Masculinity, The Church And Christian Faith

Oh, good grief:

And worse?

(HT: Matthew Paul Turner)
Has Mark Driscoll been out-Driscolled by Pastor Ed Young? Maybe Harry Hill should get Young and Driscoll together. Because, in the words of his catchphrase, there’s only one way to settle this – fight!

Only a couple of days ago, The Guardian reported on ‘muscular Christianity’, complete with art of a tattooed, muscle-rippling Jesus, who sadly doesn’t look remotely Semitic. (And conveniently overlooking, as one commenter noted, the Jewish prohibition on tattoos.)
That article is at least slightly serious but sadly a little short. It ends by quoting Eric Delve, the vicar of St Luke’s, Maidstone, saying,

Men are looking for action figures. That’s why they follow footballers.

This is a theme Eric has had for many years.  In the midst of how easy it is to laugh or to throw up our hands in horror at the Young/Driscoll approach (how dangerous is it when combined with hard-line complementarianism?), it’s also important to remember that while this is a deeply defective and distorted image of Christ and faith, these guys are knowingly tapping into a well-known perception by men of Christianity. Faith is a lifeboat affair: women and children first.

An acquaintance at college did some research into the different ways in which women and men came to faith. While all this must be seen on a spectrum rather than expecting everyone of a particular sex to behave in the same way, he noted that women responded more to a message of forgiveness and men more when the message was couched in terms of giving a purpose for life. This would make some sense of Delve’s quotation, although it still leaves no room for the Young video that sees nothing wrong with people punching the lights out of each other. It’s an irony, perhaps, that the forgiveness message is usually preached by … men.

So however crude and ugly some of the he-man Christianity is, there is still a fair point. We’ve known for a while that church is thought to portray a wishy-washy image of Jesus. But the he-man approach gets the notion of strength all wrong. It isn’t strength to inflict pain on someone: the strength of Jesus is in the courage to suffer.

Meanwhile, some of us feel we don’t fit into either the wishy-washy camp or the muscular lot. Me, I like sport but I wasn’t born with the build to get into all the heavy physical stuff. I was born with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, so I’m probably disqualified from Young or Driscoll’s churches like some defective animal that wouldn’t be sacrificed in the Old Testament.

What, then, is a healthy attitude to maleness and Christian faith? Thoughts?

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on September 4, 2011, in Culture, ministry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I don’t see how you got that from such a silly video. I have gone to a ladies Converence at Young’s church before and no one talked about “how to do only lady stuff.” We just were growing in God. For me, it was nice to just be with a group of ladies. I think they are just being silly with mustaches and supporting a conference for men. Lisa Young has had a lot of success in reaching women through her Flavor Ministry. I think they are just saying they support an opportunity for men to get together. I am sure you know this, but there is a discrepancy in the US between the number of women who go to church “verses” the amount of men who go.
    http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/church_poll020301.html
    There is a book called Why Men Hate Going to Church. It is a pretty good read.

    There is another book called Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. I was going to read it, but honestly one chapter in, I was boared to tears. It’s about dude stuff and I frankly didn’t care. I think it is okay for different groups (men, women, singles, married, etc) to get together.

    I think you would fit in at the conference better than you think, and you would have a good time. After all, you are cool.:), and more than that they strive not to make anyone feel less than but seek to make everyone know that Christ loves them.So, a healthy attitude to me is somewhere between not making church always look like granny’s parlor, but relavent for all who come. Also not preach an always passive Jesus. (After all this is the Christ who turned not only a check, but when needed, a table of money over in his Father’s House, and stood up to Satan after 40 days of being in the wilderness.).

    One last thought. When my husband went to plant a church he first went to a church planter’s event. He has a M DIV but chose to go to classses twice a week for six months that were specific to planting. I would go from time to time. There were over 60 people there. Everyone was learning the same thing, but some were starting Cowboy Churches, others Gen X churches, some a church by the beach, and others a church for bikers (all 60 different somehow). I think I learned about a bigger God through that experience. It makes me appreciate that God has called many different people for many different ways to preach the Gospel of Christ. It challenges me to not fit God in my comfort zone. We should always be Biblical but seek to meet people where they are… that is what church should look like.

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  2. Hi Debbie,

    First of all I have no issue whatsoever with ministry specifically to men or to women. I am suggesting there is a valid need here. We have the same gender imbalance issue in the UK, too. However, the first video seems to say that certain approaches to masculinity are to be derided, and it glorifies what seems to me to be an aggressive form of faith. Yes, of course Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, but that story gets trotted out too often as a justification for all sorts of things. Jesus’ prophetic action there did not involve inflicting physical violence on people. I agree with you entirely that Jesus is not weak and passive, and putting this together with your other example about the wilderness is the positive sort of thing I think deserves emphasising. It’s just that the first video seems to distort this for my liking.

    Does that better explain where I’m coming from?

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    • David, I’m sorry I was unable to watch the first video. My computer said I would have to go to you tube. So I really couldn’t comment on it. I was able to watch the second video of the Young family. So, my thoughts were more geared toward that video. I don’t know the Driscoll’ s church.
      I can say the few times I visited Fellowship Church it has been very inviting. The funny thing is I think most men have a very cosmopolitan look at that church as they are in the Dallas area. They have more gel in their hair than the women. 🙂
      As for your thoughts about trotting out the money changer’s story, I agree. I was sitting in church thinking… “come on Deb you couldn’t have thought of a better example… one that hasn’t been used over and over.” So, there I sat in church this morning half listening to the youth minister’s sermon (that was very good) and thinking about your blog. Then the two merged as the youth pastor was speaking on the power of God and how we need to have faith that God can do more than we can see (story of feeding the 5,000). I thought about your blog and the power Christ had through His Father. How it says in Romans that he came for us and if I/you were the only one to be saved, he still would have come, and I thought… what power must Christ have had as he showed humility when he could have called upon the angels but stayed on the cross or as he calmed the sea with a command of his voice and didn’t follow it up with a Titanic “I’m the king of the world” speech? Christ had all power and everything at his call and he stayed, he endured, suffered for our sins and died… and then rose again. What strength he showed in his humility! He waited for the ultimate victory! I’m sorry about the first video. I still haven’t seen it. Sometimes I think… what were they thinking when I see crazy stuff.
      So the answer is great blogs like yours ask great questions, with this included. What kind of a man does God desire? On one hand we have certain hopes for all people kind in the Bible (love God / love you neighbor as yourself). I do believe God has made us all different. I have three boys and a girl. When I gave my girl legos as a preschooler, she would make a princess wand or a house. When I gave my boys legos as preschoolers they made a robot or gun. Nobody taught them that. I certainly didn’t (and by the way my daughter can out fish her brothers). But we are a body of Christ all different with each having something to offer as we lay our service to the head who is Christ. What I got most out your blog today is how should a Godly man be? My personal thought is, just how God created him. You show me a man who is walking with the Lord, and whether he cooks or hunts… THAT IS A MAN! 🙂 My hope on this issue is that one day both continents have more men going to church, and that we individually do all we can in our corners of the world.

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  3. Have you read any of David Murrow – makes a lot of sense to me, and a lot of what he suggests about making Christianity/church more men friendly would appeal to some of us women too! Sometimes details matter – our BB lads give singing the BB Vesper so much more husto once we lowered the key after they complained. In the meantime, a healthy attitude to maleness and Christian faith? I agree with you about boys/men needing purpose and a challenge to rise to. And I’d point to the BB Object as making very good sense: “obedience, reverence, discipline, self respect, and all that tends towards true Christian manliness”; these first 4 habits go a long way to define “true Christian manliness”.

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  4. Tough love from tough guys. Only they’re not so tough, they need a “sensitivity” transplant.
    And they will continue to hurt as long as they’re allowed to – being a follower of Jesus doesn’t make them immune from power trips.
    Signed, A Bruised One!

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  5. I’m responding to your thoughts and assuming that the videos were a jumping-off point for thoughts that have been going around in your head.

    The Church as a whole has, I think, lost the vision of The Kingdom of God which gives the most fantastic and inspiring purpose that any individual can think of: being God’s servant (knight? warrior?) for the transformation of Creation. Women need a sense of purpose too. Imagine being on your death bed and looking back saying “Well, my life had no purpose, but at least I forgave and accepted Jesus as my personal saviour”. I don’t really think that cuts it for me.

    Behind all of this remains a lurking dualism: humans bad, God good. Amongst humans, the superior gender at least not as bad as the inferior gender (here is a little secret: a lot of women think they we the superior gender; we are not immune to this sin of dualism).

    Men and women are, in some ways, inherently different in temperament and outlook, at least in the aggregate. The Church needs to truly celebrate the different gifts of all individuals. We need to genuinely believe that all are part of the body and that one type of person (be it because of gender, race, status, whatever) is not superior to another type of person. We need to believe that although we all sin, we are all also created in the image of God. And that we all have an important role to play – held in God’s grace and used for God’s purpose – in the building of God’s Reign.

    The “traditional” masculine and feminine roles are not, as many would claim, given by God. They are the roles of a worldly system that seeks to promote and sustain a dominant type of individual and they are antithetical to the Reign of God.

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    • Yes, you’re right about the jumping-off point, Pam, and indeed you and I aren’t far off at all in our views of this. Hence my talk about things being on a spectrum. There are tendencies ‘in the aggregate’, as you say.

      There is a whole other issue in my old friend’s research about the different (‘aggregate’?) tendencies of the sexes regarding what type of Gospel preaching they respond to, namely why, but that would be quite a large issue in itself to get into now, and I’ve also lost touch with that friend and so couldn’t check some of the research details.

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  6. Has anyone here read ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Brother Yun (with Paul Hattaway)??? It’s about the horrific persecution endured by Chinese christians – both male & female of course!!! – under Chinese communism. More to the point it’s about their devotion to Jesus regardlesss of the cost, sometimes to the death. Now that kind of persecution if it came to the West really would sort out the men from the boys, not to mention the women from the girly-girls. It really does make our current preoccupation with gender issues look like an old fashioned vicar’s tea party!! And the person Yun gives the honour to is Marie Monsen. Not because she was a woman, but because she was willing to be used by Jesus to help the Chinese regardless of what it cost!

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