Testosterone Gospel

Brandon O’Brien wrote an article for Christianity Today about what the so-called “new masculinity movement” gets right and wrong. Some interesting items of note:

Today a growing body of literature is leveling its sights on the church, suggesting that men are uninvolved in church life because the church doesn’t encourage authentic masculine participation.

True to the pragmatic motivations of evangelical ministry the solution to this problem is to reorder its practices to assuage the felt needs of a cultural niche complete with consumer mentality marketing techniques.

Wild at Heart sowed seeds that have sprouted as a new “masculinity movement” aimed to get men into church by changing the church’s atmosphere. David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church (Thomas Nelson, 2004), founded the group Church for Men because, while the local congregation is “perfectly designed to reach women and older folks”—with its emphasis on comfort, nurture, and relationships—it “offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant.”

Oddly enough, this type of thing has happened before among feminist theologians who advocated “women only” churches (see here for some background). A complete denial of the biblical theology contained Galatians 3:26-28.

Inspired by Murrow, comedian Brad Stine began GodMen, a ministry that provides space in which “men can be men; raw and uninhibited; completely free to express themselves in the uniquely male way that only men understand.” In a 2002 GodMen meeting, this experience included videos of karate fights, car chases, and songs like “Grow a Pair!” whose lyrics read:

We’ve been beaten down
Feminized by the culture crowd
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed …
Grab a sword, don’t be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!

There is something demeaning to masculinity about this because it assumes men will somehow be magically be “affirmed” by such rhetoric. If that is all that is needed to “reach out” to the masculine soul there is something terribly deficient about being masculine.

The aspect of church that men find least appealing is its conception of Jesus. Driscoll put this bluntly in his sermon “Death by Love” at the 2006 Resurgence theology conference (available at TheResurgence.com). According to Driscoll, “real men” avoid the church because it projects a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ” that “is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for.” Driscoll explains, “Jesus was not a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude”; rather, he had “callused hands and big biceps.” This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls “Ultimate Fighting Jesus.”

Some of this is beyond parody, though parody always seems to find a way. For example, listen to Steve Brown’s “Man Church” ad. Insightful as it is hilarious.

The rest of the article is a fine critique of this market-driven discipleship. Being a “real man” has very little to do with fitting a cultural stereotype and more to do with submitting to the will of God. That is what Jesus taught and it applies equally to both men and women.

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One Response

  1. At the risk of being off-topic, I’d like to pose a question. The ESV and some other “essentially literate” bible translations use exclusivley mascuine nouns and pronouns in passsages that refer to both men and women. I’ve heard proponents for these translations say women should read these passages keeping in mind they’re included in this masculine language. I always find myself mentally editing because that’s not the way we use English anymore.

    Here’s the big question. Do men really stop and mentally include their wives, daughters and sisters when they read those passages about men and sons and brothers?

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