On Biblical Manhood: A Q&A with Author Carolyn Custis James author of MaleStorm (how gender complementarianism and Christian patriarchy harm men too, not just women)
One factor inhibiting conservative Christians from marrying are gender stereotypes, which are promoted by churches, certain preachers, and Christian groups, and usually under the phrase “gender complementarianism.”
- Carolyn Custis James is a popular speaker for women’s conferences, churches, colleges, seminaries, and other Christian organizations. She’s the founder of Whitby Forum and Synergy Women’s Network (now partnered with Missio Alliance). Her many books include Half of the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women and Lost Women of the Bible.
- Here, she answers some questions about her newest book, Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World.
- … [Question]: What are some of the struggles of purpose, identity, and meaning that men are battling today?
[Author response]: Something as ordinary as a diagnosis, a job loss, a divorce, or simply the realities of aging can dislodge a man from his sense of who he is as a man.
- It is telling that the worst year in a professional football player’s life is the year after he retires. No more cheering crowds. Cameras and microphones are aimed at younger players. Aches and pains remove the illusion of invincibility. Unless his manhood rests on sturdier ground, he faces an identity crisis and struggles to redefine himself.
Changes taking place in today’s world are creating new challenges for men. With women on the rise, men can no longer assume the place of privilege will default to them simply because they are male.
Malestrom takes up topics that can undermine a man’s identity and purpose when manhood definitions rely on shaky foundations—such as the opinions of others (especially his father), his priority over women, physique, athleticism, good looks, achievements, competitiveness, leadership over others, earning power, etc.
- [Question]: Has the Evangelical church embraced a fallen notion of manhood?
To answer that question, I point to the fact that there is a chapter missing in the Bible—the chapter that would show us what unfallen manhood is supposed to be.
- The Bible opens with a spectacular display of God in creative action and issuing the exalted mandate for human beings—male and female—to reflect him and to do his work in the world together. But before we witness a single moment of unfallen image bearer living, the Enemy invades and God’s image bearers rebel.
- They are cut off from their Creator and divided from one another. We are left in the ruins of a fallen world to figure out what God had in mind for us. If our reference points are broken, our conclusions will be broken too.
So to answer this question, yes, I believe we have embraced fallen notions of manhood.
- The Creation narrative doesn’t contain the slightest hint of one image bearer ruling over any other image bearers.
- Humanity’s call is outward to rule and care for creation for the good of all. Jesus didn’t come to endorse any human social or political system, no matter how we may try to “Christianize” or improve it.
- He calls those who follow him to a kingdom that is “not of this world.” Not a kinder-gentler version of how the world does things, but a Jesus, gospel way of living that is foreign to us and to our world.
- Malestrom is a call for the church to be fearless in putting anything and everything on the table that may stand in the way of reconnecting with God’s original vision, including patriarchy.
- [Question]: You write that historic patriarchy is the principal expression of the malestrom. What is patriarchy and how is it harmful?
Trace any current of the malestrom to its roots and you will end up talking about patriarchy. Patriarchy (“father rule”) historically gave men authority over women, children, and property.
- Patriarchy includes polygamy, arranged marriages, child brides, honor killings, enslavement of women and of men, the priority of sons over daughters and of the firstborn son over his younger brothers, to name a few characteristic features. The harm this poses to women is self-evident—from limiting their horizons, to devaluing them from birth, to outright abuse, oppression, and violence.
What isn’t often acknowledged is the fact that not all men are beneficiaries of patriarchy, for patriarchy also places some men over other men. Patriarchy organizes human society by hierarchal pyramids with only limited (and ultimately temporary) room at the top and where the top is only sustained by a well-populated base that includes not just women and girls, but a majority of men and boys.
- [Question]: How does patriarchy color the understanding of men’s stories within the Bible?
The fact that patriarchy is on virtually every page of the Bible means that in some way patriarchy matters. And in fact, patriarchy is an essential and powerful tool that helps to unleash the Bible’s radically transforming message. Here’s the crucial point: Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. Patriarchy is the backdrop to the Bible’s message.
- [Question]: How can churches do a better job of presenting God’s vision for manhood?
My hope is that Malestrom will foster honest, robust discussions about how the church can engage this manhood crisis.
- For me, writing this book has left me as disturbed about what is happening to men and boys today as I have ever been about women and girls. I hope anyone who reads this book will end up deeply concerned about the message the church is offering men and boys.
This crisis calls for more than reevaluating and reshaping men’s ministries to make the church a “more manly” place. This is an opportunity for the church to regain her prophetic voice and speak a compelling message to men and boys globally and to put on the ground actions behind our message. Why are young men being drawn to ISIS instead of to Jesus?
It is a fascinating interview, and I’d encourage you to (Link): click here and read the rest of it.
(Link): Why Men Don’t Go To Church