There is an interesting discussion on various blogs now and then about how the feminization of the church is destroying the males in it. Some (mostly) male bloggers are telling us that women have dominated the church too long and Jesus has been portrayed, in Mark Driscoll's words, "a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude" and ""latte-sipping Cabriolet driver(s)." He says, these "do not represent biblical masculinity..."
But, as an article in Christianity Today asks, are people like Driscoll and also John Eldredge presenting too narrow a view of what true Christian masculinity looks like? Brandon O'Brien, the author of the article, points out that Christ didn't especially come down incarnate to be a model of masculinty. He came down to become the model of God. I would add, since God is Spirit, he is neither masculine or feminine but has qualities of both.
Several thoughts come to my mind. Will this big emphasis on macho masculinity force all men to be either efeminate or super macho aggressive? Where then do other men (probably most) fit in? Will they be rejected by this "new men's movement?" Another question is how this will affect relations between men and women? Will women now be seen as "the enemy?" Is this the church that Christ died for?
Several years ago I read a book by non-Christian feminist author and professor Anne Douglas, entitled, The Feminization of American Culture. Douglas is an authority on the rise of the evangelical church in the early years of our country. She tells us how men were the head of the churches and their families until around 1830. That was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution here in America which began to take men away from the home during the day. Many swayed toward making money instead of the historic Puritan and Reformed balance between job, church and family. So, women began to take more and more roles in churches as men were losing interest. The seminaries were having trouble attracting the type of pastoral candidates they once had, many of their ministry students at that time being more "soft" than previous generations of ministry students. Popular books began to be written by women who portrayed men as decadent and the woman (women) in their life (wife, girlfriend, mother) as their "savior." Unfortunately some of this continued and has come down to the present day. But, is the answer to this dilemma the current "men's movement?" IMO, O'Brien gives a good picture of the result of churches if they trend into this hyper-masuclinity, when he writes,
Imposing qualities we consider masculine on an image of Jesus we consider feminine does not solve the problem. It only gives us a new problem—another culturally shaped Jesus, only masculine this time.
Most of the churches I've gone to in the past 40 years have had the look these men's movement leaders describe. It brought havok to my dating life. These poor guys, including seminary ones, had been very sheltered, and I emphasize sheltered by their fundamentalist churches in which they grew up. I felt bad for them but I had trouble respecting them. The dating didn't last long with these guys. I came from upper middle class liberal Protestant-land where the men were strong and very much in charge in the churches, but also allowing women to do their thing too. These men didn't feel they had to put women down to prop themselves up. But when I became a Christian and started to attend evangelical churches, I found a few male leaders that seemed very threatened by any woman doing anything of significance and the other males kind of passive. Obviously this wasn't healthy and I quite understand why people like Eldridge and Driscoll say the things they do. But I do agree with O'Brien's assessment as I believe we may be tempted to go to the other extreme. So what is the answer to this dilemma? I'll allow you to comment on that.
Before I end, here is a postscript. Sadly, the hippie movement brought some of the answer into the churches, so today you see a much healthier form of manhood in our younger men (50 and under). I say "sadly," because it's always sad to me when it takes secular influences in the church to straighten it out when we should be leading the way by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, not the world. But that aside, I see something very interesting in the upper 30-somethings and 40-somethings in my own church. These guys are very masculine but they have a sort of genteelness, especially toward children. When the children's choir sings in our church, guess who helps to bring the children in? Yes, lots of these macho fathers. And they don't sort of trail in looking uncomfortable. Oh no! They come in holding the children's hands and some even carrying the smaller ones on their shoulders. Some teach Sunday School. And on some Saturday evenings, they get together to smoke cigars and talk football. I realize that the cigar part may bother many and I don't particularly like the cigar thing either...from a health point of view. But, this IS a Presbyterian church after all. In other evangelical churches they could drink really, really strong Starbucks coffee instead of the cigars. Oh, and my church's young guys do that too. I keep asking why they can't have decaf in our adult Sunday School class on Sunday mornings. I'm told that decaf is sissy stuff....sigh.....
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