jonathan stone's blog

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who’s castrating who?

Over on Out of Ur there has been an interesting discussion on certain elements of what we might call a men’s movement in evangelical Christendom. The discussion was sparked by a posted response to an article written by Brandon O’Brien over on ChristianityToday.com. O’Brien notes a song that has been popularized at GodMen conferences. One line of the song sings, “Grab a sword, don’t be scared. Be a man, grow a pair!” Yes, I’m serious. O’Brien also spends substantial time discussing some of Mark Driscoll’s pointed remarks. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, desires greater testosterone in contemporary Christianity. In Driscoll’s opinion, the church has produced “a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. … Sixty percent of Christians are chicks,” he explains, “and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”

The aspect of church that men find least appealing is its conception of Jesus. Driscoll put this bluntly in his sermon “Death by Love” at the 2006 Resurgence theology conference (available at TheResurgence.com). According to Driscoll, “real men” avoid the church because it projects a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ” that “is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for.” Driscoll explains, “Jesus was not a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude”; rather, he had “callused hands and big biceps.” This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls “Ultimate Fighting Jesus.”

I understand that there’s a certain group of men who feel like they ‘don’t fit’ in church. And I understand that people like Driscoll are making some of these men feel like there’s a church for them out here. Personally I have little desire to go into the woods on a men’s retreat where we will “kick the devil’s @$$ and then go bow-hunting for elk!” Nor can I imagine EVER being willing to sing the words “grow a pair” in church. Nor can can I imagine wanting to go to a church where my pastor says stuff like, “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ.” Nonetheless, I am honestly happy that these types of men are finding a place in church.

But here’s my beef (I thought beef would make me sound more manly). Why can’t the talking heads of these men’s ministries acknowledge that they are making room for certain men, in a certain culture, with certain personalities and temperaments? I wonder if the leaders of GodMen conferences make room for the participants to spend time allowing other men to lay their head tenderly on their breast? I mean, that’s what this “Ultimate Fighting Christ” did! These guys say they’re defending a Christ emasculated by our culture. Actually, despite what they say, their real aim is not defending Christ, but taking issue with the Church. I can respect that in as much as it is creating room for others where there was none. I just wish they would wake up to their own hypocrisy when they turn around and emasculate the rest of us by so narrowly defining masculinity.

17 comments on “who’s castrating who?

  1. steve wright
    April 23, 2008

    Big J,
    I would say you need to go to hunting T.V. and watch a 24 hour marathon of Ted Nugget’s spirit of the wild. Now that my friend will help you to grow a pair.
    By the way, lay off us deer hunters and our compound bows.

    LOL LOL LOL

  2. Jonathan Stone
    April 23, 2008

    Thanks Steve. Does that mean you’ve invited me to go bow hunting with you? And if so, will you allow me to lay my head on your breast? 😉

  3. Don
    April 23, 2008

    I deal with most of what’s discussed here in my review of David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church.

    One thing that I would like to add concerns how we portray our relationship to God. It’s true that the most common image we use is the “bride of Christ,” which puts the whole thing in a female-male paradigm, as is depicted here. I never gave this much thought until I got into a debate with a Salafi Muslim last summer, who objected to looking at it in this way.

    It’s interesting to note that the Scriptures use the bride imagery in a collective way. On a personal level our relationship with God is also depicted in a paternal (don’t we call God our Father?) way and as a friend. It would probably do us good to emphasise those more in our presentation of what our relationship with God looks like.

  4. m.d. mcmullin
    April 23, 2008

    Richard Simmons is queer??

    A few years ago I was reading “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge and noticed how he sought to make Christian men more manly. In one section he spoke of how the church portrays men as wimpy, soft-spoken and hen-pecked. When one becomes a Christian he become “domesticated”. I do agree that it seems a lot of Christian men become more vanilla after they get saved.

    I think there are some men who are turned off by the stereo-type of soft-spoken men who hold their wive’s purses for them (…wait…I do that), but I think it’s very contextual.

    My own theory: I don’t think men like to put up with drama and it seems like churches are filled with so much these days. Maybe men today recognize all the junk that many think is necessary for the church to exist today.

    **side note** I think Don has already blogged on every issue known to man. I have to admit I have never clicked on one of his links until now. It was a very helpful review. Thanks Don.

  5. Hunter
    April 23, 2008

    There is something that stirs in me when i read things like “wild at heart” – John Eldridge or the “barbarian way” Erwin Mcmanus. It feels like a part of me has been awakened. A part of me that i have almost lost, but desperately want to regain. A part of me that gives me the passion to move forward for the kingdom. However, when i see things like what is mentioned on GODMEN, something is wrong. Too far of an extreme that tramples over the godliness in tenderness. I think Jesus was a perfect of example of what it means to be Human, and man. He was meek, he was bold, he was the Lion and the lamb. The issue has been we have looked at the lamb more than the lion, and now these guys are trying to kill the lamb so they can feel more like a lion. Every man must be both the lion and the lamb to walk in a way that honors the Lord.

  6. steve wright
    April 23, 2008

    Big J,
    Of course you can go bow hunting with me and of course there is always room for you on my chest. I would even read scripture into your hear. We go way back bro and I feel completely comfortable doing so.

  7. Jonathan Stone
    April 23, 2008

    Don:
    Agreed. In terms of emphasizing the ‘friendship’ theme I believe this has enormous potential. And perhaps in our culture the church has often ‘feminized’ friendships. Joe Myers did a great little book called ‘The Search to Belong.’ I won’t take the time to set the stage, but I will say that I think he accurately recognizes a void of social space in both our culture and our churches. This can be seen in the loss of the front porch on homes built in the last 15 years, and the emergance of ‘community porches’ such as Starbucks.

    Mike:
    Interesting thoughts about the drama and the junk. Indeed, it’s repellant to me. Of course, it’s repellant to my wife too, and she’s definitely not a dude! But perhaps that’s because the drama and the junk has begun to accumulate at rapid paces in recent years. As far as Don’s links, I’m glad you have discovered what you have been missing!

    Hunter:
    Sweet pic! I have also experienced the rousing in reading some of those guys. I suspect that there is a latent ‘primal’ nature in many of us that longs to be tapped into. What I appreciate about Eldridge is that he also incorporates some artistic, contemplative, and worshipful aspects to talking about masculinity. I think our best biblical model for this balance (besides JC of course), is Israel’s king David in the Hebrew Bible.

    Steve:
    I’m comfortable with it. Indeed, we go back a ways now!

  8. The Boyds
    April 23, 2008

    Jon,

    I love this post! Next I suppose you are going to pick on the Christians in the military who want to blow the enemy up for the glory of the Lord!

    I am offended in advance! 🙂

    I do take a psudo-Driscoll approach in the ministry here in the AF chapel and the fighter pilots love it. It has been a effective bait to catch them. Now that I have them in the boat I will beat them with the question, “are you so weak that you can’t be a lamb and a lion?”

    They like tough talk! I would prefer a different approach…

    However, for me, contextualiztion of the message comes before my personal preferences.

  9. m.d. mcmullin
    April 23, 2008

    I saw this link and thought of your post.

    Man Church

  10. m.d. mcmullin
    April 23, 2008

    I should have noted that it actually looks like something interesting this church is doing to involve men. I just thought the name of it was funny in light of this post.

    I do think guys need a place where they can be guys. There is an affirmation that other men can give that can’t come from your wife. Something about feeling a part of a brotherhood or team.

    Some guys have a hard time feeling that acceptance while others simply relive their days in high school sports. It is nice when a local church offers those kind of relationships to men.

  11. Jonathan Stone
    April 23, 2008

    Matt:
    That’s very helpful the way you have highlighted your context for us. It’s easy to forget that when you find yourself in a context like mine. Also, I think Travis Johnson has intentionally taken some of that strategy for Dade County, and it seems to be working quite well for them there.

    Mike:
    Thanks. The church that you linked to seems to be taking a bit of a ‘beer commercial’ approach. By that I mean that they are sort of poking fun at all of our ‘man-erisms.’ (cool, i just coined a term methinks). Personally, I relate to that better than the ‘steroid’ approach where it seems everything is ‘juiced up’ and we’re all taking ourselves a little too seriously. But different strokes for different folks I guess. However, another interesting thing came to light for me while parusing the ‘Man Church’ site. In the last few days as I have checked out several different men’s ministries websites I have spotted a trend. All the leaders and speakers at these things seem to be between the ages of 35-42 and white. What’s up with that? Just coincedence? I’m not sure.

  12. Hunter
    April 24, 2008

    thanks. photo booth does wonders to make me look good. lol

    I agree about David. He is a great example that we know a lot about.

  13. Johnny Taylor
    April 24, 2008

    I didn’t want to be too manly and remain “non-verbal” relating to this post, so I just say, Driscoll’s comments irritate me. But then again, according to Driscoll and Murrow, irritation is a very manly action.

    jet

  14. dartstrickland
    April 24, 2008

    I’m sad to say, I met Richard Simmons once, and i feel a little bit more gay for doing so.

    I need to kill something.

  15. dennis j. adams
    April 26, 2008

    People jump on “new” saying and “new” ventures in Christianity like flies on honey. This is again, as history will show, a “new” personality coming up to the top and everyone (not really everyone) jumps on the wagon and states ‘Amen’ to everything that is stated.

    What I would like to say is that Jesus is whom we preach and who has saved us. It really irritates the heart that again, in a Church that is 2000 thousand years old has to ride a roller coaster of “new” quips and personalities to feel life.

    I really don’t care what Jesus looked like! What I care about is that He saved me and I am no longer the “evil” person anymore. I could say a bunch more about my new life since salvation and also my old life prior. But those who know me can attest to the fact that I am now different (thank God).

    For years preachers/teachers and seminar groupies, have really liked the fact the some referral to profanity or body parts in a crude way brings out a “freedom”. It just brings freedom to the flesh which is trying desperately to take charge again.

    The wisdom that I would like to share is get your ears and eyes away from that stuff and just obey God and love people. In my spirit-man I really sense (and feel) that God is not pleased with all this stuff. So please do not give place to this. The word declares that we should not give place to the devil!

    Yes, I believe that the enemy of our soul is wise and knows how to trick us, especially now when so many are unsure in what they believe.

    I will end this lengthy comment by saying all of us are men and we do not need to grow anything, they came with the package! I do not want that challenged in my life nor do those that have real a testimony also. Men who do not attend church most likely would say that the church has nothing going on! I agree with that! Let’s get to the basic of attending Him each day and the Holy Spirit will do what He does best.

    I never have nor will I ever listen to quips and “new”
    drifts of personalities.

    Just some thoughts from an old warrior

    Dennis

  16. joel w. clackum
    April 26, 2008

    Nice post Jon! I enjoyed reading the comments as well. I’ll weigh in by saying that if men need particular manly activities in order to feel their man-ness, then something is wrong to start with. My thought is that any “softness” in the church is related to the socio-economic status of the western church. We have spent so much time building cushy cathedrals that we have developed aristocratic manners and ideals to go along with our palaces. We spend most of our time at court, so we need to spend some time out at the fox hunt or on the polo court to balance that out. However, manhood should not be defined solely by the American frontiersman/cowboy model. The Bible offers a litany of models of men (and women) who were tough and adventurous or loving and soft as the situation dictated. Regardless, my manhood (and I’m not convinced this is as important an issue as personhood)is never in danger of being challenged because I am a man by nature. Nothing can change this essential reality in my life. Basically, I think if someone wants to go out into the woods and satisfy a sense of bloodlust or some some inner need to be a conquering hero, he can do that at his pleasure and it really has nothing to do with the church. Again, this is a problem that speaks more to the socio-economic location of the church in America that these men even have the time, money and energy to undertake these distractions. Imagine what would happen if it was suddenly deemed as manly to help clean up inner-city neighborhoods, volunteer at adult education facilities or support/develop job agencies for the poor/unemployed! Also, it appears to me that it is not just men in the church who are bored or who desire this sense of adventure or “manly” experience, but an astounding number of men throughout the cities and subdivisions of America are in the same boat. They have a John Wayne/True Grit definition of manhood and are living in a Mike Judge/Office Space world. Isn’t this exactly the problem in that movie? I would make a few comments about Driscoll’s description of the ideal image of a man, but I should stop since I can already feel the sarcasm dripping from my tongue.

  17. Jonathan Stone
    May 1, 2008

    Johnny:
    You sound more manly when your irritated!

    D’Art:
    I’m sorry for your traumatic experience. And yes, killing something will probably help.

    Dennis:
    Thanks for the wisdom you old warrior you!

    Joel:
    I think you hit the nail on the head, and said it VERY well in doing it. That is, it’s frustrating that some of these guys appear to not recognize how culturally constricted their man-talk is!

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