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.