Magazine article Insight on the News

Long-Distance Runner in the Race for Values

Magazine article Insight on the News

Long-Distance Runner in the Race for Values

Article excerpt

Jim Ryun, a Republican and Olympic runner, ran for a Kansas seat in the House of Representatives last year. His Democratic opponent made fun of him because of the way he described how he thought his teenage daughter should be properly courted by the young men of his state.

Ryun, a religious man, said he would ask a prospective suitor to sit down and talk to him about his intentions -- as in the lone view toward marriage. Then he would suggest that they pray together. Afterward he would propose that both sets of parents share visits and, if the couple showed mutual feelings toward each other, his daughter's family would include the young man in their outings and other social activities.

His opponent cried that such behavior was completely "out of the mainstream." But worse, it was controlling and "very patriarchal." Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the expert on all things sexual, was asked to assess the damage inherent in such fatherly solicitude. "I actually think it's cruel to send a young person to a regular college with these kinds of interdictions," she said.

Well, mainstream or not, bad "interdictions" or not, Ryun won the election. What's sad about the story, though, is that a politician would ridicule a father's serious intent to protect his daughter. It might not be the way his opponent would conduct family matters, it might not be the way most of us would prescribe courtship rituals, but hey, what's to make fun of?

It has become easy to mock religious men and women who are looking for ways to make an increasingly depraved world safe for their children. Many young women today meet their mates without the imprimatur of a father or a mother, or even gossip culled from an all-knowing spinster aunt who consults the auntie telegraph to check up on a suitor's family. Wouldn't most of us want to know more about the man a daughter is dating (and vice versa)? Wouldn't most of us want to know the religious and ethical underpinnings of our daughter's fiance?

For all of the observations that society and the nation are becoming ever more conservative, religious men and women remain targets of attack in the popular culture. "Christian beliefs and symbols are often belittled by Hollywood producers and writers," says Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values. "Clergy are portrayed as hypocrites -- or worse.

"If there is a Christian character in a film, he is usually depicted as a fool, a liar," he writes in Christian News magazine. …

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