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FIRST-PERSON: Finch is better than SI

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Prior to the 2004 Summer Olympics, I wrote a column about U.S. softball player Jennie Finch and her refusal to pose for Playboy.

Finch had addressed the issue on her website and wrote about how her morals and standards came first. She also emphasized her desire to be a role model for girls by showing them the importance of internal, and not external, beauty. In addition, Finch has been very upfront about her Christian beliefs.

So the news that Finch had appeared in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was disappointing. In recent years the swimsuit issue has become more and more risqué, and I hated to see someone like Finch associated with the publication.

It would be easy to be excessively harsh and critical about Finch’s decision to pose for SI. I could write about how demeaning the SI swimsuit issue is, and how Christians like Finch have no business doing anything to offer credibility to the magazine. I could argue that by posing in a swimsuit, Finch is flaunting her sexuality and providing men with an opportunity to think about her in an unwholesome way.

But posing for the SI swimsuit issue doesn’t make Finch a bad person. It doesn’t make her a heathen, and it doesn’t mean she’s not a Christian.

It simply means she exercised poor judgment.

She certainly has plenty of company. I’ve made bad decisions many times in my life, and I’ll make plenty of other mistakes before my time is through. I foul things up regularly, as does everyone else in this world. Unfortunately, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight as we make our way through life.

Finch was gracious enough to talk to me about this topic for about 30 minutes the other night. If she had to make the decision again, the impression I got from her is that she wouldn’t.

After talking to Finch about the issue, here’s my conclusion. Finch based her decision to appear in the magazine on what she as a woman sees the magazine to be. She obviously was flattered that Sports Illustrated wanted to include her in the magazine. In the industry, the swimsuit issue is widely considered the pinnacle of modeling and photography.

Unfortunately, she didn’t give any thought to the magazine from a man’s perspective — because men see it a lot differently.

As a woman, Finch can’t fully appreciate how a man’s mind operates. While she can look at the SI swimsuit issue and see beautiful women, beautiful scenery and beautiful bathing suits, a man sees much more than that. A man sees titillating images of women in provocative swimsuits (or sometimes the lack thereof), and his mind starts to wander. It’s not a good thing when that happens.

To a woman, maybe a perusal through the SI swimsuit issue could be an exercise in aesthetic beauty. To a man, it’s an exercise in lust. That’s something I don’t think Finch considered as carefully as she should have.

The biggest problem I have with Finch’s decision is that I’m afraid it will harm her witness as a Christian, and I don’t want to see that happen. I also think it has the potential to undercut the influence of parents who are trying to teach their daughters the importance of dressing modestly. “But dad, Jennie Finch is a Christian and she thinks it’s OK to wear a swimsuit like this.” I can hear it now, and that’s another consequence I’m not sure Finch thought through.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a higher opinion of Finch than what I have of the SI swimsuit edition. Her appearance in the swimsuit issue notwithstanding, Finch can still be a positive role model for young women. She can teach them about the value of hard work and about how physical appearance is not as important as society makes it out to be. She can teach them about the importance of morals and principles. She can teach them about the necessity for a relationship with Christ.

But I think her status as a role model would only have been enhanced by her refusal to pose for SI.

And I don’t like to see her in it because I think she’s better than that.
Tim Ellsworth writes this column from his home in Jackson, Tenn. Write to him at [email protected] or visit his web log at www.thewinningspirit.blogspot.com.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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