Masculinity and the Christian Faith

The feminized "Jesus"
I don't think it would be a stretch to say that the church has largely dispossessed men and masculinity. According to Pew Research women outnumber men in saying that their faith is very important to them (60% vs. 47%). Women report that they pray daily more often than men (64% vs. 47%), and women attend church more often than men (40% vs. 32%). This research is likely insufficient to give us a good picture of the state of the church, as most pastors can tell you that women far outnumber men in their congregations. So much so that many churches have changed their decor, music, worship style and programs accordingly. Sermons often tend to emphasize the generally feminine virtues, while those that are traditionally masculine are either attacked outright as being somehow incompatible with the Faith, or ignored altogether. The rare exception would be Father's Day, which still offers sermons most often designed to appeal to the women of the congregation. If we look at Orthodox Judaism, what we find is something strikingly different. Men are more likely to attend regular synagogue services, due in part to the fact that Jewish men are prioritized in specific ways in worship. For example, communal worship can't take place without a quorum of at least 10 men being present. The clear difference here is that men are the leaders in Orthodox Judaism, whereas somehow, somewhere along the way Christianity dispossessed men.

Perhaps this dispossession showed itself in some of the iconography of the church. How many times have we seen highly feminized paintings of Christ gracing the walls of churches and cathedrals? Whereas the early church depicted Christ in purely masculine perspective-a shepherd, a stern looking male, the bearded divine philosopher-later Christian art began to depict Him in distinctly feminine poses, even with near feminine features. This wasn't due to some anti-male bias, but more to do with the imbalance in emphasis with regard to the character and teachings of Christ. The emphasis was on the meek, suffering Christ-the lamb led to the slaughter-and thus the artwork presented Him in meek visuals. What was forgotten in this perfectly legitimate emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ was the fact that only a strong, supremely masculine Man could achieve the most difficult mission in history, the salvation of Man through self sacrificial death. Self sacrifice on the part of men has always been a defining part of the masculine nature. Men sacrifice time, energy, effort, and even their very lives for their wives, children, tribes and nations. Only a man, and then only the God-Man, could do such divine work as Christ. Also forgotten in the emphasis on the meekness of Christ was His own ferocity when confronting evil. When He entered the temple and found money changers and merchants therein, He didn't meekly ask them to leave.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”-Matthew 21:12-13

Most Christians think this was a one time act, when in fact He did this twice. The account in Matthew was the second time. The Apostle John records the first time, which occurred just after Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine in Cana. He made Himself a whip, then proceeded to flip over their tables, knock their wares to the ground, and whipping the miscreants out of the temple precincts.

Jesus was masculine.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”                                                                                                                  -John 2:13-17

This isn't the act of a meek, feminized man. This is a supreme act of bravery, of strength, and of righteous ferocity and anger. These are patently masculine characteristics displayed by Christ. We could add to this record of masculine qualities the many times Jesus confronted the religious authorities of that time, even going as far as to call them out in no uncertain terms.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.-John 8:44

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.-Matthew 12:34

And even while on trial for His life, when the greatest authority on earth seemingly held His life in their hands, his response to their show of power was equally powerful and fierce.

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.-John 19:11

Christ was in no way intimidated or weak. He was a "tekton" after all; likely meaning a stone worker, but often translated as carpenter. This required hard work lifting timber and stones, pulling ropes, and working with various tools for many hours each day. 

His responses to His captors, persecutors and adversaries were in all ways displays of incredible control, strength, and restraint, since He could have at any time destroyed His enemies without a single word.

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?-Matthew 26:53

Sadly, this isn't the way Christ is depicted in sermons, films, books, and all too often art. And as the church entered the 18th century and beyond, owing no doubt to the influences of the Enlightenment, masculinity in the church took it on the chin. Protestants attacked the historic church for engaging in Crusades (never mind the fact that the men who fought against Islam literally saved Western civilization in doing so!), with some, such as the Anabaptists, suggesting that Christians must be completely pacifistic. Certainly many of the early Christians took that stance, but an argument could be made that this was more in response to Roman authorities who feared Christians would be like some of the Jewish sects and spark uprisings. With Christian persecution already extreme, these Fathers sought to reassure the governmental authorities that they had no such designs, as their kingdom was not of this world. However, this approach doesn't take into account the totality of Sacred Scripture with regard to the proper use of defensive force, which God condones. 

As egalitarianism took firm hold of the culture women were afforded roles that were hitherto only open to men in the church. These roles were held by men not because women had no value in the Faith, but because Scripture and Apostolic Tradition demanded faithful, righteous, and trustworthy men lead the Body of Christ. While it is true that the church is symbolized as a Bride, that Bride is still led by men to her Bridegroom.

Men, don't be afraid to reclaim your rightful place in church and culture! Don't fear asserting your masculinity! There is no such thing as "toxic" masculinity. It is a lie of the Cultural Marxist Left, and therefore of Satan, designed to alienate you and push you out of your rightful position as leader in your home, church, family, community and nation. Cultivate what Dennis Rainey calls the Five Themes of Biblical Manhood in his book Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood:

  1. A man controls his emotions and passions. Single or married, a real man tames his passions. He doesn’t abuse women or children; he protects them. He keeps his hands off a woman who is not his wife and treats his wife with love, respect and dignity. He keeps his eyes off pornographic images. He protects a single woman’s virginity and innocence. He’s not defined by his exploits below the waist. He’s a man with a heart, head and conscience.
  2. A man provides for his family. First Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are strident words. When a man doesn’t work and provide for his family, he feels a sense of shame. His self-worth sinks. A man who doesn’t work, who can’t keep a job, who moves from job to job, or who refuses to assume his responsibility creates insecurity in his wife and children. Every man needs to provide for his family, which also means taking responsibility to provide for emotional and spiritual needs. A father should train his children and prepare them to become responsible adults who know how to negotiate the swift and sometimes evil currents of culture.
  3. A man protects his family. To borrow an illustration from John Piper and Wayne Grudem on the essence of masculinity: When you are lying in bed with your wife, and you hear the sound of a window being opened in your kitchen at 3 a.m., do you shake her awake and say, “The last time this occurred, I was the one who took our baseball bat and investigated to see if someone was breaking into our house. Now it’s your turn, Sweetheart. Here’s the bat!”? No! But being a protector calls for more than ensuring physical safety. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character, and teaching him to reject the lies and temptations of the world. This father protects not only his son but the generations to follow as the wisdom he shares gets passed on.
  4. A man serves and leads his family. Serve and lead may seem like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture. While the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that “the husband is the head of the wife,” he quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows for selfish male dominance. He completes the sentence with, “as Christ also is the head of the church.” The passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25). This paints a picture of leadership contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader – to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love – the type of love we see in God toward his children.
  5. A man follows God’s design for true masculinity. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The core of a man’s life should be his relationship with God. The man who walks humbly with God is motivated and empowered to step up and assume the difficult responsibilities that come his way.
Step up and take back your churches! An important component of evangelizing in our Post-Modern culture is that we specifically establish outreach to other men, since heterosexual men are increasingly marginalized and attacked by the forces of Feminism and Social Justice organizations. The church needs such men! I firmly believe it is only when we once again appreciate the necessity of masculinity flowing through the veins of the church that we will effectively reach the current culture with the Gospel and navigate the dangerous waters of the Post-Modern dystopian plan.