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God’s Gift of Choice

It’s a bitter morning in front of Wells Fargo Arena as the patrons of the Philadelphia Wing Bowl pour into the parking lot and hop in line for the metro rail. A few look up at a lone man holding a small sign, reading “Honor her beauty, don’t exploit it.” While the majority turned their eyes aside or chugged another gulp of beer in response, a few souls staggered forward and engaged the sign-bearer.

got-choiceWing Bowl patron: “How are women being exploited at the Wing Bowl, a woman won the Wing Bowl?” (wing-eating contest)

Sign-bearer: “So the women inside that are having their bodies groped with drunken men screaming to see their breasts are not being treated like objects?”

Wing Bowl patron: “Hey man, it’s their choice to be there, what right do you have to say what they can and cannot do?”

Sign-bearer: “But what if that was your daughter, or your sister? Would you want them to be treated the way those women are inside?”

Wing Bowl Patron: “If that is their choice, then I respect their choice.”

Sting was right, this is a land of confusion.

The dialogue above is a small sample of dozens of other short conversations that occurred this past Friday at The King’s Men’s Wing Bowl Outeach. In our organizational opinion, which we recently learned is shared by numerous Philadelphia citizens, the Philadelphia Wing Bowl has devolved over the past 22 years from a playful competition to celebrate a city’s depressing Super Bowl drought to a crude and debaucherous affair that normalizes the mingling of sport and pornography, encourages binge drinking, and exploits women’s bodies and men’s wallets.

As the Wells Fargo Center cleared out at 9:30 AM, drunken patrons stumbled past our appeals for manly virtue, where each man’s moral justification for partaking in the outwardly sexist event culminated with the same argument—It’s their choice, no one is forcing those women to be there, who are you to deny them that choice?

Indeed, these men are right. Men and women do retain the legal right to allow others to exploit their desire for authentic love and respect with a cheap counterfeit that leaves the user feeling empty and used. But we men are missing the other choice while sheepishly pointing our fingers at the women—we had the choice to defend and affirm our sisters in their true feminine genius, or support them in their self-abasement.

What’s the manly choice?

Choice is great! It is a fruit of God’s gift of free will. Without choice there is no freedom, and without freedom there is no love. Indeed, choice gives us the option of choosing God’s love. Without it, we’d be slaves to circumstance.

But some choices are wrong. Some choices hurt people, or deprive them of freedom or the ability to experience their dignity. When freedom to choose becomes license to do what you wish because you legally can, we risk declaring that a bad choice is suddenly good merely because it is an exercise of this supreme virtue of choice. When this happens, we not only wound ourselves, but we wound others around us. Anytime we uphold evil as good, or a lie as the truth, we turn from the light of God’s love and mercy and deprive ourselves of the source of life.

In short, our choices need healing.

Healing our choices begins with acknowledging the created order and making sure choice is properly informed. Aquinas said that every man chooses that which he believes to be his greatest good. If we truly believe this, then choice isn’t the problem and people who make bad choices aren’t bad people. They may be ignorant, or even complicity ignorant, but not bad.  Could their ignorance be a product of silence, a product of the gift of the Gospel message remaining hidden in the church walls by men who deny being their brother’s keeper? I tremble thinking about how I will respond to my maker when he asks me what I have done to make His love known to the least of my brothers?

When the gospel is charitably placed in front of a person, there is no contest. It is the obvious choice for a man or woman’s greatest personal good. But how can we expect people to find it if no one is willing to bring it to the fringes? Can we really blame a person for championing an event like the Wing Bowl when they grow up in an environment where Christians leave the gospel at church and fail to proclaim it joyfully like the blind man on the road to Emmaus? Christ did not spread the Gospel through pamphlets at the front of a church vestibule. Nor did he remain static restricting his message to those willing to come to him. He and his disciples actively engaged the public, traveling throughout the land proclaiming the good news to everyone, and respecting their choice to harden their hearts and walk away from truth.

I am thankful for the gift of choice. Let us seek healing and forgiveness for our past choices made in ignorance, and courageously do our part as Christian men to charitably inform our brothers and sisters of the better choice, which is the Gospel of Life, and life in abundance!

Light up the darkness!

Matt Ingold