14 February 2009

Masculine Christianity

My friend Dave recently linked to a post which suggested that the church should have a masculine ethos. The premise is that 1 Corinthians 16:13 says in the original Greek that the church should 'Watch, stand firm in the faith, be men, be strong' so somehow, this means the church should have a masculine ethos.

I don't want to debate the process of translation or of exegesis that arrives at this understanding.

What bothers me is the idea of 'masculine Christianity' that appears to be becoming popular, doubtless due in no small measure to the
the rantings of Mark Driscoll and his disciples who come up with amazingly anti-Gospel sound-bites like:
We are deadly serious about the great commission and loading all guns to storm hell with the gospel of grace. And we need more men.
Driscoll and his ilk are going to be macho for the Gospel? They are going to do what? Shoot anyone who doesn't love his or her neighbour? Help to usher in the Prince of Peace to his Kingdom through war and hostage-taking?  

Well, count me as one woman who grew up with this sort of doggy-do of a theology and who is not going to be silent in the face of this kind of untruth-dressed-as-truth.

Imagine 'masculine Christians' in the Desert with Jesus:
Come'on Jesus! Show the devil your stuff and jump off that Temple. Take control of the world and we'll be your army. And while you're at it, sure, you can go ahead and feed the hungry by turning those rocks into bread.

Or how about in the Garden of Gethsemane
Hey Jesus! Why are ya prayin'? Prayin's for girls! Now is the time for action; are you afraid to defend yourself? ****** he's putting the soldier's ear back! Stupid wimp. I guess we knew all along that he didn't have the guts to do what needs doing.

It's not about 'masculine' Christianity or 'feminine' Christianity, it's about Christ-centred Christianity. It's about the church of Christ imitating Christ. Jesus pointed out that he could have called down legions of angels rather than submit himself to the cross. Going to the cross was not an act of passivity nor was it a lack of decisiveness or courage: it was an act of faith. An act of faith in the Resurrection and in the Father's being completely without reference to death. It was an act of faith that death and evil would be defeated not by swinging swords at them, but by entering
into them.

The kind of 'masculine Christianity' that is being advocated today is the same self-help idolatry that the ancient Israelites fell into and it's the same that the Roman Empire promoted and it's the same self-help idolatry that our own culture promotes: that our power rests in our own courage and strength and ability to fend for ourselves.

Those who see themselves either as being 'in power' or entitled to being 'in power' will easily fall prey to this idolatry. It's also easy to see why those who either consider themselves to be underdogs, or who have sympathy with underdogs, will grasp the meaning of Christ's gospel that the last will be first and that his strength comes when we are weak. It's obvious why those who want to see themselves as strong and macho don't like the real Gospel, but that doesn't make them right.

18 comments:

Jonathan said...

Well put!

Doorman-Priest said...

I've not come across him before. Shame I'm not free to go to boot camp! (Not)

Sally said...

Well said Pam!

Si said...

I think Driscoll might be using a metaphor.

PamBG said...

Of course Driscoll is using a metaphor. Religious language makes heavy use of metaphors. The question is: what picture does the metaphor paint?

If I'm not mistaken, Driscoll believes in male headship, capital punishment and just war. And what I 'get' from his metaphors is that lovingkindness (chesed) is the feminised side of Christianity that must be opposed.

Or?

Dave_Flora said...

While there can be no question that God values man and woman equally, that they ARE different sexes, suggests that they both contain different, but essential qualities. Jesus himself was male, not female, which must have been important in some way or I assume he would have been genderless. Neither can I believe that the Scriptures reference to God as "Father" and not "Mother" to be an unimportant fact. I'm sure the Hebrews have a word for "it" that they could have chosen to refer to God?
I personally believe that the "re-gendering" of Christianity (that limits or surpresses the masculinity of Christ), and the subsequent decline of active male churchgoers is directly related to what Western Europeans have done to the word "love".
The Greek "agape" word for love was used often by Paul to describe the love Christ had for the church, and that Christians should have for each other. It is described as being patient, kind, truthful, unselfish, trusting, believing, hopeful, and enduring. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, or angry. True love never fails.
You'll notice that it's not described as a feeling. Honestly, if you were to look at many of the words.."patient", "unselfish", "truthful", you'll note that those traits are actually pretty tough to pull off. They require personal discipline, effort, and courage.
Unfortunately, modern society (particularly we Americans) have a tendency to think of the word "love" as a feeling you have for a girlfriend, boyfriend, kitten or child...and men are typically not so comfortable with such expression. So, it would make sense that the "pro-feeling" groups would swell the church numbers, while the "pro-acting" groups would diminish. Thus, we have more women in churches than men. This needs to change, if not for equality's sake, then for the souls of those men who do not have a relationship with God or Christ, and to affect that change, we must re-examine the meaning of the selfless, agape-love that God has for us. Not some always-tolerant, always-giving love, but a healthy love of discipline, responsibility and faith. Not a feeling, but a Love that Never Fails.

PamBG said...

If God wants everyone to behave in a stereotypical, aggressive macho style, then whole sectors of the Christian faith have really got a complete misunderstanding of God's will. Including, but not limited to, the church of the first two centuries after Christ.

Tom said...

Hi,
I'm new to your blog, woking down the posts.

I'm a Methodist but have found Mark Driscoll's sermons to be very useful in my spiritual growth. I think you do him a disservice when you characterise him as you do in your post. Driscoll is a complimentarian to do with gender roles. I've never heard him speak on anything to do with Just War theory or capital punishment though I know he's not a pacifist. He feels stronly that violence and confrontation may be necessary in certain circustances. For example if you walked down the street and saw someone being mugged and you stepped in to help should you be prepared to use violence to stop the inustice/crime being done against the person being mugged? Should you turn the other cheek on behalf of the person being mugged and not get involved? Whatever your view I don't think it's good to be dogmatic on those issues.

I disagree with Driscoll on a few areas. I'm not Calvinist and I lean towards egalitarianism.

However I have heard him speak on issues such God's love, our responibilities and the lives of the apostles in ways that are truly heart warming and engaging to listen to. He talks about love all the time! He's also one of the few people who is prepared to talk about (and answer questions on) sex and sexuality in a direct and open way to young adults.

There's obviously going to be a large amount of discussion and disagreemnt between those who hold a Christian Egalitarian posistion and a Christian Complimentarian posistion to do with gender role. But as long as we remember we are all parts of the same universal church and disagree with each other in a loving way then we should be ok. I don't think that's helped much by making up sarcastic "this is what I think he'd say" style quips.

Apart from that I've been enjoying your blog.

PamBG said...

Tom, I'm glad you're enjoying my blog even if you disagree with me on Mark Driscoll. Don't read Dave on Mark Driscoll if you think I'm being harsh!

I understand that Driscoll is a complimentarian and I think you will find out that I am wildly opposed to complimentarianism. I think it's just male headship dressed up to be acceptable to the 21st century. (It's Animal House's 'All "animals" are equal but some "animals" are more equal than others.' Complimentarianism says that men must rule over the females in their lives and that men are responsible for the mental and spiritual state of their wives and daughters. I suspect you'll disagree this this post too! It's My Husband's Fault

Mark said...

You are willingly ignorant of the intended message when discussing masculine and feminine christianity. Men and women are vastly different. Mostly the discussion is about how men and women are different. God made us all different. He obviously wants to use us all in different ways. I am glad that we are not all the same. It is not about being macho, it is about being boldly obedient to God in every situation. That is what a real man does. That is what Christ did.

PamBG said...

Mark, your comment does not address the substance of my post in any way. Nowhere did I deny that men and women are different.

I agree that men are called to be boldly obedient to God. So are women.

None of that addresses why the church should consciously try to adopt a 'masculine ethos'. 'Masculine' and 'feminine' are cultural and worldly concepts, not Christian ones.

And, pardon me, but someone who tries to make themselves totally anonymous on the internet doesn't strike me as someone who has anything to say about bold obedience to God.

Mark said...

While Christianity is Christianity whether your a man or woman, your post suggests that if the church took on a masculine ethos they would party like animal house and encourage Jesus to pray for girls! Do you really think that any of those on that side of the debate would suggest that? It makes for good blogging but it really distracts from the real issue. The discussion that you have joined about the church is ongoing. It is quite obvious that churches have failed in reaching and equipping men to be radical and obedient believers of Christ.

As for remaining anonymous, I'm not sure what your talking about. I logged in to publish a comment like everyone else. Maybe I have done it wrong. I am a Pastor in Oklahoma. I have been in ministry for 25 years. I have started 3 churches, on staff of churches from 100 - 3000 people. I have traveled around the world sharing the gospel. I have 2 kids and a wife that is a 1st grade school teacher. I will be glad to give any information necessary. I didn't realize that talking about being "boldly obedient to Christ" required that I expose myself on the internet. I don't see anyone elses information in their post. If I am missing something you can let me know.

I really just wanted to add a different view on the subject. May God bless your work in the ministry. I am sure that even though we see things from different views that you love Christ also.

Mark

Mark said...

When talking about masculine or feminine Christianity the idea is that even though we are all Christians who profess Christ as Lord we don't all live out that faith and belief in the same way concerning daily disciplines, our emotional responses, etc. It is not meant to imply that one is better than another. The truth is that we could draw other distinctions. i.e. culture, race, etc.

Mark Driscoll believes that men are to take the lead role as Elders in the church. He believes it from a biblical standpoint and is living it out in his church. I do not believe all things Driscoll does but I do appreciate that he lives out his convictions in spite of massive resistance from the Christian community.

If there are those who want to just have a Man Church so they can drink beer and party than I would not consider them a Christian church, but rather a Man Club.

Mark

PamBG said...

Hi Mark:

Thanks for the information about yourself. I mistook your unpopulated profile for a desire to remain anonymous. I apologise for that.

You said: While Christianity is Christianity whether your a man or woman, your post suggests that if the church took on a masculine ethos they would party like animal house and encourage Jesus to pray for girls! Do you really think that any of those on that side of the debate would suggest that? It makes for good blogging but it really distracts from the real issue. A somewhat fair comment, but I think that's what Driscoll is doing with the issue too in the other direction. It was my return-parody, if you will.

The discussion that you have joined about the church is ongoing. It is quite obvious that churches have failed in reaching and equipping men to be radical and obedient believers of Christ.Yes, I agree. And there seem to be a number of different solutions to this 'problem'. One of those solutions seems to be to have men in the church adopting the same role of power-over and privilege that 'the world' says that they either have or ought to have. I see Driscoll and other complimentarians as advocating this approach.

I appreciate that there are many men - racial minorities, poor white men, etc. do not have privilege or power-over. But it seems wrong-headed to tell them or to promise them that they should have these things and that power over women and others is their God-given right.

Just as a man can't tell women how to be, I can't tell men how to be. In some senses, I'm an outsider to this conversation. But I do believe that the Gospel is about mutuality and therefore I'm going to have views on movements which seem to be promising not mutuality but 'We can restore your God-given power and rule over women'.

FWIW, I suspect that some men will have abandoned the church because church membership is no longer necessary to be seen as a powerful man in society at large. That is meant less as a comment about gender than as a sociological observation.

Thank you for your prayers of blessing which are returned.

PamBG said...

f there are those who want to just have a Man Church so they can drink beer and party than I would not consider them a Christian church, but rather a Man Club.For the record, I don't think that Driscoll wants this. As I said, it was my parody of his parody. He certainly makes me feel that he doesn't want to be in a church with women unless we are quiet and don't ooze too much femaleness into the church. And a number of my male commentators seem to be getting that impression from him too. (?)

I don't think that complementarianism is a 'salvific issue'. But I do think that the right use of power is very much at the core of discipleship and the coming Kingdom. And I think that complimentarianism advocates a wrong use of power. So naturally, I'm going to speak up about it.

Men having power over women seems to be the one area that Christians are happy to say is a Godly thing. And if you are under the impression that there are no Christians willing to stand up to the 'majority opinion' of equality between men and women, I suggest you try being a woman minister! ;-)

Mark said...

My view would be that any position by either a man or woman should be seen and taken as differing parts of the body. All parts are needed and none is more or less important than another. Each role is to be a part of a system of order. If a man needs a role, position, or title to feed his ego then I would not allow that man to lead in our church. It is not my ministry, church, or roles to give out anyway. They are HIS, Christs'. We are just laborers in His field. While I believe that an Elder or Senior Pastor should be a Man, I do not believe that it is because men are superior.

As far as reaching men. I do believe that the typical Western Culture Church has traditionally leaned toward attracting women. I think men in general were bored and felt that if they didn't act like their wives that they were not spiritual. My wife can pray in our closet for hours. I can't stand to even go in our closet but when I do my prayer is will someone please clean it. I would say that my wife is every bit as spiritual and probably more but my way of relating and living out my faith looks different than hers.

I tried to update my profile.

Thanks,

Mark

PamBG said...

I'm not sure what else there is to say here. Like you, I believe that those who seek power are the wrong individuals to be given leadership.

I don't know what the role of 'eldership' is in your church because different churches define eldership roles differently. But I certainly believe that I know women who have the gifts to fill these various different roles. So, to suggest that one is not getting in the way of what God is doing by limiting the context in which these gifts are used seems wrong-headed to me. Either that or one argues - as people used to do - that one has never seen a woman with these gifts.

I don't buy the whole 'ontologically equal but men get the power over' argument. I believe that people who make this argument are sincere in what they say but I think it's a contradiction in terms. If it weren't about power-over, why would men be so desperate that women should be prevented from doing certain things?

On the scriptural issue, I obviously disagree with you on the issue. I expect we both know each other's arguments and I doubt that either one of us will be persuaded.

Mark said...

Have a good day. Be blessed.