Manly-Man’s Christianity? Iron Jesus?
I decry the feminization of the church as much as the next manly-man, and recognize much validity in it. You want evidence? Just look at the Episcopalian Church USA and their ecumenical partners, all of whom are headed hell-bent down the road feminist-homosexual agenda [the two are inextricably linked]. I think that much of mainline Christianity and even good portions of conservative Protestantism is being overrun by a sort of Hallmark greeting card approach to the Faith. However, on the flip side of this situation, I do not agree that the "antidote" to these problems is to be found in some sort of "hyper-masculinity." And, I’ve said it before, but it must continue to be said, the solution to Pietism is not impiety! My general observation is that men who seem to need to try to prove their masculinity have some problematic self-doubts about it. Real men do not behave like swine or try to prove their masculinity by being impious: acting like drunken sailers on shore leave.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a big believer in courtesy, quiet
strength, patient resolve, personal integrity, honor, chivalry and courage as the defining
aspects of masculinity: not behaving like gutter-rats. Here is a good response to the overreaction to the feminization of the Church, by Joe Carter, blogmaster for World magazine, a man with the curriculum vitae for us to say, "Yes, he’s a manly-man."
Iron Jesus and the “Masculinization” of the Church
First, my bona fides.
I’m a former Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps. I’ve spent
fifteen years in the Corps and fifteen seconds (cumulatively) riding
bulls. I’ve spent my summers in 100 degree weather baling hay, shoeing
horses, castrating hogs, and running laps for sadistic football
coaches. I’ve fixed pump jacks in Texas oil fields and made auto parts
in a Missouri factory. I’ve changed engines on F-18s, tires on Humvees,
and a carburetor on a ’76 Gremlin.
I own a .40 caliber Glock. My hero is John Wayne.
In other words, there is some evidence that I am—or at least once
was—a fairly “manly man.” I’m also a devout Bible-believing Christian.
But for the life of me, I can’t discern how the two are connected, much
less why one is necessary for the other. Yet that is the impression I
often get when I read about the “feminization of the church” and the
move to provide young Christian men with “masculine” role models.
At the risk of taking his light-hearted remarks too seriously, I
have to say that I find pastor Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill
Church in Seattle, to be particularly caught up in this type of
thinking. For example, in a recent post he gave a “Manly Missionary Award (MMA)” to Dog the Bounty Hunter:
Jesus was a carpenter who walked a lot of miles and was
therefore a fit, blue-collar type of guy who would never drive a
Cabriolet, rock out to Mariah Carey, or wear lemon-yellow. Fortunately,
as Dog becomes more popular among non-Christians who watch his
television show, a more biblical view of Christian masculinity is
getting out, for which I say, “WWJD – We Welcome Jesus’ Dog.”
I agree that Dog does seems to be a dedicated (though perhaps
immature) believer and is worthy of commendation. But I fail to see how
he presents a “biblical view of Christian masculinity.”
In fact, the type of men that Driscoll seems to admire most –
wrestlers, “ultimate fighters” – are the very antithesis of Biblical
masculinity. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus praised the “meek” a
word that in the Greek is used in reference to a “tame” wild animal.
The lion, for instance, is able to lay down with the lamb precisely
because he is not given over to his hyper-aggressive nature.
Indeed, when Jesus talks about his followers he often refers to them
as “sheep” – creatures that aren’t known for their ferocity. And when
he gave the nickname “Sons of Thunder” to two of his disciplies, it
wasn’t exactly high praise for their obnoxious brand of masculinity. It
is difficult to square the Jesus of the Gospels with the
hyper-masculine ideal that Driscoll and many others seem to hold. It
takes an incredible leap of logic to conclude that since Jesus was a
carpenter he would have enjoyed ‘Rassling.*
(Perhaps a case could be made that the church has become overly
feminized, causing young men to turn away. The criticisms, for example,
of “Jesus is my boyfriend” style worships songs may have some merit.
But then what do such critics think of Christ referring to the church
as his “Bride”?)
During the early ‘90s, “wildman” retreats were all the rage as a way
for men to get in touch with their mannishness. Men would head to the
wilderness take off their shirts, beat on West African drums, and bond
with each other. While we may laugh at such goofy behavior, this
neo-testosterone movement within Christian circles isn’t all that
different. We’ve simply replaced the mythopoetic “Iron John”
with a mythic “Iron Jesus.” But young men don’t need a Jesus who
strolls like the Duke, squints like Eastwood, and snarls like Rumsfeld.
They don’t need Jesus the wrestler or Jesus the warrior. They just need
Jesus the Savior.
*In a culture that assumes close male relationships are evidence of
repressed homosexuality, it’s not surprising that so many Christian men
are infatuated by displays of simulated male violence. In ancient
Israel David and Jonathan were able to express their love for each
other without anyone assuming they were “gay.” Today, give a guy a hug
and you’re considered to be “acting queer.” Don spandex and wrap your
arms around another male, though, and they’ll call it “wrestling” –
and think it’s completely hetero behavior.