Archive for the ‘Pink Sweater Jesus’ Category

Is Discussing Masculinity Anti-Woman?

26 Jul
Finger faces: angry woman, sad man

Umm… women can be brave too?

Due to a story I’ll type sometime, related to the category “Pink Sweater Jesus,” I’ve been looking into masculinity in our culture and in my faith. I came across an Christianity Today blog post criticizing John Piper for saying to an audience of men that Jesus and Christianity were masculine.

In addition to a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of the feminine “feel” of Christianity (here’s a hint: the church doesn’t feel feminine because there’s more women in the church, there’s more women in the church because it feels feminine, but more on the history of this later), the post and many comments are very strongly reactive. If Piper was telling men about being masculine, he must be insulting women!

Two commenters responded to a statement by Piper about masculinity being associated with bravery. A man responded that being told he had to be brave felt like being forced into a straight jacket. A woman commented that this must mean Piper doesn’t think women can be brave.

I haven’t read or listened to what Piper said here, but stating that masculinity is associated with something:

  • does not mean every man is characterized by it and
  • does not mean women or even femininity isn’t characterized by it.

For example,

“Manly men are considerate and respectful”

is not a statement to emasculate inconsiderate men, nor a statement that women are inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Much of what I’ve been reading is talk/instruction/advice to men, not to draw a contrast or even touch the subject of what women are like or ought to be like. It’s just talking to men about being men.

Yet, it seems like unsafe territory in a world when people are eager to take offense.


Rules of a Gentleman

17 Jul

In addition to the semi-annual concern about the plight of men refusing to be men (preferring to remain boys instead) as well as Dennis Prager, Emily Post, and other influential voices, and finally watching my 3 boys slowly grow up, all have me considering the definition of masculinity. This is a multifaceted question with biblical, fallen, and cultural dimensions.

But isn’t it strange that the question remains unanswered in our culture?

I happened upon this graphic listing 20 “Rules of a Gentleman” over the weekend. I was unable to verify the source, and the lack of parallel grammar indicates that these Gentleman prioritized proof-reading.

A copy of 20 Rules of a Gentleman

I recognize that C. S. Lewis wrote about those who use the word Gentleman this way:

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said – so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully – “Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?” They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is “a gentleman” becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose. – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This list (and the input I’m seeking) is a middle-ground definition of “Gentleman,” or simply asking about an American cultural outplay of mature masculinity.

What do you think of this list?