Crying Wolf


CHICAGO, May 15.—The Rev. W.W. Reynolds, pastor of the Brightwood Methodist Church of Indianapolis, recently wrote to Capt. Luke Colleran, Chief of the Chicago Detective Department, inquiring if the use of the bicycle among women had affected their morality in any perceptible manner. Although not offering statistics, Capt. Colleran’s reply deals with the subject in a positive manner.

He writes:
“I am not an advocate of the use of the bicycle among women, when viewing it from a morality phase. Women of refinement and exquisite moral training addicted to the use of the bicycle are not infrequently thrown among the uncultivated and de¬generate element of both sexes, whose coarse, boisterous, and immoral gestures are heard and seen while speeding along our streets and boulevards. Many doubtless es¬cape the contamination, although the contagion be ever present.

“A large number of our female bicyclists wear shorter dresses than the laws of morality and decency permit, thereby inviting the improper conversations and remarks of the depraved and immoral. I most certainly consider the adoption of the bicycle by women as detrimental to the advancement of morality—nay, even its stability. I have always entertained deep sympathy for the hosts of noble and honorable ladies, who while riding their wheels are frequently associated with women whose morality will not stand investigation and whose conversation is invariably coarse and undignified.”

On being asked for an expression of opinion, Mrs. Charles Henrotin said:

“This Indianapolis minister must be very hard up for subjects. Perhaps he considers that he has conquered the devil in his own dominions and must go forth to conquer him in new fields. Why should cycling be restricted to men. I don’t see that they have any superior rights in the matter. It is an exercise conducive to good health and good spirits, and certainly there is nothing-improper in it.”

Morality these days? Where’s it going to go next?

Of course, this article was in the New York Times on May 15, 1899. Turn of the century concern.

I make note of it because it so illustrates something that has been on my mind of late and I might want to explore here more, now that I’m back to posting a little.

What matters?

Not only what matters but what should particularly matter to us. The Rev. W.W. Reynolds thought that women riding bikes mattered. It was a gateway hobby, you know. First they get on the bike, then the skirts slip up a little, and then one time upstanding, moral, young women will start associating with all kinds of ne’er-do-wells. Who wouldn’t oppose that?

Well, now that seems a little silly. We have perspective and all that. It’s a great hobby and bike riding is the least of our moral concerns.

I live in California. I know about the pressing moral concerns of our era.

But that’s what gets me to think about what really matters and why it matters. Because this article above is so much a reason why we are in the moral confusion we’re in these days. Christianity became about culture, and morals, and respectable living. It wasn’t as much about Jesus, and serving others, and letting go our demands, and living with love. Morality replaced spirituality.

There’s no real power in morality, however. There’s only power in the Spirit who leads us to morality.

So what should we focus on?

What does Paul emphasize? What did Jesus emphasize?

I think there’s something in that worth considering more.

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