It’s easy to pile on Ray Rice.
What he did was reprehensible. What he did was, dare I say… wrong.
Ask anyone. Because it seems everyone agrees. The sports media world has been in a rush to out-do one another in shock and outrage. Social media, a sometimes nasty place itself, has been nearly united in its condemnation of Rice’s thuggish behavior towards his wife.
I’ll not offer a history of the story here – you can find that quickly anywhere. Just turn on ESPN for a few minutes or search “Ray Rice” on the web.
I think the media reaction to Ray Rice reveals two truths that the same media typically denies.
Two Things the Ray Rice Saga Reveals
1. There are universal moral standards.
In other words, some things are always right and some things are always wrong. While that may seem self-evident, there is a widespread belief in our culture – certainly among the cultural elites – that morality is relative. What’s right and wrong for you might be different than what’s right and wrong for me. Who am I to judge?
Well… we all seem pretty convinced that we can make a moral judgment about Ray Rice. We all seem certain that it is always wrong for a man to punch a woman in the face.
So let’s ask a fundamental question here: Why is it wrong?
That’s a serious question. Go ahead and answer… we’ll wait.
What is the foundation of making a moral judgment like that?
The only way we can consistently claim that something is always wrong is to appeal to some kind of universal, absolute standard of right and wrong; something above and beyond ourselves.
You probably see where this is going. If we believe that something is always wrong (or that something is always right), we are appealing to an objective, unchanging standard. And that begs the question: What is that standard? What is the source of objective moral truths?
The Christian worldview has a pretty straightforward answer: The Creator God is the source and anchor of morality.
The Naturalist (an atheistic worldview) will have to get very creative to come up with a foundation for morality.
2. Men and women are different.
We naturally understand this. The popular culture might implicitly affirm that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.
But there are wide swaths of our culture that work very hard to minimize the differences between the genders. They do this in the pursuit of feminism and what they perceive to be gender equality. Gender is little more than a social construct, they’ll argue, avoiding unavoidable biological realities.
Yet when a powerful athlete puts his fist in a woman’s face, we all know something’s wrong. It would be wrong to see Ray Rice punch his brother in the face, but we inherently realize that it is a much more egregious thing for him to do it to a young woman.
It’s old school or patriarchal to say, but men are to protect women, not beat them. And something inside of us instinctively reacts with horror to see something like what happened in that casino elevator.
There are other things we could discuss:
- The complicated reality of a woman who chooses to stay with (even marry) a man who abused her.
- The line between judgment and grace; between the need to punish and the call to forgive.
- The question of whether we should be shocked when a man whose life has been given over to an inherently violent game acts violently outside the game.
But these other questions are more fundamental to all of us. Do we believe in absolute standards of morality? And recognizing that such a belief leads us to consider the possible sources of that morality, what do we do about that?
Stories like this are a reminder to us that, whatever anyone may say they believe about morality, deep down we all have a built-in sense of absolute moral truths (See, for example, Romans 2:15). The presence of moral law alerts us to the reality of the moral law-giver and shows us that we are not accountable to ourselves only.
And so the Ray Rice saga, and our reaction to it, may serve to point us to our Creator.