Nearly five years ago I finished a three year project about femininity and the ways men and women’s souls are distinct (Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home). Since then I’ve discovered that it’s not just women wrestling with their gender.
Men are as confused about what makes them masculine. Men feel like they’ve got something to prove as well. A friend sent me this video from a blog. I watched it, did not do any other research on the speaker and commented on the blog. I was told by aforesaid blogger that I clearly didn’t know enough about the speaker to comment. Since then I’ve read a bit more about Mark Driscoll in a Christianity Today article that was, as Mr. Driscoll writes in his own blog “a fair story.” So while I’m not a Driscoll-expert, I have read enough to make a comment on the way he views “femininity.”
I’m not out to slam Mr. Driscoll. I admire his verve, his boldness to confront and his quickness to ask forgiveness. I believe he loves Christ deeply, whole-heartedly. But I believe his view is incorrect.
I believe he’s using his gifts to pin men with more responsibility than God intended for them to handle and to distance women even farther from coming home to their femininity. Given my writing and peculiar ways God has drawn me into gender studies, i cannot remain silent.
Mr. Driscoll represents a common attitude and belief in conservative Christianity that needs to be addressed.
The worst part is that I don’t think Mr. Driscoll has any idea of what he’s doing. Some call him a bully. I believe he lacks self-control and humility. But I have yet to meet him.
For thousands of years, and even in some chauvinistic cultures today, men must vie against one another to prove they are “real men.”
In America, you might see the male ego more clearly on city streets where windows and doors are chained shut.
In gang culture there is a basic barbaric maxim: honor is a slice of one pie. You get a slice not by loving Jesus or living as a loving, gentle, humble servant, but by robbing someone else of a slice.
You get a slice of honor by shaming someone else out of theirs. Mr. Driscoll, it so happens, grew up on these streets, under this maxim.
This code of living isn’t gone from Mr. Driscoll’s logic. He might be right that many Christian men are too passive. He might be correct that churches are often tacky.
But to win back the honor for men he’s stolen a slice of honor from women. He shames women by using “feminine” as a slur against men and women.
I’ve used and defined feminine in Ruby Slippers to mean “the unique, unfallen ways God shows himself on earth in women….femininity is the way females are made in God’s image.” But Mr. Driscoll doesn’t agree. He uses “feminine” as an invective, as a catch-all for the ways women are chickifying his church.
His popularity aside (speaking of which popularity is never a good gauge of accuracy, not with Jesus, not with Mr. Driscoll), we have a worldly idea dressed up by a pastor, fed to men and women: that femininity is inherently embarrassing.
From his words, I can only surmise that innovative, young men count more than faithful Church-attending women. He doesn’t need to shame women to elevate men. But even in our Christian culture, he’s been given a slice of pie.
I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m offended. I read that Mr. Driscoll offends lots of people.His justification, “Dude, this is what Jesus said.”
I’m going to take Mr. Driscoll and Jesus seriously here. I want to list some of the ways Mr. Driscoll has unjustly accused men and women. It’s up to him, I believe, to show the link between his offensiveness and Christ.
- Where does Jesus teach or model that males are going to create the culture of the future?
- Where does Jesus say that 20-25 year old males are the only innovators in his church?
- Where does Jesus say that tacky church colors or architecture are inherently feminine?
- Where does Jesus say that “soft-spokeness” in a man makes him feminine? Where does Scripture say women who are soft-spoken are feminine? (Peter says it’s a ‘gentle and quiet spirit,’ not a ‘gentle and quiet’ mouth.(I Pet 3:4)
- Where does Jesus (or Scripture) say that men are supposed to protect women by leading them in church and family? Wasn’t the first provider God, then Eve who provided herself to Adam? I realize Scripture says the husband is the head of the wife. But this is a hotly debated, flexible and freeing metaphor, one in which we need both men and women’s metaphorical intelligence to interpret and then apply.
- Where does Jesus say slaughter, fighting, intimidation are earmarks of a “real man”?
- Where does Jesus say that emotion is a mark of femininity? Mr. Driscoll is himself highly emotional, but he is not less masculine.
- Where does Jesus say that slow-moving, inefficient forms of government (church boards, Congress, committees) are inherently feminine?
- Where does Jesus say the fruits of the Spirit are more pink than blue? self-control, patience, gentleness, joy, peace are not more feminine than masculine?
Mr. Driscoll is not only familiar with street culture. He’s also been trained—by his admission—on John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Because of their teaching on women, Mr. Driscoll is going to believe the Holy Spirit gives out pink and blue spiritual gifts. According to their manual Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood a woman who has the gift of teaching and exhorting must limit her authority to women and children of the church. For problems in this view see “Unmuted.” Mr. Driscoll will not be a believer in women who can expound, preach, lead or innovate in church. I’m not sure what Mr. Driscoll would say of the innovative leaders like Deborah in Judges, Priscilla in Acts, Nancy Beach, Anne Graham Lotz, Nancy Ortberg, Margaret Thatcher, Tina Fey, Condoleezza Rice or Bhutto. I have a feeling he wouldn’t be complimentary.
Mr. Driscoll is another unfortunate example of theology that justifies strict gender roles wedded to a fallen male-driven honor culture. The mixture is toxic, not just for women, but for the men who must now take all responsibility for success or failure. Not even God thought Adam should handle all that.
Mr. Driscoll and I agree, churches need help, marriages need help, men and women need help. Mr. Driscoll’s targeted passive, ‘feminized’ men as the real problem. I’ll be quick to admit that it is wonderful when men take ownership of problems, when they love their wives, when they show all the fruits of the Spirit. But because the complementarian/patriarchal culture makes men the leaders, the tie-breakers in marriage and the final arbiters and authority in churches, his culture must, ipso facto, hold the men responsible at all times.
I believe Christ wanted something better. Take a moment and think of the healthy marriages you know. Don’t they function with more equality?Women are given final say and authority in many areas because (as all healthy men know) women are gifted and knowledgeable about life too and understand some areas better than men. Even Jesus thought so when he made women the first preachers of his resurrection. So, please let’s not assume men are responsible for church problems that span beyond their gender (Sure it’s tempting to tag it all on men, it easily absolves me of responsibility and action–before I studied femininity, I would’ve flocked to Mr. Driscoll’s church and signed off on my character and career goals, too).
Assuming responsibility is a mark of healthy humans—men and women—not of “real men.” Anytime a man is using his masculinity he will increase the health of the church. But the same applies to women. Men who own up to their mistakes and accept responsibility are a breath of fresh air, but let’s not confuse healthy humanity with masculinity. The most masculine man I know is my husband, but his masculinity is measured, not by how many slices of pie he’s stolen from other men, not how many deals and conflicts his won, not by the authority or leadership he demonstrates, but by how much he is like Christ—in both tenderness and strength.
Masculinity is no savior of the church. It wasn’t even Jesus’ masculinity that saved us, it was his deity and sacrifice. You get a church with only men in charge then you have a church with another problem–only half of the image-bearers on earth are represented. And God said it best, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
–re-posted with some edits from the archives October 9, 2007
Photo credit: www.sjsu.edu