Masculine Christianity, Protectionist Gospel — Why, Haven’t We Seen This Before?

We’ve established that the Spiritual Fruit described in Galatians 5 is not essentially feminine or masculine in origin or in practice. Yet a Church insecure sees “feminization” wherever the Fruit is clearly evidenced without accompanying growls of chest-thumping masculinity — a reaction to a fallen culture that sees gentle behaviors as ineffably feminine. This results in the tragi-comic insistence in some conservative Christian quarters that the enemy of the Church is feminization, that the Church isn’t “appropriately male” in its witness. And so efforts to confront and constrain any hint of the feminine have led to calls for a more muscular Christianity — not a prophetic, courageous Christianity, but a macho, tough-guy Christianity that, under the guise of “evangelism,” lures men into embracing a crude masculinity that does violence to the Fruit freely offered by the Spirit and isn’t terribly helpful to the very guys it purports to care for.

This was bad theory and worse theology when first rolled out in the Victorian era in England and the United States, when male pastors and evangelists decried what they saw as the soft nature of the Church’s missionary efforts, cultural engagement, and refined social ethos. The reality that women empowered by the Holy Spirit were leading revivals, pastoring churches, and engaging in social reform efforts alongside — and sometimes apart from — men prompted unregenerate men to avoid all things Christian, and encouraged regenerate men to sabotage, mock, and hinder the work of their sisters because of it. The former were too steeped in sin to receive the message of the Gospel; the latter were too steeped in sin to recognize a great move of God occurring right under their robust, manly moustaches. And while cage fighting and Superhuman Feats Of Astonishing Musculature were not yet part of the prevailing culture, the mistaken belief that male insecurity stems from women’s strength and not male sin led to fervent efforts to toughen up the Church. By the beginning of the 20th century, denominations that had freely encouraged and availed themselves of women’s leadership gifts caved in to culture and began restricting their sisters and coddling the menfolk around them. Whose masculinity was somehow toughened by their doing so.

There truly is nothing new under the sun, and the growth of Biblical understanding of gender equality in the Church has traditionalist men chafing in their Dockers. Like their forefathers a century or so before, they fear a Church feminine. They seek to bring unsaved men into the fold not by seeking Holy Spirit change within the men, but change, instead, within the Church, and they too often do so with patronizing, lugubrious assurances that a Church that allows women to lead is a Church that showers contempt on its sisters. And because these patriarchs believe it’s their place to protect me and others like me — while protecting strong men from me and others like me — they work to deny the Spirit’s gifting in our lives so that we don’t mistakenly wander off the path or, worse, barge through doors never meant to be opened to us.

It sounds so noble, and noble in the same way as those Southern slaveholders who worked against abolition because their slaves just weren’t able to function on their own, and noble in the manner of men opposed to women’s suffrage because politics, filthy and conniving as it is, could only lead to hysteria.

Which is to say, not noble at all.

It’s for our own good, apparently — or that’s what uber-patriarch Tim Bayly and his buds would have us all believe. I’ll discuss Bayly’s condescending and, much more important, Biblically erroneous contention that women cannot serve freely in ecclesiastical leadership positions, but, having discussed the gender-neutral Fruit of the Holy Spirit, I’d like next to reflect on the gender-neutral distribution and nature of the gifts of the Spirit.

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