Who’s On Second?
There was an interesting dust-up in the news last week when the second baseman for the New York Mets, Daniel Murphy, missed the opening day game and one other because he was at his wife’s side as their baby was born. Major League Baseball gave players three days of paternity leave in their last contract and what Murphy did was to exercise that right.
Everybody was happy for Murphy and his wife, right? Wrong. Murphy was savaged by some of the New York sports commentators, a number of sports-obsessed fans and many former professional athletes. The theme was that he had a job to do and he had no business taking off work for two critical games. After all the Mets, generally given no chance whatsoever to win their division, would only have 160 games left to dig themselves out of the hole Murphy was putting them into.
The criticism peaked when Boomer Esiason suggested that they should have scheduled a C-section before the season started so he could play on opening day. In other words, Murphy should have said “Look, I am going to be busy so let’s cut that baby out of you now.” Esiason has since apologized for that remark which, inexplicably, has sparked considerable outrage. In fact, once the story drifted out of the sports ghetto, the response in general has been overwhelmingly positive toward Murphy.
It is interesting that the attitude of many former players was so harsh. It indicates that our national view of paternity leave has changed. Not that long ago the idea of taking time off because your need to attend to your wife and newborn was viewed with incredulity. Those ex-players could hardly imagine such a thing. Within my lifetime I recall a football player being fined for missing a game because his wife gave birth.
Our culture has changed. Paternity leave is now not only accepted but encouraged. But we are not far removed from that old “Man up!” culture where showing any feelings, let alone tender ones, was deemed a weakness. Frankly, that idea still lingers. I saw one commentator who sarcastically speculated that Esiason’s apology was probably triggered by his wife either hitting him over the head with a frying pan or kicking him out of her bed. Not too sexist.
The controversy is based on the idea of gender roles; that there are specific ways that men (or women) should think and act. These ways, we are told, are inherent in what it means to be a man (or woman) and to deny them is to cave in to our culture which is dominated by feminists who want to emasculate men and declare that there is no difference whatsoever between men and women. Set aside the fact that nobody actually says there are no differences between men and women, to make such a statement effectively does a very similar thing; saying that all men (or women) are exactly alike.
The idea of specific gender roles has been taking deeper root in evangelical culture exactly at the time that the general culture has been abandoning it. Even more pronounced is the pride with which some say that this champions “biblical values” in the face of a degenerating world. They see themselves as heroes; as warriors defending truth.
Say what you will about the Bible verses on the roles of men and women, many such defenders of the Bible, as they interpret it, take this gender role issue to the max. Exact lists of what men, or women, can and can’t do are out there. That these lists can’t possibly be reconciled to the Bible because there are no such exact lists in Scripture doesn’t bother them at all. They are sure they are merely extrapolating what they Bible says into our culture. The fact that their lists look a whole lot more like the 1950s than they do the 1stcentury doesn’t bother them at all. We are told that is because the 1950s had biblical values and assured that to deny their extrapolation is to deny the Bible.
This whole gender roles thing is, at best, a Scriptural side-issue and perhaps even a non-issue. I frankly don’t think that the Bible gives any instruction to Murphy on taking paternity leave or a thousand other gender role disputes we jump into. Maybe we ought to let the whole gender roles thing drop; let couples decide on their own. I think Murphy himself said it best:
“But that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day… “