Is Manliness Next to Godliness?
Ur's O'Brien featured in USA Today regarding men in church.

Today you can read Leadership's own assistant editor, Brandon O'Brien, was in USA Today. The report by Cathy Lynn Grossman highlights the lengths churches are going to reach men. O'Brien wrote an article last spring for Christianity Today on the errors that plague some of these Christian masculinity movements. He was tapped by USA Today to comment on the trend. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

O'Brien says most of the "guy churches" don't go to the degree 121 has, "but much more prevalent and more alarming is the number of churches that promote a stereotype of muscular male behavior as the only correct godly way to be."
He describes a 2002 gathering of comedian Brad Stine's GodMen ministry, featuring videos of karate fights, car chases and a song with lyrics urging, "No more nice guy, timid and ashamed ? Grab a sword, don't be scared - be a man, grow a pair!"
O'Brien counter-punches that those who prefer lattes and books to bows and arrows are equally able to embody Christ-like qualities. "Guy church" pastors should not forget that "humanity in the image of Christ is not aggressive and combative; it is humble and poor."

Read the entire article here.

July 24, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 19 comments

trisha

July 29, 2008  3:33pm

I am a women and I have a couple of things to say. I have always felt that most evangelicals feel that God is a little bit more male-than he is female. Sort of a 60/40 ratio-a little more testorsterone, and after all Jesus was a man. That seemed to entitle them to rather certain privilieges denied to woemn.I personally do not believe God is either-but we are created in the image of God. Second, my husband is a kind gentle man who cries who more often at movies than I do. At one church we attended, the leadership used to somewhat make fun of men like him-and elevate men who carried guns (police). The funny thing is-my husband was stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually than all of them-but he had no need to "show off' his masculinity the ways they defined "real men". I think Jesus is very pleased with a man who can cry at the state of the world, be touched a homeless man, be grieved at the news of a sickness, and who can see the homosexual as a man just like him-not as a danger. Grow up guys-the church needs all the different kinds of men that God has created-we need all their different gifts, different styles, different outlooks, and different ways of reaching the lost.

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D. Eric Williams

July 29, 2008  3:20pm

I am curious how anyone could miss the fact that Biblical masculinity (as modeled by Christ), is all about self denial. And Christ imitating self denial requires a level of strength and courage that most modern men can only dream about. God made men in such a way that self interest is a very difficult opponent to overcome. I don't mean the split second decision to throw yourself in front of a speeding car to save an innocent life – that is easy compared to the daily grind of thinking of your wife and children before you think of yourself. It is in battling this nature love for self that a man develops true Christ-likeness – and Christ, as the ultimate man, is the definitive picture of masculinity. There is nothing wrong with Christian men getting together to barbecue game, play golf or watch the big fight on T.V. Indeed, it should be encouraged. But to build a church around that sort of thing is foolishness. By the way, I'm a big husky guy who loves the back country. I grew up hunting and shooting and participating in contact sports. I've worked in construction, lumber mills and warehouses. I enjoy a good cigar while drinking whiskey laced coffee – especially after a good steak dinner. I'm also a "book-worm" who enjoys poetry and the beauty of wildflowers. It's foolish to say that a real man must fit into a certain mold. Many of the most "manly" men I know according to the "guy" criteria are self centered jerks. Again, the core of true manliness is self denial and all that flows out of that.

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Jody

July 29, 2008  12:41pm

Kudos to Brandon, both for his original article and his comments in USA Today. I'm one of those men who's a latte-sipping bookworm, and I'm often amused and offended by the attempts of Mark Driscoll, Brad Stine and company to make their versions of masculinity a prerequisite for man to be living a godly life. I often read about some men's discomfort by "all the talk about feelings" and feeling "neutered" at church. There's another side that needs to be told. Do you really think artistic and intellectual men in many contemporary evangelical churches feel any more at home around a group of men at church? Part of this may begin in middle school, when you may get called a sissy (or worse) for being on the honor roll or taking piano lessons instead of being athletic or enjoying "manly" outdoor activities. Then, as an adult, unless you're around like-minded men, you may always feel like you can't bring up an important part of yourself- a love of books, ideas, and art, things that really enhance your spiritual and not just your intellectual life- for fear of ridicule from men who don't share your tastes. I find nothing wrong with men who prefer agressive sports, who'd rather hunt than read, and who cringe at the thought of talking about their feelings. I don't intend to force my tastes on other men. But please, don't think that traditional ideas about what makes a "real man" are essential for a man to live a godly life.

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Chuck

July 29, 2008  12:11pm

For some reason the description I'm seeing of the "guy church" reads very much like a description of a gay bar. And I do not think it is a coincidence.

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Patrick

July 28, 2008  11:29pm

You know, Jesus never went on and on about masculinity like the macho taco Jesus crowd does, not that his words mean anything in some parts of the church these days - and I'm including the conservative wing in that remark. Anyway, guys like the ones in this article seem to be really insecure, and instead of going to God for healing, they pull verses out of context to prop up their self-esteem. They become the "me head, you submit" guys. Mutual submission? Forget about it!

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Josh

July 28, 2008  5:43pm

Perhaps the true issue at the heart of this discussion is that there are two distinctly different perspectives of what a "Godly" man looks like: (1) The biblical perspective and (2) The world's perspective. I am not, in the least, convinced that the two can coexist; or even that you can compare them as if both are simultaneously attainable. To illustrate my point, I offer homosexuality (perhaps the world's supreme example of "unmanliness"). Is it possible for a gay man to be "manly" in the sight of biblical perspective? It is if you consider homosexuality a sin as the New Testament does. There is no greater a war for a warrior to fight than the war that rages within his own heart against the powers of sin, whatever they may be. (This is assuming of course that the man views his homosexuality as sin!). So, I echo the remarks of earlier bloggers: There must be a renewing of our minds. This includes the renewal of these worldly perspectives that so cloud our ability to see through biblical perspective.

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E

July 28, 2008  2:53pm

I appreciate this article. I know many men who are tired of the "Wild at Heart" fad and want to get to the "Heart of Jesus" instead.

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Karen Haught

July 28, 2008  11:10am

May I share a woman's viewpoint? Since we could walk, we've been taught that they world was our oyster, we could do anything we put our mind to, and we didn't need a man. Many of our husbands, on the other hand, were taught to be kinder and gentler than men in the past, to mind their mother and respect their sister. For many, their only example of family leadership was a woman. It seemed great at first, when we got married. We wives went to work exercising all the leadership skills we had learned, and our husbands let us. It was, after all, what we each had been raised to do. Before long, though, we began to resent feeling responsible for everything. We joked that having a husband was like having another child, and secretly wondered what benefit there was to having a husband. We grew irritated with the way they withdrew and resisted doing even the smallest things we asked. When mothering didn't work, we turned to controlling, cajoling, criticizing, and complaining–and hated it. We became the very dominating beasts we were so afraid our husbands could be if we let them. This pendulum swing from husband dominance to wife dominance is in evidence all over the world, from the most progressive, modern city, to the most impoverished third world village. I believe it is this that we are struggling against, not whether a fighting man or a reading man is more godly. Those are just attempts to try to grasp what has gone wrong and where men have lost their way. But in order to answer that question, we have to also look at the women. God works on men most when they are leading their families, but a man can't take leadership. True leadership can only given by someone willing to follow, and a man isn't leading if no one is following. A wife, therefore, has the power to give or take away her husband's leadership; but she has very real fears about relinquishing that leadership. Most men haven't been taught how to be godly family leaders. How is she supposed to follow a husband who isn't leading, or isn't leading well? We were right to reject old fashioned, unbiblical submission; but we have replaced it with self-righteous, self-protective, controlling, and unbiblical wife dominance. Churches need to help women see where we, too, have lost our way. Not by calling us back to the submission of the past, but by pointing the way forward to a new biblical understanding of submission that focuses on working with God to help our husbands be the men...whatever type of men...God designed them to be. As women, we've become so intelligent, so strong, and so capable, that we need to learn how to step back and give our husbands the opportunity to practice leading, without critiquing their methods or their results. We need to have the courage to let them make mistakes and let them turn to God for answers when the fearsome responsibilities of a family bring them to their knees. We need to stop trying to be our husbands' mothers or worse, their Holy Spirit, and start having faith that God is powerful enough to work through our husbands to bless us.

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JJ

July 26, 2008  6:03pm

I think O'Brien has given a very helpful article on this.

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Steve Webel

July 24, 2008  8:58pm

Eldridge started this fad with "Wild at Heart". (Besides some glaring theological deficiencies, I thought it was ridiculous to declare one personality type as the ONLY Godly one.) I think more than anything, this reflects our Western Church's extreme shallowness theologically. We are so easily swayed back and forth by the teaching de jour...

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