February 6, 2012

Our Mr Mom Who Art In Heaven

Over the past few weeks I have read two articles that talk about Christianity and masculinity.While each article has its own idiosyncrasies the main message of both is that only the hyper-macho, jock type masculinity is of true value to the church. All other types of men, and women are by default of lesser importance. This has bothered me quite a lot. I cannot help but hear echoes of locker room bullying in these pieces.

I am not sure if it is my past experiences (hearing someone basically pointing and laughing at me for not being 'man enough') or my current situation as a 'sort of' stay at home dad (as if I were not struggling enough with the gender role stereotypes of breadwinner and homemaker) that has set me on edge.

But I would like to respond in an altogether different vein . One that is a little more theological.

Responding to either the past (how dare you bully shame on you) or the present (don't you know that we have moved beyond such ridged stereotypes) while not wrong is not entirely helpful. The problem is these teachers have put forward their ideas in a way that says, 'this is what the bible says therefore this is what is; right, holy, just, and true'.

In that light I would rather debate them as bible teachers then challenge them on their cultural sensitivity.

First let's talk about the role of men and women as outlined in the bible. This one is always a contentious issue and it will likely remain one for a long time still. So this will hardly be the last word on the issue.

Never the less here we go.

I think the major texts to be considered are;

Gen 1:26-27
Gen 2:18-24
Eph 5:21-28
Col 3:17-19
1 Peter 3:1-8

When we look at these passages there are a number of things that we should take away. First both men and women are created with equal dignity before God. Second Eve was created as Adam's helper. This has caused a great deal of ink to be spilled claiming this proves Eve's inferiority. I disagree. When I need help I tend to ask one of two people; someone who is equally skilled at a task as me, or 2. someone who is more skilled at a task than me. I tend not to ask people whose skills are inferior to my own for help which would be counterproductive. Lastly when we look at the somewhat infamous 'wives & husbands' passages we see the teaching is; that husbands and wives must mutually submit and love each other. That really is it. Again I think to much has been said about the difference between submission and love. To love someone there must be submission, and in this context the submission ought to be one of love not brute force.

Don't Worry Baby Here Comes Mr Mom

To force these passages to say more than they do damages the texts. It means we are importing our own ideas about men and women into the text, which is not helpful. These passages do not define what gender roles ought to look like, they really only talk about our mutual value, and that we must adopt a Christ-like attitude of submission and love. The rest of the issues (who stays home with the kids, who cooks, who is the main money earner etc) seem to be more cultural than scriptural in nature.

Lastly if the biblical passages about men and women are not enough to give you pause when ascribing hard and fast gender roles a number of  passages about God should. God seems far less shy to associate with images that are typically 'feminine' then many men.

Yes, the vast majority of imagery associated with God are masculine in nature. The bible talks about God as father, warrior, protector, builder, king and so on. We should expect that. The bible was written in a patriarchal society.

What is more interesting is the fact that we find a fair amount of female imagery associated with God. In these passages we see God called mother and queen.

When I read these passages I not only see an affirmation of the value of women, I also see  affirmation of a more sensitive less testosterone driven masculinity. As the title implies I see God has some Mr. Mom tendencies.

So do I think those above linked articles, and the people who hold a like attitude are wrong, absolutely. Men we don't need to become a burly lumberjack to be accepted by God as a 'true man'. Women you do not need to feel like God has deemed you as second class citizens.

It is time for this macho centered bullying attitude masking itself as biblical truth to disappear.