Gender In, Gender Out?
October 11, 2015 Leave a comment
From the perspective of having worked with a para-church group that has ministered to free people from the cycle of homosexuality, I would like to address a concern of mine…
Recently I saw a huge sign outside a mega-church that offered a “Biblical” approach to gender. The wording was directed at teenagers. Though seemingly innocuous this is a type of inferred legalism.
When a Church or seminar group puts the word “Biblical” in front of its messaging it is clearly inferring that this is the domain of Christians, that this is what a Christian in this subset must do or be.
But desired male and female “characteristics” or conformism should never be taught as gilded pages of Scripture lifted out and fashioned into tablets of “Biblical” mandates. One may say that these approaches are just “guidelines” but the word “Biblical” in front of something conveys the idea of de facto Sola Scriptura truth.
As mentioned, in the past I have been around and served in a para-church ministry based on what was termed “gender symbolism issues” (a cautious reference to Carl Jung). The speaker’s main thrust was to employ an admixture of psychology terms, quotes of the Inklings and of Scripture with the application of soul-healing prayer. It all sounded good to me at the time.
Within this context seminar leaders and counselors urged attendees to pray and ask God for the “True Masculine” and the “True Feminine.” But, these prayers, of course, will not be answered because there is no such thing. The best a man or woman can ever become is being Spirit-filled. It was out this time that I came to realize how insidious this kind of psycho-spirituality was.
It is not hard to understand the Christian Church trying to stabilize the culture surrounding it. But, in this case, it is doing so by adding unnecessary “traditions” onto the message of the Gospel. By placing added strictures and burdens regarding the masculine and the feminine, the Christian Church removes itself from the Gospel and becomes, in a sense, the fashion police.
Recall the early Christian Churches of Jerusalem and Galatia which demanded that new Christians follow the strict tradition “soaked” Law along with the teachings of Jesus? Today’s church in similar manner, as I see it, is seeking to propagate men and women of the “Biblically” masculine or feminine tradition. It would appear that the Christian church is in the process of “canonizing” romantic notions of what they consider to be masculine and feminine qualities.
As a former student of Moody Bible Institute and over the course of a lifetime having read through the Bible several times I have yet to find any description of “Biblical” manhood or womanhood.
What is written are what characteristics a man likes about a woman (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31) and what characteristics a woman likes about a man (see Song of Solomon). None of these “characteristics” – physical and pragmatic – carry the moral weight of the Ten Commandments. These “characteristics” should never be used to propagate more sons and daughters of the “Biblically” masculine and feminine.
I believe that the Church with regard to its “genderfication” of males and females has become a stumbling block for the weak.
There are those in the church who are perfectly comfortable conveying the macho role that men play in on TV. And there are some in the church who base gender roles on the corn-fed lyrics of country music. There are women’s conferences about “Biblical” womanhood based on Proverbs 31. And there are many more instances of role play.
I have no problem with role play. Role play is a given in relationships. But I have a problem with a rite of conventionality outside of conforming to the image of Christ. This statement may be too much for some people in the church, I understand.
Yet, the weak, the searching, may easily stumble when such stereotyping is placed askance to their faith.
One could say that Proverbs 31 was written by patrician authors who imagined the qualities of an ideal woman to be in relationship with or for King Solomon’s court. Proverbs 31 definitely speaks of a pragmatic woman and not of a physical woman, as does Song of Solomon. (Platonic men would later consider woman’s physical beauty a type of entrapment and something to avoid.)
But in this day and age Christian men also enact Proverbs 31, do they not? Should we delineate gender based on Proverbs 31? My answer is “No.”
Why create extra yokes called the “Biblical Masculine and Feminine” to be placed on people’s necks? Isn’t a “Biblical” manhood and womanhood referenced only at the conjunction of men and women? And, isn’t marriage of man and wife the nexus that is the positive anti-thesis to same-sex anomalies.
Now it is common knowledge that people do not like ambiguity. We demand black and white. We demand inerrancy. And, we demand “Biblically masculine and feminine” males and females. Our minds are wired to alert us to any differences to a norm. When a perceived threat to a norm occurs we seek to reconcile things as quickly as possible.
Any ambiguity comes off as a potential threat to our understanding of how life should be. As related to gender we tend to overemphasize male and female “roles” in order to reduce our anxiety over ambiguity. Here it is, I believe, that some of the fear of non-conformity has grown out the Christian Fundamentalist movement that was raised up in the early twentieth century against the threat of Liberal theologian’s textual infractions. The Conservative Christian world sought to tighten its reins on what is and isn’t “Biblical.” And in so doing it is also now putting a noose around each gender.
Yet, there is no gender typecasting or stereotyping in Scripture, only sacrosanct relationships established and reinforced. And, more importantly, the message of the Gospel offers everyone freedom from fear. This includes freedom from the fear of the ambiguous and the unknown, whether the fear is of material nature or of the fear of gender “status.”
We should not live with the fear of the not being able to follow the letter of the Law and especially as conjoined with the added impedance of “Biblical” gender.
The current falderal about “Biblical” manhood and womanhood are gooey sentimental and romantic notions mandated under the banner of the “Biblically” acceptable. Let’s not go there. Let’s not make the freedom and fun of romantic role play into religious rule pretense. Let’s be free to be men and women without the yoke of the man-made gender laws placed on our necks. And then, perhaps, homosexuals will then feel free to come home and find new hope under the roof of Christ-like relationships.
In my estimation the best how-to books to lead a Spirit-filled life are the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Forget the OTC self-help books and seminars on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You would be wasting your time and money. Worse, you would most likely seek to adapt to someone else’s notion of what it is to be a man or a woman. Run from this nonsense. GIGO.
The closest we come to “Biblical” manhood and “Biblical” womanhood in the Bible, as I read it, is within the Apostle Paul’s circular letter to the churches at and around Ephesus (Ephesians chapter 5). It is there that he instructs Christians as to how men and women should relate to each other and he does so with equanimity and, more importantly, in the context Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Paul’s circular letter should be read in the context of Ephesus being the protectorate of the Temple of Artemis aka Diana. “There was no other Greco-Roman metropolis in the Empire whose ‘body, soul and spirit’ could so belong to a particular deity as did Ephesus to her patron goddess Artemis.” (Oster 1990:1728) Many in the Greco-Roman world came to Ephesus take part in the seductive sexuality of Diana’s worship, worship which included prostitution. Adored as life givers women were given inordinate prominence. As such, they were placed above men.
Sadly, so many sermons and books and seminars parse out “wives submit to your husbands” and “husbands love your wives”. As I see it, Paul wrote to these churches – churches situated in the context of the worship of the female deity Diana, and specifically this passage to promote a Kingdom view of women as opposed to the Artemis view. In the Spirit’s way, Paul let it be known that women were not to be placed on a pedestal as an idol or to be used– not as a Madonna or as a whore.
Paul writes to the Ephesian church outlining a Kingdom of God view of relationships. Husbands are to love their wives and not submit to prostitutes. Wives are to submit to their husbands and not to those who would put them on a pedestal to worship or in a bed as a prostitute. Paul advances the true characteristics of Kingdom of God people: concomitant respect and love of husband and wife.
More than any pretense of “Biblical” gender teaching, the Scriptures order our relationships as it orders our loves: Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
Husbands who love their wives love their closest neighbor and are in fact submitting to the Lord within her.
Wives who submit to their husbands submit to their closest neighbor and do so out of love for the Lord within him.
This gamboling of submission and love resembles, I imagine, the relationships of the Trinity and Their dancing embrace.
Here’s what culture says: 27 Ways to Be a Modern Man