Uncomfortable (my repudiation of macho Christianity)

One thing I don’t do nearly enough of is mention some of the other great blogs I read regularly. It just so happened that this week three of my favorites, Joy, Elizabeth, and Preston, all addressed the same controversy involving a prominent pastor of one of those megachurches that people on the East Coast really don’t understand. Normally I wouldn’t get myself too worked up over this, because, frankly, I don’t expect a Calvinist to have the same beliefs and opinions I do, and because controversies within Catholicism give me more than enough to worry about. But this one caught my eye.

Basically, Mr. Driscoll, who has already courted controversy with comments on gender roles and by promoting a distinctly “macho” Christianity, posted a facebook status asking followers to write about the gayest worship leader they had ever seen (to be fair, he used the word ‘effeminate’, but let’s cut through the euphemisms). It seemed, to my eye, to be nasty and juvenile, and it created quite a stir.

Most of this controversy centered on the fundamental lack of charity manifested in such a quip. I have to say, that despite a few theological differences that I can see, Preston came closest to writing the post I wish I’d written, especially in how he deals with some of our models of Biblical masculinity (Samson, anyone?) and whether or not some of our Christian heroes would last very long in a hyper-masculinized Church.

Readers probably know that forcing anyone into gendered boxes is something that really gets my goat. It is hard enough to be a good person without having to worry about being a “good” (read: socially acceptable) woman or man.

This reflection comes on the heels of another conversation about the public perception of how the religiously observant are “supposed” to act. In the minds of many people we are “supposed” to be pretentiously pious and blandly inoffensive. We don’t drink or swear, we don’t have opinions, we don’t speak up, we don’t laugh loudly or dance wildly.

The whole thing wears me out and baffles me. What does the Lord require? to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) And what is the greatest commandment? To love your neighbor as yourself. I have to say that it blows my mind that we bother ourselves with all the other nonsense.

How can someone really think that God’s law requires that we behave in hyper-masculinized or -feminized ways that just happen to jive with the worst parts of our 21st century culture? Did Jesus, whose preaching totally turned the world upside-down, really mean for us to take our behavioral cues from action movies 2000 years later?

Apparently when we don’t fit our approved gender roles it makes people “uncomfortable”. Good. Christianity is uncomfortable. The idea that God exalts the powerless and the foolish, that God works through sinners, that God loves everyone, even those who are different from me, even those who’s opinions offend me – all of this is unsettling. That the Church is made up of a messy amalgam of every type of miscreant is unsettling. That God’s house has many dwelling places can be very uncomfortable on those days when we want so desperately to be right.

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This is part of an attempt to be a little more timely and a little less formal in my writing once in a while- what do you think? Will you keep reading even if my posts aren’t perfectly thought-through, long-pondered and heavily edited versions of my Deepest Thoughts? And what other blogs should I be reading and sharing?

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5 Responses to Uncomfortable (my repudiation of macho Christianity)

  1. Preston says:

    YES. Write more of these posts.

  2. Flor says:

    I’ll always read, you know that! I never before thought about how it’s a very different conversation when discussing what makes a good person versus what makes a good man or woman. Though I’m with you on figuring if before God you are a good person, then it can’t matter whether you are a “good” man or woman.

  3. I certainly don’t mind this kind of post, if you don’t mind a response-in-kind. Of course, I’d keep reading, I think you’ve a lot of good things to say, and reading your writing is a joy, even when we disagree [I totally just edited that from “even when you’re wrong”: you should be proud, I’m a better, more collaborative, person for having known you already ;-].

    I don’t have much of an interest in the original controversy, but I’m curious as to why we shouldn’t both expect and encourage our men to express (i.e. work towards and, as habits will do, show) most clearly masculine virtues and women to express most clearly feminine ones, and everyone to express the non-gender-specific ones (the Theological virtues come to mind)? And while ridicule over something like that may be uncharitable, why can’t one talk about their disapproval when someone fails to live up to a virtue that they ought, in the positive sense of have a duty to, (outlined below) to live up to?

    Is there _really_ such complete overlap between (what we might call it) ‘wanting the best for people’ and (how people might see it) ‘setting expectations too high’? Is any standard at all too much of a standard to bear in our liberal society? “Don’t fetter me with your high expectations. Even if they are, in fact, actually good for me. Fie on thee, I’m a free person, I’ll do what I want!”

    “Socially acceptable” is a rhetorical cop-out: contrary to the post-moderns, it is not society which gives the gender roles in a template or pattern as an imposition, but it is those attributes of God in whose image we are made “male and female” that a “good man” and a “good woman” reflects especially, and uniquely.

    There’s a radical difference between people who try and miss the mark a bit, and people who don’t try at all, or at all effectively, or who have been told and believe something that makes them think that a legitimate good is a positive evil.

    It seems to me a bit of sloth to say “being a feminine woman, along with everything else, is too much work”. It seems to be a false feminism that says “what’s so good about being feminine, anyway?” in such a way as to never desire to work towards those legitimately good things. Obviously, I’m not talking about mollites here (literally ‘weakness’, loosely translated as ‘girlishness’), which can affect both men and women (it’s a sliding scale).

    Now, obviously, I’m not talking about false femininity or false masculinity here. But a major problem is that, for many people, any authentic femininity or masculinity (authentic in the sense that it reflects God’s properties of ‘the Good’ in a specific light) is, inter alia, either a) a sell out from modern feminism (get a job, look svelte, maybe have a kid but never rely on a man), or b) neanderthal and atavistic (aggressive, uncooperative, contrary, not a go-with-the-flow type despite the fact that the _rest_ of us all agree, so they should too, etc). This is a big fat lie told to almost everybody in our society, reflected in school, on TV, and by social pressures. The end product is neutered, immature males and masculine, self-involved females – and so few actual mothers or fathers.

    I had a seminary professor, a priest, who had some obviously feminine qualities to his affect – his outward behavior. It took a fair bit of a time to get over those. Eventually, I found he busted a hump to do something very fatherly for his students: he intentionally helped them organize their minds in some very important ways. For the latter, I am indebted to him and have a special fond recollection of him, but it is always despite the former, which I thought set a less than good example of outward behavior.

  4. “but I’m curious as to why we shouldn’t both expect and encourage our men to express (i.e. work towards and, as habits will do, show) most clearly masculine virtues and women to express most clearly feminine ones”

    What Mark Driscoll and others of his mindset are promoting as ideal ‘masculine virtues’ is no different than the values that a huge number of unbelievers hold dear. That alone should raise some red flags. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we told to constantly prove our masculinity through juvenile antics, or any antics at all. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us that the mature believer doesn’t have to compare him/herself to anyone else to measure spiritual depth: ‘each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.’ (Galatians 6:4-5)
    Ironically, this is the same thing that traditional martial arts teaches.

    It’s ironic because Mark Driscoll seems to believe that real men are rough, tough, and ready to fight at a moment’s notice, including Christian men. He seems to be stuck at the emotional level of a 13 year old boy, not an adult Spirit-filled man.

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