A Jesus for Real Men
Paul Coughlin, author of No More Christian Nice Guy (Bethany House, 2005), agrees: The problem with the wimpy Jesus of the popular imagination is that "a meek and mild Jesus eventually is a bore. He doesn't inspire us."
I respect what these authors are trying to accomplish. They recognize that the Jesus of the Bibleunlike the Jesus of much contemporary Christian art and musicwas not afraid to denounce, challenge, and offend. After all, he called the Pharisees vipers and Peter the Devil. Thus, the greatest contribution of the movement is that it identifies ways the American church has reduced Christian discipleship to minding one's manners. Murrow is right; much of a typical experience in church is "sweet and sentimental, nurturing and nice." For these writers, nice is an expletive that summarizes the church's digression from radical discipleship to simple moralizing. In short, the movement reminds us of what Jesus and Paul insisted: The gospel is an offense and discipleship is an invitation to the cross.
The movement's method of reclaiming the radical nature of the gospel, however, poses a genuine threat to Christian discipleship. These authors see the church's fixation on morality as part and parcel of the church's feminization, and they suggest that the solution is to inject the church with a heavy dose of testosterone. In other words, allowing women to create Jesus in their image has emasculated him; thus, regaining a biblical image of Christ is as simple as re-masculating him.
The masculinity movement's solution assumes that Jesus came to model genuine masculinity. The authors don't say so explicitly, but their rhetoric assumes manly instincts are inherently godly. In Wild at Heart Eldredge claims, "We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty." The GodMen repeat the theme: "None of our maleness is toned down because we believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made." These statements imply that when the church adopts the supposedly male psyche, it fulfills its purpose, but when it conforms to the supposedly female psyche, it becomes aberrant.
Murrow tries to avoid this conclusion by insisting that the church is healthiest when it looks like a marble cake, with masculinity and femininity present in equal parts. But what he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. He says that women believe the purpose of Christianity is to find "a happy relationship with a wonderful man"Jesuswhereas men recognize God's call to "save the world against impossible odds." Moreover, he claims to have history on his side. While the church was masculine, it fulfilled its purpose. But in the 19th century, women "began remaking the church in their image" (and they continue to do so), which moved the church off course.
Driscoll comes closest to imagining Jesus as the model of maleness when he argues that "latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers" do not represent biblical masculinity, because "real men"like Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist are "dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes." In other words, because Jesus is not a "limp-wristed, dress-wearing hippie," the men created in his image are not sissified church boys; they are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal.
I'm not sure where a man like me fits when the only categories for masculinity are "metrosexual" and "Ultimate Fighting champion." Like Jesus, I've worked as a carpenter, and I've sweated in a lumber mill. But I don't gauge my masculinity by the girth of my neck, and I'd rather not sweat for a living. I'm happiest when I'm reading and writing. I like lattes.