wonder if all the professing Christians in the country had a priority scale that placed spiritual matters before athletic events, if sports leagues would not be forced to take that into consideration when scheduling games. I’m old enough to remember when they didn’t give homework on Wednesday nights so as not to interfere with Wednesday night church services and this was in PUBLIC SCHOOLS.)
Part of bearing the “shame” of the cross is to pay the price with patience that doing right costs us. I have no idea whether or not the family in question is a religious family and I half-way expect that if they were, this would not be garnering nearly the attention as they would be dismissed as some sort of zealot kooks.
For years, I’ve watched Orthodox Jews refuse certain foods and walk rather than drive to places on the Sabbath without complaint because of their beliefs. I’ve seen Muslims stop and drop on their prayer rugs in the middle of airports during their pre-appointed pray times. I recall Jehovah Witnesses not participating in Christmas parties at public schools and Seventh Day Adventists not being able to play ball games on Saturday because of their religion.
So my question for evangelical believers today is “When was the last time you paid a price for taking a stand?” So many of us seem bent on “blending in” so as not to “turn people off” and as a result — we’ve watered down the change that the Gospel should be having in our lives. Today, dropping swear words and consuming adult beverages with the boys is considered an act of cultural evangelism as we emphasize relevance over holiness. Our priorities are such that we adjust our lives around schedules that are filled with vacations, entertainment, recreation, work, athletics, etc… and if it is convenient, we’ll even slip a worship service or a ministry task in there from time to time….but as long as it doesn’t “cost” us too much. We’ll sit silently while someone defames our Savior’s name with staccato emphasis and yet, some Muslims are quite willing to behead you for drawing a cartoon of Muhammad. (I’m not suggesting we use violence, but do you think it is wholly inappropriate to request someone to stop staying “Jesus Christ!” as a curse in our presence and then kindly explaining why that name is special to you? Does the name of “Muhammad” have greater value than “Jesus”?)
If we are to be salt and light in the world, then it might just mean we get turned down for a job (I recently experienced this for the first time — passed over for a job because my resume was “too religious” — something that is illegal, but let’s face it….It happens.) We might have to turn off our cable in order to tithe or give to missions. We might not be invited out with the important business associates because we’re not going to play drinking games or hit the local strip club and that may effect our job evaluation. We might pull our kids out of an assembly or request an exemption from a certain course lecture or even not allow them to attend a certain party or school activity (ie…an amusement park’s “Night of Horrors” — again, an activity at my last Christian school) and get labeled as “one of those” parents.
Right things are seldom easy and easy things are seldom right.
Just some things to ponder as we navigate this interesting culture in which we have called to be ambassadors and in which we are called to be ‘aliens’.