An interesting thing happened recently in the Colorado state wrestling tournament. Brendon Johnson, an 18-year-old senior at the Classical Academy in Colorado, forfeited in the first round rather than wrestle a girl. He later forfeited again in the third round of the consolation bracket rather than wrestle another girl.

Johnson, who started wrestling in the seventh grade and identifies himself as a Christian, said, “There is something that I really do find problematic about the idea of wrestling with a girl, and a part of that does come from my faith and my belief. … I really don’t want to disrespect the hard work these ladies have put in. They’ve done a lot of that too. Some people think by forfeiting I’m disrespecting them. That’s not my intention at all.” He went on to say that he didn’t feel comfortable with the physical aggression required in wrestling with a girl, something he considers inappropriate on or off the mat.

According to USA Wrestling the number of high school participants grew to 245,564 in 2017-2018, making it the 7th overall participant sport at the high school level. While it is growing in popularity among boys, it is growing even faster among girls. More than 16,500 girls competed in wrestling last year, an increase of 1,975.

Most sports recognize the physical differences between men and women in strength and stamina. That is true in non-contact sports like tennis and golf and in more physical sports like basketball and football. But, apparently in wrestling in Colorado, gender makes no difference.

I have to confess that this leaves me confused. In a world in which the news is dominated with #metoo reports, where journalists, politicians, athletes, actors and other celebrities have ended their careers with shame and regret over sexual abuse allegations, why would we try to teach our young people that gender makes no difference? Why don’t we recognize the unique differences between male and female while encouraging respect and consideration?

We can celebrate the revolution in gender role diversity over the last decades. The talents, interests, and abilities of both men and women span a wide spectrum in the home, technology, politics, science and the arts. We can be glad that we live in a day when men and women can explore wide ranging experiences with respect for one another.

At the same time we can celebrate the beauty of God’s design in creating us male and female. There are intrinsic physical, biological and spiritual differences between the sexes that allow us to experience the depths of mystery, courage, devotion, sacrifice and love.

History, art, literature and the Bible are filled with the relationships of men and women, some who rose to great heights of love and devotion and others who fell into depths of disappointment with its subsequent pain and sorrow. The earliest chapters of Genesis start with the declaration, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth …’” (Genesis 1:27-28).

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.

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