Jesus’ Masculinity . . . Wasn’t (Part 2)

Last week, we discussed the cringeworthy comments by retired Col. Jerry Boykin at the International Men’s Prayer Breakfast, wherein the conservative patriarchal icon discussed in odd detail the masculine traits of Jesus Christ and fumed that evangelicalism these days has made its buff, sinewy Savior into an effeminate wimp no Real Man would want to hang out with.

Well, Boykin says, it’s no wonder guys aren’t coming to church.  They think Jesus is “sissyfied.”  And whether the playground is ecclesiastical or Greek fraternal, guys simply don’t want to associate with, hang around with, or become like sissyfied men, much less worship one.

That Boykin, whose stunning manliness evidenced itself in his Iraq War assertion that the U.S. was fighting a war against “good and evil,” and that Iraq’s god is Satan, would be asked to speak to any group of Christians anywhere, or, indeed, any group of vertebrates anywhere, might be a better explanation for what’s wrong with the Church than its apparently bothersome lack of emphasis on Jesus’ musculature.  But let’s shift our focus from Bubba Boykin and dissect what he’s said about the need for a “masculine” Jesus, although in doing so it’s important to recognize that Boykin isn’t alone or particularly odd in his assessment.  Mark Driscoll, who famously said he couldn’t worship a Savior he could beat up, and other Biblical patriarchs like John Piper, Wayne Grudem, John Eldredge, Doug Wilson, and disgraced Vision Forum founder and uber-masculinist Doug Phillips have lead a resurgence of in-your-face masculinism in evangelical circles that’s been welcomed as a need antidote to the “sentimentalism” and “effeminacy” of the popular culture.  Boykin isn’t alone in pinning the supposed failure of the Church of the Lord Jesus on its reduction of Jesus, and by extension the men who follow him, into soft, wimpy, saccharine touchy-feely gentlemen who, predictably, are overrun by their screechy, bossy, bitchy womenfolk.

Because, you know, when you have wimpy, wishy-washy men, you need only look to the front of the line for the bossy women . . .

I don’t argue that Boykin, et al, should be criticized because I find their comments offensive.  No, I argue that they should be criticized and should be denied audience and authority in the Church because their promotion of a “masculine” Jesus is noxiously opposed to the Person and Gospel of the One they presume to defend, and to defend with indefensible theology that clearly poisons his message.  They appear to take enormous comfort in the maleness, and, to them, the masculinity, of the Savior, when Scripture insists that there is one mediator between God and humankind, the human one, Christ Jesus.  The Greek doesn’t say “the male one, Christ Jesus.”  It says, “the human one.”  The patriarchs’ concern for Biblical inerrancy requires, then, that we establish what the literal text establishes:  It’s the humanness, not the maleness, of Jesus Christ that, with Jesus’ deity, produces our salvation.

That salvation, rightly understood, rescues men and women from masculinity; it does nothing to make males less male and females less female, because those categories, male and female, are biological sex categories that remain unchanged and unaffected by the Holy Spirit.  The Creator God who is both female and male is evidenced in females and males.  What the Spirit does seek to do is to eliminate the gender categories of “masculine” and “feminine,”  which are results of the Fall of humankind and cannot exist without the other.

“Masculinity” is that gender construct that seeks domination, thrives in competition, strives in acquisition, and enlivens patriarchy, the control over and oppression of women, children, and weaker men by one man — or, in society, the cultural domination of men over those deemed “less-than” that is in turn enshrined as right and good by other men.  It cannot exist without “femininity,” the status of the dominated that defines their subjugation, weakness, and oppression — again enshrined by the male-dominated, masculinist culture.  These are the categories that cause us to say that a violin-playing boy is “effeminate,” and that an athletic, confident girl is “masculine.”  That they exist is a result of the Fall, where this both-female-and-male God promises Eve that as a result of sin, she will desire close communion with her man, and her man will respond by ruling over her.

Christians believe, however, that the life, message, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ renewed this fallen world, cleansing it once and for all of sin’s ruination of men and women and calling forth, in the peculiar tension of the “already-and-not yet” of the Kingdom.  This Kingdom mandate is not simply woven through the New Testament; it IS the message of the New Testament.  The Kingdom of our Savior and Lord cannot rightly countenance what he came to defeat, and yet it is the Church, corrupted by the toxic masculinism of the culture around it, that has done the most to wrongly elevate the masculine — which leads to a defined feminine — and poison the Gospel it seeks to spread.

The Church has, in effect, enshrined sin by attributing to Christ Jesus the very traits he not only failed to evince in his life but destroyed in his death.  Yeah, I’m guessing Jesus was muscular — and so is anyone, female or male, who is a carpenter by trade.  Yes, Jesus was sweaty and had dirty nails — just like anyone else who lived and worked in pre-industrial Palestine 2,000 years ago.  And without question Jesus had a penis in the Incarnation — which Scripture, again, considers irrelevant next to his humanness in his Redemptive work.

Perhaps the biggest indictment, though, against the often-juvenile, always-dangerous masculinism of the contemporary Church and the patriarchs who delight in it is that Jesus — the rabbi who taught women, included women among his followers, appeared first to a woman after his resurrection, was supported financially by women, and who left Biblical evidence of a female apostle and numerous female church leaders — requires of the believer that she or he be “conformed to the character of Christ Jesus” by the fruit of his Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5 lists those evidences of Christlike character:

“(The Spirit) will produce this kind of fruit in us:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . . ”

A male person who exhibits sacrificial love, lives in unquenchable joy, promotes peace, practices patience, exhibits boundless kindness, seeks only goodness,  stands in remarkable faithfulness, cultivates profound strength in gentleness, and devotes himself to self-control” is conformed to the nature of Christ Jesus and has defeated masculinity.  A female person who does the same isn’t, because we wrongly, in this patriarchal world, equate these virtues with “soft women” and not “regular guys,” more “feminine” — she has defeated femininity with its defined oppression and victimization.  The Gospel sounds the death-knell to masculinity and femininity by announcing a world where no one oppresses and no one is oppressed.

Sadly, the white men who run the evangelical megaculture cannot find it within themselves to conform to the character of Jesus Christ, because masculinism benefits them.  They’ve convinced themselves and the women who are told to listen to them that this is right and righteous; they convince others that Godliness is inherently masculine and that, for women, Godliness is accepting subjugation as women, as the feminine.  How proud they are that they hold to the masculinist gospel of their masculine Savior.  And yet, they freely dip into wells of masculinism, fill their cups, toast each other in evangelical bonhomie, and they bring shame and disrepute to the Gospel while they contribute to the oppression of women and children — the women and children who fill their churches and whom they call “sisters.”

But the man who benefits from, participates in, and excuses the world system that subjugates the women around him cannot really ever be my brother, nor can I ever truly be his sister.  For that reason, my husband and I will not fellowship in churches that defend and practice “complementarianism.”  I cannot decide whether or not they truly love Jesus, but I can decide, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to not cast my lot with those who would gleefully look me in the face, see the oppression of my sisters, and tell me it’s not only all good, but all God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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