It is tricky to balance majority rule and personal insight into the truth. However, this story is a reminder that public opinion is not a safe bet in every case.
It appears that Serena Williams has created "controversy" by making some remarkably balanced observations on a local story in Ohio. See the whole article here. I exerpted a small part:
She adds, "I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you -- don't take drinks from other people."
And Williams is also quoted as saying: "She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."
Serena's controversial comments quickly set off a social media outcry Tuesday,
I found nothing controversial about what she said. In fact, I think she is right on the nose in her assessment. This is why being told "the majority of people do not think like you" is sometimes a reason to think you are right! To crouch this in theological terms "all have sinned" and all fall short in godliness and wisdom. What this means is that sin is real, people are imperfect, and mistakes are made (intentionally and not). In fact, in the best of times there are still all manner of errors at work. Because I am a sinner, fallen and imperfect (in thought, word and deed, things done and things left undone) I cannot rely on my own reasoning (nor on "my Bible" because it is me who is reading and interpreting it!) without an abiding awareness that I can make mistakes. On the other hand, I have no other option but to choose, and in choosing to be humbly confident that I am choosing well. If I find I am in a minority that only means that the majority disagrees with me, not that they are right (or wrong). The majority is simply a larger number of flawed and sinful people (like me) many of whom have aligned themselves with a less reliable source of truth than I have. There are times when "most people" are just wrong.
We do well to remember that when Pilate asked the crowd, "Jesus or Barabbas?" that the crowd chose Jesus. Israel's history is full of "the people" going asray and the individual (Moses, Elijah or Jeremiah, for example) being right. Large groups frequently make bad choices.
Now, I am neither a tennis fan nor a fan of the Willliams sisters. I recognize they are amazing players, but what pulled my attention to the story was the word Steubenville. The Catholic Charismatic renewal was strong there in my younger days, so I wondered if the comments were in reference to some religious topic.
Instead, I read what can only be called "sound advice" about behavior. Note she says:
1. "I am not blaming the girl." The young woman had been raped and her photo taken. The picture then made the rounds on the social media. Serena is not justifying any of that. She is not saying it is the girl's fault. No one has a right to rape anyone and no one has a right to take a photo like that and publish it. Serena makes that point first.
2. Serena said it is not a good idea to be out drinking, that a 16 year old should not be drunk like that and that a person should not place themselves in "that kind of situation." I am trying to remember the adults in my teen years and what they taught me... Hmm, seems like my parents, grandparents and every other adult basically told me exactly that. Do not get drunk. Do not put yourself in bad situations. Do not do things which get you in trouble. They were always clear with me, things can get out of hand easily, so try to be in a situation where it is less likely that they will. I give my kids this advice all the time. I have told my kids frequently that no one has ever said, "If only we had had more booze to drink we would have made a better decision."
3. Serena re-emphasized she did not know all the particulars about the girl and added that "unless they slipped her something, then that's different." She points out that the girl may have been drugged against her will. Pretty darn fair and balanced I would say. She does not exonerate the boys involved and she does not call the girl the insigator or cause. What she says is the girl had made some bad choices, even if she did not cause it.
So what is the controversy? What could possibly be criticized here?
Underage drinking is illegal and immoral. In fact, one argument for restricting alcohol consumption among teens is because this sort of thing occurs. So really, should that part be glossed over? Do I want my own daughter to be aware of the dangers of drinking like this? YES! Do I want my daughter to avoid doing such things? YES! The risk of rape for girls is much higher than boys so girls especially need to be concerned about their vulnerability. Obviously, boys should not rape girls. Just as obviously, girls need to know some boys are bad and when drinking is involved everyone gets stupid...
My point? If we live in a society where people think Serena is out of line for what she said (note, she was asked the question and responded to it) then society cannot be trusted as a reliable asset in moral decision making. Society got this one wrong. Society blew it. Serena is right. And that is one more reason to always think before you go along with the crowd.