I had one already, he done too much harm
– “The Word Is Love“
This lyric from barely-noticed Christian roots-rock singer-songwriter Rick Elias was written roughly twenty years ago, and I have hardly heard it since. But it’s what’s been scratching my mind every time I hear this call for a “Masculine Christianity” from church heavyweights like Mark Driscoll and recently from John Piper. I’m guessing by this they mean that the conservative Evangelical Church, specifically, isn’t masculine enough.
Despite the fact that it’s run almost exclusively by males. This despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of church congregants are female. And are systematically guarded from positions of leadership within the church.
That, of course, is part of the problem for the Masculine Christianists. They see the church as half-empty and want to market it to more men, specifically, more manly-men who like to do mannish stuff. Like MMA, or throw stuff. Or smash. Or yell. Or hit…
But that’s not enough, apparently. Reported from Rachel Held Evans, John Piper recently stated, based on his specific culturally and gender-centric reading of the Bible that:
I’m not sure what that means, “masculine feel.” I know that I’m a man, and that there is something good about that, as I – as a male – was made in God’s image. But women are also made in God’s image. So is my precious daughter. And they’re feminine, right? So does Christianity have a feminine feel as well?
I do know that this idea of the masculine feel ties directly into masculine leadership. And that my every experience with Masculine Leadership (as a trait identified specifically as “Masculine”) comes up on the pagan side of Jesus’ call to his disciples.
Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
This is where many Christian leaders get their “servant leadership” language from. But it’s really just language that barely covers pretty much the same type of leadership. We’ve seen this type of “servant leadership” before. It’s another form of what Piper was referring to when he continued his definition of Masculine Leadership:
[G]odly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community.
Even at its most tender-hearted, this exclusively masculine form of leadership is innately ignorant and sometimes downright abusive. Because, being exclusive it is dismissive of other points of view. Piper himself advises wives to stay with their husbands for the night after he strikes her and to wait until the church opens later that week to deal with the problem.
Not, as I’m sure we’re well aware post-JoPa scandal, report all abuse to authorities right away. Not, leave him and then see if there can be reconciliation later. Not, we’re gonna open up a phone bank for such emergencies and make sure that all women and children (and even men) have a safe place to turn to in the case of such a regular-occurring emergency.
This is the sound of Masculine Christianity?
From the lips of a White male, trust me when I say this: We are not very good at listening.
We are good at getting a swell head filled with power because that’s what we’re trained to do from an early age. We are the ones the teacher picks on – especially if we (like I did) go to multicultural schools. Due to institutional and multi-generational sexism and racism, we are the ones assumed to be smart and fearless and bold and decisive. And when the moment comes to shine, we relish the opportunity, lessons be damned. Experience from the wise and from females and from minorities and from the oppressed and from our neighbors be damned. White Papa knows what’s best.
I mean, that’s what God is, right? A strong, White male God who knows best because he. just. does.
He’s a male, knowimean?
I’m sure that Jesus wanted his Kingdom to be focused on a “masculine feel” when he and Paul used words like,
- Poor in spirit
- Shown mercy
- Pure in heart
- Without envy
- Does not boast
- Not proud
- Not self-seeking
- Not easily angered
- Always hopes
to describe it.
You want to see a Masculine Christianity? That’s easy! It’s all around us. It’s the current state of the American Church – a gender apartheid in the body of Christ.
You wanna see the Kingdom? Follow Jesus in tearing down these walls. All of them. Power-grabbing. Property-grabbing. Insecurity. Fear. Letting a handful of men (and even women) spiritually lead hundreds and thousands. Tear them down and allow Christ’s love for all to guide us to each other’s best interests, to become better persons.
Not to be more masculine or more feminine. Better humans.