Sports is a religion with some people, and even Mormons at times. When a favorite team wins it can feel like all is right in the world. A loss can bring depression and even anger. Rivalries are often pitched as a battle between good and evil. The obsession has limitless potential to unbalance and unhinge the most serious minds. That said, when third ranking Brigham Young University basketball player Brandon Davies was suspended from playing because of breaking the school’s honor code, a different kind of discussion took place. The Internet and sports enthusiasts asked how could a championship be jeopardized by something so silly as sleeping with your girlfriend? That sounded too irrational and, well, old fashioned. Actually, it was described as archaic as if a relic not of recent history, but of all history. No one came to the school’s defense of having the honor code, even among the religious. Mormons alone seemed convinced that his behavior was wrong and had consequences.
Most of the positive reaction was that BYU, despite the position it would put the sports team, upheld the honor system when it might have waited until safely after the championship. Others were impressed that that the honor code was upheld at all. None of them felt that the honor code should exist beyond the academic ethics of no cheating. Punishment for what is seen as a “youthful fact of life” was unconscionable. A few even called it un-American and worse. Such is modern Western culture that expectations of virginity before marriage and fidelity after has become disgraceful. Has it come to the point where Mormonism alone teaches a long held belief in the sanctity of marriage and procreation? It is hard to conclude otherwise.
It isn’t that an honor code is unheard of at a religious school. As a very short list of some schools show, its not even the most strict that exist. Rather, the strict nature of the code at a major university is rare. West Point seems to be the largest non-religious higher education school with similar expected standards of student conduct. Despite the historically religious foundations of many high ranked and prestiges Universities, the moral expectations outside of the classroom is at most based on criminal legalities. Reading the responses of students and those opposed to the BYU honor code enforcement, it almost comes across that academics are the least reason to go to college. Getting out of the house to experience debauchery is the number one priority of an education if the Internet at all reflects today’s generation.
Mention was made that Mormonism seems to be the only religion that teaches traditional morality and consequences of deviation. Listing a few mostly Christian schools might refute that statement, but a closer look at responses might not make that refutation clearcut. In a twitter response by Bronco football player Tim Tebow, who is know for his religiosity, he questioned if Davies should have been kicked off the team. He claimed, “”I do always think that people definitely deserve second chances, because no one is perfect, and we mess up everyday …,” while not knowing the circumstances behind the actions of the school. The implication, especially as interpreted by newspaper reports, is that there shouldn’t have been any kind of punishment. Other religious Internet blogs think that BYU was uncharitable for not allowing him to continue as a player. They tied that lack of charity to proof that Mormons don’t believe in Grace where a “Christian” would simply forgive him out of Faith in Christ. After all, he said sorry. That can be interpreted to mean that even religious people don’t see what used to be considered serious moral lapses as of any concern.
That leaves Mormons once more alone in believing that the 10 Commandments, and especially non-secular legal based traditional morality, means more than words. What might be missing is the viewpoint of Catholics who used to uphold such things and Muslims who are known by reputation to be strict. None of them seem to have said anything about the honor code or the incident, and that is a shame. Perhaps in the noise and confusion of the Internet a voice from either of them has said something in support beyond the usual praise of upholding an honor code they themselves disagree. Otherwise, from the reactions that have been noted, traditional morality and especially the idea of religious consequences really are near extinctions.