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FIRST-PERSON – Casey Martin golf cart case: Something’s ‘out of whack’

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–When I was in seminary, local pastor Welton Gaddy used a golfing metaphor in his chapel address on the loss of biblical standards. He spoke of the old guys who fudged every way they could with mulligans, boots from the rough, and too many gimmes on the greens. They were having a wonderful time, but the question arose, “Who speaks for par?”

I couldn’t help remembering this question as I’ve read about the Casey Martin case. Here is a fellow unable to walk the miles the others must to play a round of golf in the PGA. His legs are in terrible shape and getting worse; thus he rides.

When the PGA moved to disallow his cart, he sued and won. Some are cheering the recent Supreme Court decision, but many sense that something’s out of whack. I’m with the latter group. I suggest that Martin has unintentionally fallen in step with the culture’s march to personal fulfillment, whatever the broader consequences.

From an article in Christian Single, I understand that Martin is a believer. John 9:1-3 has had a big impact on his life. He’s spoken at FCA. His favorite verses are Proverbs 3:5-6. He’s recently read Swindoll’s “Intimacy with the Almighty.” Excellent. But I still have a hitch in my spirit about the lawsuit.

Let me make it clear that I’m grateful for so much that is done to accommodate those with special difficulties. We’ve reserved convenient parking places, installed ramps, and put Braille panels in elevators. Yes, it’s the law, but it’s also a reflection of American compassion. We try to say “visually impaired” instead of “blind.” Art museums provide touchable sculpture for these visually impaired neighbors, and churches sign their sermons for the hearing impaired. Concern is everywhere.

A few years ago, one of my sons suffered a compound leg fracture just weeks before a planned family trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul. He was a gamer, and we decided to go ahead, wheelchair and all. As we negotiated airports, public means of conveyance, and tourist sites, I was astonished at the thoughtfulness of their design and operation. Whether with special boarding and seating on Northwest Airlines, wheelchair-friendly viewing at the Minneapolis Zoo, wheelchair bays at the Guthrie Theater and Target Center or elevators everywhere, they took care of my boy.

I thought of the poor folks in the world’s “10-40 Window” who could scarcely count on this care, and I marveled at the class and bounty of our country. But this care did not compromise the air operations of Northwest, the presentation of polar bears at the zoo, the fast breaks of the Timberwolves or the actors’ dialogue at the Guthrie.

It’s one thing to facilitate enjoyment of an institution. It’s another thing to demand that the very nature of that institution be changed to accommodate you, to demand that definitions, rules and standards be torn to make a way for you.

One maxim of those who champion the disabled is that we’re all disabled or otherly-abled. I agree. That’s why I’m not in the NBA. I’m not quick, tall, limber, resilient, coordinated and strong enough to compete, though I did letter in junior high. Even if I had devoted myself fulltime to physical culture and hoop drills, I would not have made the NBA. I just don’t have the equipment. I might could practice to shoot unobstructed 3-pointers at an 80 percent rate, but there’s that pesky business about a super athlete in your face, a transitional game and the requirement that I play defense.

Why Casey Martin cannot just join me in saying he doesn’t have the equipment to play PGA golf is beyond me. And why the Supreme Court decided to support his personal agenda is even further beyond me.

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. People are doing this everywhere. I’ve been a college teacher, and I’ve seen the “gentleman’s C” turn into the “gentleman’s B.” And it’s fast becoming the “gentleman’s A” because students have worn down the professors with complaints and reluctance to enroll in classes where the grading is rigorous. So who will speak for the real A? I’m a pastor, and I’ve seen biblical standards on divorce and remarriage ground into a mush? So who will speak for marriage? I’ve served in the Army, and I’ve seen “Duty. Honor. Country.” upstaged by the forces of political correctness and self esteem. So who will speak for the martial value of selfless sacrifice?

I wish Casey Martin the very best, but I want to suggest that his very best is not found in tailoring the PGA to himself. And I would say the same to the Casey Martins of our churches, colleges and battalions. After all, who will speak for par?
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be seen at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger