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Justice for Daisy

By now, a good portion of the American public knows about the former Maryville High football player who allegedly raped an intoxicated a 14-year-old girl and then left her unconscious in her front yard in below freezing temperatures.  Matthew Barnett and Daisy Coleman have become household names.

Everyone has an opinion about the situation.  Earlier this week the Twitter hashtag #Justice4Daisy was nationally trending 2 to 3 tweets every second.  The painful reality is that this situation, as difficult as it is for the individuals involved, is not an isolated incident.  Young boys all across the country are guilty of irresponsible acts of injustice that are not limited to sexual predation.  Young girls fall prey to similar circumstances in towns and cities across the globe every day.

A Cultural Distortion

I’m not in any way attempting to minimize the situation in Maryville, Missouri.  Justice must be served. I am, however, hoping to bring to light the tragedy behind the tragedy.

The untold reality to the #Justice4Daisy situation is that it is the symptom of a larger cultural problem: a distortion about what it means to be masculine and feminine.  The disastrous effect is social and sexual injustice.

For decades, young boys have been silently taught that masculinity is defined by the ball field, the billfold and the bedroom.  At age six they learn that true men can outperform their peers on the athletic field.  At age sixteen boys are taught that true men can out earn their peers in the workplace.  And at age 18 (or younger) boys are taught that true men are the ones who can sleep with the most girls, at any cost.¹

Likewise, young girls are taught that femininity is defined by beauty, bodies and boys.  In elementary school, girls learn to believe the lie that they are only significant if they are outwardly more beautiful than their peers.  In middle school, girls learn that their value is directly proportional to their waist size.  And in high school, young ladies are taught that they can only have a meaningful relationship if they are willing to sleep with the most popular boys.

I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior or casting blame on anyone.  Is there injustice in the #Justice4Daisy case? Yes.  Does it need to be handled legally? Absolutely.  Do the people involved need to take responsibility?  Without question.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if this situation occurred because of the larger cultural distortion about what it means to be truly masculine and feminine.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Matthew Barnett was simply trying to live up to the cultural expectations concerning what it means to be a man.  It’s also reasonably likely that girls like Daisy end up in these situations because of the cultural misconception that their personal worth and significance are determined by the boy she is seen with at the party.

Does that mean that it’s Daisy’s fault? No, it is never the victim’s fault.  A victim is not responsible for what someone else has chosen to do to them.  Does that mean Daisy believed this lie? Not necessarily.  Does it mean that Matthew intended to harm her when he picked her up for a good time?  Maybe not.  It does mean, however, that we as a culture have set our women up to be taken advantage of by perpetuating a false perception of femininity, which stems from our false perceptions about masculinity. 

Intentional Restoration

If there is ever to be justice for Daisy, we as a culture must intentionally restore true masculinity and femininity.  In order for that to happen, we must look to the place where true masculinity has been most prominently displayed in human history.  We must look to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Whether we admit it or not, mankind has wreaked havoc on God’s good creation.  In our irresponsibility, we have done harm to ourselves, harm to one another and harm to our culture.  God, in his loving kindness, saw the pain of our injustices and decided to do something about it, by entering into human history as the man Christ Jesus.  He then lived the responsible, just life we should have lived, died the unjust death we should have died for our injustices and rose from the dead to bring justice by triumphing over injustice on the cross.

In short, Jesus demonstrated true masculinity by taking responsibility for our irresponsibility.  He saw what was unjust about our world and he did something about it by sacrificing himself so that justice could be served.  That’s true masculinity, taking responsibility for yourself and for others.

Jesus also elevated femininity.  In his day, women were treated as sub-human.  They were possessions to be owned rather than people to be valued.  Yet Jesus had female disciples (unheard of in his day), rescued a sexually promiscuous woman from social injustice and gave a few of his female followers the privilege of being the first witnesses to his resurrection (In his day, women were not legally considered to be liable witnesses).

In other words, Jesus revealed true femininity by showing that women are as equally significant, meaningful and valued as men.  He showed that a woman’s purpose and worth is not based on what she does for men, but on what God has done for her.  That’s true femininity, understanding that you, as a woman, are highly valued in God’s sight as his image bearer.

#Justice4DaisyTrue Justice for Daisy

Does justice for Daisy include legal consequences?  Yes, absolutely.  But it should also include much more than that and it doesn’t need to include public humiliation.  It requires a return to true masculinity and femininity.

True justice for Daisy would require that Matthew Barnett experience a profound change of heart.  It would mean that he recognize the injustice he has caused (even if it was unintentional), own up to it, take his consequences and change, permanently, by the grace of God, through the Son of God in the Spirit of God.

True justice for Daisy would be seeing her abuser become her advocate.  It would mean seeing Matthew Barnett, by the work of Christ, becoming the type of man that takes responsibility for himself and for women like Daisy.  It would mean Matthew opposing men like him rather than celebrating them.  And it would mean Matthew one day defending women like Daisy, rather than abusing them.

Additionally, true justice for Daisy means understanding that we, like it or not, are all like Matthew.  We each have had moments of irresponsibility and indiscretion, moments that could have meant disaster had we been found out.  The difference is we didn’t get caught.  For some of us, our irresponsibility is subtle and inward, like our thoughts, for others, it’s manifested in our actions.  Others of us try to sweep our injustices (however minor they may seem) under the rug, like Robert Rice is accused of doing.

Regardless, we have each, in our irresponsibility, committed an injustice at some point in our past.  We, too, deserve retribution for our wrong doings.  Yet, God is exceedingly gracious and he allows us to enjoy life in spite of our wrongs.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t receive due consequences, but it does mean that we can be made new in Christ.

What Matthew did was inexcusable, but it is forgivable.  The injustices we ourselves commit are also inexcusable, but they too are forgivable. Through Jesus, Matthew can have his injustice forgiven.  He can experience a change of heart and live an entirely new life in Christ.  Through Jesus, Daisy can experience true justice, the kind that changes an abuser’s heart, not just punishes his behavior.  And, through Jesus, you and I can experience forgiveness for our injustices as well.  No matter how dark our past, through Jesus we can have a brighter future.

Further, true justice for Daisy means that we need boys to become men who will model true masculinity by taking responsibility for themselves and for the women we should be protecting.  It means that men need to be taught to stand up and speak up.  They must be taught to stand up against the injustices committed by their peers as its happening, not after the crime is committed.  They must be taught to speak up on behalf of those who could be victimized, before they’ve become victims not just after.

True justice for Daisy means that husbands model true masculinity to their wives by taking responsibility for loving, serving and caring for them, while fostering true femininity in the women they love.

True justice for Daisy means that fathers take responsibility for teaching and developing true masculinity and femininity in their children.

True justice for Daisy means that brothers take responsibility for treating ladies with value, dignity and worth simply because they are fellow image bearers of God.

True justice for Daisy means that men rise up and take responsibility for themselves and for the irresponsibility of others.  It means men who will, by the grace of God, help Matthew Barnett own up to his mistakes, believe on what Christ has done and become a man who will “lead, be responsible and change the world for good.”²  It also means that someone needs to help Daisy understand and believe that she does not have to be defined by what someone has done to her; she can be defined instead by what Jesus has done for her.

Ultimately, true justice for Daisy doesn’t mean pointing the finger or casting the blame.  It means that our culture must redefine what it means to be masculine in a way that doesn’t require boys to subject girls to sexual injustice in order to be considered a man.  It means redefining what it means to be feminine in a way that doesn’t require a girl to subject herself to irresponsible boys in order to be considered a woman.  True justice for Daisy means that we stop celebrating the expectations that tempt boys and girls to find their value through sexual conquest. 

It would mean that we instead start celebrating men who take responsibility for themselves and their peers.  And it would mean that we start celebrating women who are confident that their sense of meaning and purpose come from who God made them to be rather than what the culture says they should be.  Justice for Daisy means that we each take responsibility to intentionally restore our culture to true masculinity and femininity by first trusting the Lord to restore it in us. That would be true justice for Daisy.

***Note: The views expressed here are entirely my own.  They do not necessarily represent the views of my employers.***

¹Adapted from Joe Ehrmann’s book InSide Out Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives

²Ibid.

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  1. January 14, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    I wondered for a moment why you had taken an interest in one of my posts.

    Then I read this.

    And while I do not agree with everything you say, I have to say that this article was really, truly well done.

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