Male and female He created them

I try to read a variety of sources to help keep my thinking flexible and my mind open which is what brought me recently to The Gospel Coalition blog. As I read this article, however, (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/07/22/beware-romantic-pornography) I felt troubled rather than challenged. This certainly isn’t the first thing I’ve seen decrying the perceived emasculation of men in today’s society. There is a lot of discussion going on about how Christ followers (those who strive to emulate the example He gave us and reflect His image in the world) should represent gender. This article attempts to make the case that current American culture is predisposed to require men to act like women in order to be found acceptable. The author points to movies and television shows to reinforce her premise, specifically mentioning the writings of Nora Ephron and Jane Austen. (A quick review of the highest rated TV shows or top grossing movies this year paints a different picture.)

The article compares sexual porn targeted at men with so-called “romantic/emotional porn” targeting women. The comparison is based on the premise that both sexual and “romantic/emotional” porn twist the perception of the viewer concerning the reality of the other sex. I agree with this to a certain extent. Replacing realistic understanding of one another with skewed or fantastical images does not contribute to building healthy relationships or to reflecting the image of God. The author, however, moves on to make this statement:

“And the unidimension of men in romantic porn gets magnified because our mainstream culture has a “man bad, woman good” view that opposes traditionally male qualities (unless they turn up in women, but that’s another column). In a symptom of what’s going on in the culture at large, “rom coms” and many television sitcoms denigrate such traits such as aggression, competitiveness, a certain amount of stoicism, and even the desire to protect and care for a woman.”

As Christ followers we’re not to be committed to “traditional” values and qualities, either male or female. We’re committed to following Christ and HIS values and qualities. Nowhere in scripture does Christ portray the “traditional male qualities” this writer lists, i.e., aggression, competitiveness, stoicism and the desire to protect and care for a woman. Instead of aggression and competitiveness, we see Christ setting the example of and calling His followers to be peacemakers and to humbly prefer others. (See my post “Blessed are the peacekeepers” for more on the non-passive nature of peacemaking.) Instead of stoicism, we see Christ displaying an attitude that is so open and welcoming that those shunned by society at large, as well as small children and outsiders, are equally comfortable in His presence and frequently seek Him out. Regarding the last quality on the list, Christ certainly desires and cares for the church as His bride, and displays such great care for us all that He willingly sacrificed His life to protect us from the consequences of sin. Christ’s protection and care are not intended, however, to keep us removed from the difficult realities of life. He longs for us to share His authority and participate in ministering to the needs of those shunned by society, small children, outsiders, the “least of these.” Any model of protection and care given by a man to a woman based on Christ’s example, must include shared authority and ministry to the needs of others.

As Christ followers our male female relationships, including marriage but not limited to it, reflect the fellowship that God portrays and examples for us between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To borrow a term from Carolyn Custis James, author of “Half The Church” among other wonderful books, this “blessed alliance” among men and women is foundational to our being image bearers of God. Our image as male and female is not built on tradition, nor stereotype, nor anything else that is a result of our human-derived cultural ideals. Our image of male and female must start with who God created us to be as His image bearers, and the example given to us by Christ.

2 Comments

  1. very interesting stuff. this is something i have put a lot of thought to as well. and to be honest, and this might sound horrible, i think much of the talk is overblown hype. i hear mark driscoll rant that church has made men into women so he is trying to re-man the church. i don’t know what churches he is talking about because i am surrounded by thousands that won’t even let a woman say the prayer during the service. then i hear that the media is making men into goofy, women-like creatures and i ask myself why the male-dominated media industry would want to do that. if that is really true why are all movies still targeted to 14 year old boys? (which explains the all super hero and action hero movies. are these characters female-like? hmmmm) finally i sit and listen to friends of mine, middle-aged white guys, talk about how society is against them now because of affirmative action. again, when i look around and read stats, all upper level jobs are 90% held by white men.

    i do think there is a push against traditional white male leadership. i’m not saying they are making it all up. for 20 years things have been stirring. what some of us (meaning women and minorities) have been putting up with since the beginning of time is now starting to affect the ruling class.

    i think it is a good thing and for many of the reasons you mentioned. women have had to define and search for value outside of what society has labeled them with for years. now men will have to do the same. if their cultural seat gets uncomfortable maybe they will take a different look at who they are supposed to be from a kingdom perspective. that could bring about some powerful transformation….

    • I appreciate your comments. You’re voicing some of my own questions and observations. I don’t think it’s horrible to raise the question of whether or not there is an element of hype to the question of whether our culture (and/or the Church) is emasculating men. Mark Driscoll’s comments have been getting a lot of attention lately, but he seems to me to be just one of the more extreme examples in a long line.

      I remember an article I read a couple of years ago. It was the cover article for the monthly publication of a denomination I was associated with. The question was along the lines of why were the pews so empty of men and what was the Church doing wrong where men were concerned. He observed that there were far more men than women in the leadership of the Church, and far more women than men in the pews. What really struck me was the author’s interpretation. His conclusion was that this indicated that the Church needed to do more to attract men to the pews. So amazing that it never occurred to him that this indicated that we needed more women in leadership!

      I agree with your comment about a cultural seat becoming uncomfortable and leading to a different perspective. Change seems to be something we only embrace once we’re made uncomfortable. One of my favorite quotes is from John Kenneth Galbraith. “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.”

I'd love to hear your thoughts....