Liz’s Christian Union Story

Yesterday evening I posted a BLOG inviting people to share their stories of university Christian Unions, in less than 24 hours I have received seven stories.  Over the next few days, I hope to share these people’s stories with you.  If you would like to share your university CU, email me at befreeuk at gmail dot com.

 

Here is Liz Clutterbuck’s story

 

I only became involved in CU in my second year, largely thanks to a housemate being very involved (she became president – as a woman – which was good). During this second year, I went on the only single gender event I can recall from my time in the organisation: a girls’ weekend focused on the contents of the classic “Relationship Revolution”. (The gender implications of that book is a whole other story!)

 

I actually appreciate the safety of single sex groups, for sharing stories & praying together. But, it was on this girls’ weekend away that I had my very first experience of a woman announcing that women shouldn’t lead churches. It wasn’t anyone in leadership, just a girl I got talking to over breakfast who asked what my parents did. When I told her they were both ordained, she replied “oh, I don’t believe in women’s leadership”. Literally my first ever encounter with complementarianism, having been brought up in the pretty liberal & inclusive Methodist church. 

 

It stunned me that an intelligent woman, who had got into a world class university, had such views. Luckily she was in the minority, and we did have both a female president & UCCF worker, but I was concerned that no one else seemed to find her views odd! Poor, naive, 18-year-old me! 

 

Fast forward 10 years & I was a student worker in a central London church, working with students from colleges including LSE. In my first week of the job, I was hosting a UCCF training event at my church, when a relay worker asked “so why do you think God is calling you into leadership?”, it took me a couple of moments to realise that she meant “why do you think God has called you – a woman – to lead.” It set the tone for the next 3 years, where, as an Anglican ordinand I was determined to show them just how normal women in leadership is! 

 

(You can follow Liz on Twitter @lizclutterbuck)

 

 

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One in Christ Jesus – A Sermon

After tweeting earlier today about my sermon I thought I’d post it online in case anyone is interested in reading it…

 

This week has been a difficult week.  Though it may not have been reported as such, the death of Jo Cox was a political assassination.  And her death is directly linked with some of the rhetoric within the EU referendum.  Yesterday I was on local authorised preacher training and someone said that we shouldn’t make preaching political and that voting is a personal thing.  And the choice of who we vote for is personal, but the impact certainly is not.

I wrote this sermon before Jo Cox was murdered, so I will speak further about that later on.  When I saw that this passage was to be preached on today, I told our vicar I would love to preach on it, as one verse in particular has great significance to me.  Galatians 3:28..

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I love this verse so much that it is the name of a project I am involved in, Project 3:28, which is all about addressing the lack of representation of women in Christian culture.

Last month I participated in a debate at Oxford University “This house believes religious practice hinders gender equality”.  I was on the opposition with a Hindu woman and a Muslim woman.  The proposition included an atheist woman, a cultural Muslim man and a “post Christian theologian”.  Her name is Daphne Hampson and she is a post Christian theologian because she used to be a Christian and she rejected the Christian faith because of how it oppresses women.

She’s not wrong…

Though it may not have happened in our church, the experiences of many in Christian culture and in churches is…

  • Women told by church leaders to stay with an abusive husband
  • Women told they cannot lead, teach, fulfil their calling
  • The failings of male leaders often colluded with.  “Restoration plans”
  • Real work seen as male, intellectual.
  • Model of spirituality often aligns with men who often have less caring responsibilities
  • Assumptions women will do childcare in church
  • Men often encouraged into leadership roles

Women’s full inclusion can be perceived as a “secondary issue”…

Yet for Daphne Hampson and many other’s it is the reason they have rejected the Christian faith.

In today’s post-modern world, it is ethics and not reason or proof that is standing in the way of many people accepting Jesus into their lives.

How do we declare Jesus as liberation when so many who bear His name are contributing to the oppression of women?

Today is Father’s Day.  Both Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day can be amazing, positive days for those of us with loving parents.  But for many they are complex days.  For better or worse, our parents are usually the biggest influence on our lives.

And for those of us who are parents what a great responsibility it is to recognise that is also the case for our children.

Our father may not have been present in our lives or perhaps he made choices which have deeply wounded us.  Perhaps we were adopted or do not know who our father is.  Or there may be men here who hoped to be fathers and it never happened.  Or fathers whose children are no longer with us, or perhaps who are estranged.

Often the church can be a difficult place to be if our family doesn’t fit the 2.4 nuclear family that is often idolised by Christian culture.  We can feel alienated and isolated if we are single, it we do not have children, or if our family background is complicated and messy.  Just as women (and men) can be alienated from the church because it seems oppressive to women, so can those who don’t fit the nice, happy smiley family structure.  How often when we’re asked how we are at church on a Sunday do we put on our church smile and say we’re fine, even though life is actually deeply painful?

Can we be confident that the non-Christians we know with messy family situation will not put the church off them because of the mess?  Do they feel the church is a place of inclusion or of judgement?  Do they know that us people in the church have messy lives too?  Are we willing to be honest about our pain?  Be vulnerable?  Or do we want to present ourselves as a model person, as a model family?

In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  I imagine myself as a broken jar of clay, with a light inside.  It is through the cracks that the light of God can get out.  It is not my strength or competence that most clearly reveals God to the world, it is instead my brokenness.

In the past week we have witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States.  49 people were killed and 53 people injured when a man claiming to represent Islamic State opened fire in a Gay Nightclub in Orlando.  I have gay and lesbian friends who have been horrified and left deeply scared by this homophobic terror attack.  It can be easy to look at this terrible atrocity and condemn Islamic State, without examining how Christianity has often been deeply homophobic.

We can look at the murderer’s religion and consider Islam as the problem.  Fear of ISIS has fuelled hate crime to those who don’t have white skin.  Earlier this week we may have looked at Orlando and assumed it happened “over there in America, where everyone has guns”.  Yet, what happened later in the week?  An MP, shot dead.

Just as women and those with complex families can feel the church and Jesus is incompatible with their lives, so can lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  Do we have friends who are gay or lesbian?  Do we have work colleagues or family members?  Are there people in our congregation?  People here today?  Do they know that we care about them?  Or is their assumption that we are homophobic because we are Christian?

As we consider how to vote on Thursday (and there will be people here who vote both ways) as Christians, our vote must not be based on how the referendum will affect the price of our house.  As Christians we must prioritise firstly loving God and then loving our neighbour.  And who is our neighbour?  WHO is our neighbour?  If Jesus was here today, the story of the Good Samaritan would perhaps be about our neighbour being Muslim people or refugees.  As Christians we must vote based on how that vote will affect the last, the least and the lost.

The passage from Galatians includes a statement of equality that was unheard of in that time.  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  We must always be careful not to elevate one passage above others when discussing theology, however this passage has special significance for us today.

In Jesus, the prejudices that separate us from each other dissipate.  Those people unable to accept the Christian message because it is sexist or misogynistic have a place to come in the Bible which suggests a difference truth is possible.  Maybe our differences are not as important as the love Christ came to bring to us?

Though there are many stories of how the Christian faith can be oppressive to women, we must also acknowledge that the reason women can vote today is because of the pioneering work of the suffragettes, many of whom were driven by their Christian faith.  So however the Christian faith can be a force of oppression for women, it can also be greatly liberating.

When we delve into the Bible further we find that far from 2.4 cereal box families, the Bible story is full of messy families.  Cain killed Abel, Abraham impregnated Hagar his wife’s servant, King David refused to deal with his son raping his daughter,  Joseph’s brother’s sold him into slavery, Rahab was a prostitute, Jesus was raised by a step-father.  We have a faith founded in the messiness of real life and people’s bad choices.

We don’t have to be ashamed of our messy families.  Though we may need support and help to overcome the challenges, the church should be a place we can be honest and know that messy families are in our faith’s DNA.  Let me challenge you today, if anyone asks you how you are after the service, to be honest rather than offering the default church smile and the very British “I’m fine thank you.”

As for the Orlando massacre and the many people who have been affected by it.  The church has a complex, theologically difficult road to walk with issues of sexuality and gender identity.  However, we are called first to love.  And may we represent the Jesus of love and life-in-all-its-fullness to those who currently find the Gospel to be oppressive.  May we be people who love deeply and live honestly, even when it hurts.  And may we know the God who binds our broken hearts; the God who is truly the greatest Father and Mother each of us can ever have.

Guest Blog: Five Years

I am hosting this guest post for a woman who was subjected to abuse by her boss when she was working in a church.  She has courageously chosen to share her story and I feel privileged to offer my blog as a place for her to do this. 

 

 

It’s been five years.

Five years since he was my boss.
Five years since he turned and became violent in front of my eyes.
Five years since the institutions and people I trusted to protect people like me, let me down.
Five years since I learned some of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

He was my boss. I thought he was my mentor and my friend.

I was the intern and he was the youth-worker. A good communicator, well respected by his peers; the classic church employee, minus the checked shirt.

What you probably don’t know is what he’s really like. Underneath the façade of loving father, caring husband, wonderful boss and brilliant youth worker. But I do.

I was there whilst he yelled at his wife down the phone, telling her she’s a stupid b***h. On the night he assaulted a volunteer and realised that he probably wouldn’t have a job the next day, he told his wife that without his job, his life had no meaning. That she and their children were not enough.

He told me that his wife didn’t understand him. But that I did.
That one day I would be better than him and that it scared him. He told me as his boss, I needed to be accountable to him. He would ask me personal questions about my relationship with my fiancé. He would vet my church activities, telling me which groups I could and could not volunteer with. I needed protecting you see. He didn’t want me to be overworked or taken advantage of by a demanding church. Particularly if those activities had any degree of leadership, or would give me opportunities that he hadn’t been offered.

He would take credit for my work constantly. He told me that he had the respect of the leadership team and the credibility to take my ideas and make them into a reality. After all, we are a team, it’s not about ego. If I truly wanted what was best for the young people, I would let him pretend that they were his ideas.

One night, about 11pm he came to talk to me. He told me that he had tried to commit suicide the day before but that it was a secret; that I couldn’t tell anyone. He said that the church were conspiring against him; wanted him to leave, and that this would give them the ammunition they needed to fire him. I believed him. Felt sorry for him. Ignored his tantrums. Forgave his cruelty as he undermined and bullied those around him. Babysat his child so he could get help from a counsellor.

But all of the pressure was just too much for twenty year old me to handle. I couldn’t be the person to keep his secrets anymore and told my fiancé who informed the church leaders. The next day my fiancé received threatening texts from my boss, telling him that he had no right to do that. That he was ‘taking me away from him, and poisoning me against him.’ My fiancé tried to phone me, but I didn’t get his calls, went to work and that’s when he became violent to a volunteer.

He was fired. But he pleaded that he was suffering from a mental health problem, that the stress of work had made him ill. He begged for reconciliation and attended mediation meetings with the church. They allowed him to resign on the premise that he would never work with young people again. At the time that really hurt, but I recognise that in the leadership was a deep desire to do the right thing for everyone. It was naïve, but I respect the compassion they showed to him and his family, even if it broke my heart in the process.

Six months later he started working as a youth worker in a church in another part of the country. My church was never contacted for a reference.

Looking back, I know it sounds so ridiculous. Why didn’t I say anything sooner? Honestly, I didn’t know anything was wrong. I was 20 years old, this was my first job, my first line manager. I didn’t know that this wasn’t normal. I thought I was the bad Christian for being upset when he took the credit, that I was unsupportive for questioning his actions, that he was ill and that I was somehow at fault.

Five years have passed and I am still angry. Angry that he could be doing this to somebody else. Angry that I am the one who is told that I need to be more forgiving. Angry that the people I have told did not act.

I don’t want to be angry. But I don’t want to reconcile. Somehow that feels like it makes his actions ok. How do I balance my ‘responsibility’ as a Christian to forgive, with my fury that he is still out there, in a position in power, still working with children and young people.

The internet is a funny thing. I see Christians; men and women talk about misogyny and equality. But some of them know what he did and ignore it. It’s easy to shout about faceless men and nameless abusers, but what happens when we put a face or a name to that man?

He is the one who abuses and I am the one who needs to be less angry.

It’s been five years.
But I’m the one that still has nightmares.
I’m the one that is still on a high dose of anti-anxiety tablets.
I’m the one who hides in the toilets at conferences, churches, events, having spotted him from a distance because suddenly its five years ago and I’m back in that room as he screams and lashes out.
I’m the one who is fearful of receiving another letter, another email in which he simultaneously asks for forgiveness, without acknowledging any of his behaviours or actions.
I’m the one who is typing this, debating whether or not to keep going.
I’m the one who is fearful that he will read this, recognise himself in it and contact me.
I’m the one who is fearful that people will read this and not believe me.
I’m the one who is terrified that this will happen again.

 

 

If what the author of this post has said resonates with your current or previous experiences, please do seek help and advice…

Women, for information about your rights regarding workplace bullying and abuse: http://rightsofwomen.org.uk.

For anyone wanting information about workplace bullying and abuse: https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment or http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1864.

For issues around anxiety you can contact http://www.mind.org.uk or http://www.mindandsoul.info.

Do get in touch with me via befreeuk {at} gmail.com if you would like to chat further about the issues raised in this post.

Questioning “A Theology of Maleness”

After being told about Andrew Wilson’s talk “A Theology of Maleness” in January, it’s taken me a while to get around to watching the whole thing.  But I have now watched the it and will offer some (rather extensive) views on it.

If you don’t know who Andrew Wilson, he is an elder at Kings Church in Eastbourne and is a well known complementarian.  He has an MA and is doing a PhD in theology.

Before I start my thoughts on his talk, I should make clear that he says towards the end of his talk that it’s content he would not deliver to women, so if any men would like to watch the 45 minute talk, and offer their thoughts, please do!  Mr GLW’s response, listening in to the last 20 minutes of it was intermittent OH PLEASES so I don’t think that being female precludes my ability to critique what he says.

So here goes…

He starts by apologising for the “theological” nature of his talk, taking it out of the realms of opinion and into the realms of factual, or perhaps the academic, however rarely within the talk does he say anything that I would consider on an academic level.  I’m sure he didn’t intend for it to be a communication device, but the effect of saying it is “theological”, is that people immediately assume a level of robust research and fact within the forthcoming content.

He uses the John Piper quote, “The question you have to be able to answer is, “What are you going to do when your son says to you, “Dad what does it mean to be a boy rather than a girl?  Or to be a man rather than a woman?””

Personally if my son was to ask me this, I would reframe the question and say, “Well, Joshua, what does it mean to be you?  What does it mean to be Joshua?  Because God made you unique and different to everyone else in the whole world, and there are so many different ways to be a boy or a man that we need to be working out what it means to be who God made you to be and being a boy is only one part of that.”

However, Andrew’s approach is different.  He acknowledges that we need a strong theology of identity, before then choosing to not focus on the macro of identity but rather on the micro of gender.  He talks about the differences between absolute and generalised statements about men and women and says that “we need to be able to generalise about gender in order to articulate what the Bible says.”

He immediately makes generalised statements that women are more sensitive and men are more decisive, explaining that people get upset about statements like this.  “It’s not absolutely true, but is generally true that women are more sensitive and men are more decisive”.  He goes on to evidence that men are more decisive because within academia there are trends which show men get further in academia that women.  He does mention that privilege could come into this; that men might have more opportunities than women, but says he thinks it’s probably more about Christendom and that white men were involved in the rise of Christendom.  He also says that historically women were in the home and men had more muscles so worked as farmers.  Which led to men having more time to do academia.Andrew doesn’t detail how that meant men had more time.  Just that they did.  I would suggest that if men had the muscles to do the farming, women would have been much better suited to academia, what with having less muscles, but anyway…

This section really seems like a response to feminist critique as he begins to talk about  privilege, I definitely felt he was engaging with the issues I would raise in a conversation with him.  However, his conclusion about privilege is that it’s “not necessarily true” that white men are privileged but that it is about taking responsibility and good stewardship of what’s been given to them.

He states the usual complementarian line, that men and women are “equal in dignity but not in function” and uses playing the bass as an example of this.  He says the left and right hand are used in the bass for different things.  The left hand plays the notes while the right hand plucks the strings.  He suggests that the left and right hands are equal in dignity, but their function is different; just like women and men.

As an analogy it is deeply flawed.  People play the bass that way round because that is the way they have been taught to play the bass, not because the left and right hand have been innately designed to pluck strings/play notes specifically.  And the existence of the left handed bass suggests some people still play it the other way round.

He says that men should be talking about FGM, domestic abuse and rape, that these issues are injustices and should be challenged.  That they’re not the same as what he see as inequality of function, i.e. the roles men and women should have are different to violence against women.

Except that every expert in understanding and ending violence against women will tell you that gender inequality is the foundation of violence against women.  That the privilege he has just denied as a real thing is the reason men abuse 25% of women in the UK.  That the position of men as the power-holders and gatekeepers leads to women’s oppression.  These things cannot be separated into “real injustice” and “a God intended injustice  plan”.

He goes onto say something that I actually fully agree with (I know, it’s a shock.  Have a pause before continuing if you need to…).  He says that within the church, the rhetoric about “real men” and (to a lesser extent) “real women” is about what people “ought to” be doing, not who they are.  So, by being a man or a woman, you are “real”.  The existence of your body being male or female makes you male/female, not the need to perform a certain type of masculinity/femininity.

The rest of his talk is about equipping men to know more about what being a man looks like.  Which doesn’t sound that contradictory when he says it, but actually is.

He mentions the feminisation of the church, without giving any examples or citations of how the church has ben feminised and states that some Christian conversations/resources/ideas about manhood have been an “overreaction” to this non-evidenced feminisation of the church.

He says that we should be looking to Jesus for how to be a man, and also for how to be a human being.  Which is weird, because his whole talk is about theological differences between men and women, but he’s saying Jesus is the model for being human.  Which really He can’t be, if there’s particular ways that men are meant to be.  Because either Jesus conformed to the theological way of being a man (therefore not being a model for women) or He was a model for being human (therefore not conforming to the theological way of being a man, which would suggest it might not be all that theological if Jesus didn’t do it).

He explains that since the sexual revolution men are being “infantilised” by society and that even though women have progressed in lots of ways, that they are “not happier”.  He doesn’t provide any evidence that states women aren’t happier, or really explain how society is infantilising men, he just states it as a fact.

He then pitches “very feminist”  and chauvinist as a polarised positions, the two extremes and says people mainly sit in the middle.  This is deeply problematic.  Last time I checked a chauvinist was “a person displaying excessive or prejudiced support for their own cause, group, or sex” whereas a feminist is a person working for “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”  I’m not sure how those two things can be polarised.  A chauvinist is excessively prejudiced, a feminist is working towards equality.  Hmm…

However, polarising those two terms works to the benefit of Andrew’s points.  That being in middle, being a moderate means not being a chauvinist, but also not being a feminist.  Now, I know I’m biased as a feminist, but I would say feminism is the middle ground between hatred of women and hatred of men.  The portrayal of feminists as “man hating” is not from evidence of the feminist movements, but a mischaracterisation by people against the cause.  Chauvinism and misogyny however is evidenced in language and actions.  Men rape women and kill women, men tweet about raping and killing women.  There’s no similar action from feminists towards men.  Women are not as a collective or on a large scale killing or raping men.  It simply does not happen.

Andrew then moves into his 7 points about what a Theology of Maleness looks like.  He explains that as it originates in Genesis and is “bound up with marriage” but is applicable to single people too.  However, he doesn’t at any point during the talk expand upon the implications for single people or how it is practically worked out in the lives of single people. Here are his 7 points, and my thoughts on them:

1. Men = Tohu. Women = Vohu (Genesis 1:2)

The earth as formless (tohu) and void (vohu).  Andrew explains that Tohu refers to men; men bring form to the earth and that vohu refers to women; women fill the earth.  It’s interesting that this verse is mentioned long before men and women are created and that it’s just an idea that he (and perhaps others) have come up with.  It suggests that women’s role in the world really involves birthing children, which creates great problems for single women and women who can’t have children.

It places men as subjecting the earth, being agents in the world; the ones who shape what the world looks like, while women act within the constrains of what men decide.  This leaves me wondering, why did God give so many women gifts of leadership.  Surely, they are anomalies within a world of men who were created to shape?

2. Men = Subdue and Dominion. Women = Multiply and be fruitful (Genesis 1:28)

It’s interesting because this verse is said to woman and man together.  There is no mention within the text that these commands are gender specific.  It is only after The Fall that gender differences are mentioned at all.

He talks about penis and vagina (which obviously I was pleased about, given my goal of making vagina a more acceptable word across society).  He explains that women’s reproductive organs are internal.  Men’s reproductive organs are external.  This mean’s that men are “externally focussed agencies there to protect”.  That seems like a rather large leap in theory to me, but then I may not be theological enough…

He states that men’s “involvement in child birth and child rearing is relatively short.”  As Christians we believe that women and men are equally called to be parents, the biological reality is not the one which dictates how we behave as parents, otherwise men would generally just, “shoot and leave”.  Instead, we hope for integrated family structures, seeking after “the important things of justice and love”.

He mentions the book “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps” saying he has “no idea idea whether it’s true or not”. It is not true. The book is based on ridiculously bad neuroscience.  Andrew’s mention of this book allows him to example the differences between men and women, without having to stand by the conclusions of the book as true.

He talks about how until relatively recently men went to war because women were the one’s bearing children.  He fails to mention that those creating the wars were also men. He says that God could have created us to be fertilised like plants or as asexual, but instead, “God did something and in doing so made a statement about how women and men are meant to function.”  All mammals function and reproduce in the same way; so rather than God choosing a specifically unique way for human’s to reproduce (to infer all the special things Andrew wants it to show) it’s actually the way all mammals reproduce (including whales).  Unless we’re saying male whales are uniquely purposed as “externally focussed agencies there to protect” it’s not really going to work.

After this he references a shooting in Colorado in which three men died after having laying over women to protect them from a gunman in a cinema.  He said the men were in no way connected to the women they chose to protect.  In fact (according to Wikipedia) the three men who died were protecting their girlfriends.  Andrew’s point is that men are wired to protect women. That it’s somehow an innate characteristic of men.  He failed to mention in his talk that the person who shot dead 12 people and injured another 70 was also a man.

This section of Andrew’s talk left me crying.

We live in a world where male violence is at epidemic proportions.  Rape, murder, torture, emotional abuse, street harassment, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, sexual abuse; all perpetrated by men in every community and society of the world.  We don’t live in a world where there’s an epidemic of men protecting women, but rather, hurting women.  We don’t live in a society where a woman sees a man in a dark alley and thinks “Oh he’s going to protect me”.  That’s not what our world looks like.

I have argued before with people that I don’t want to be offered a seat or have a door held open for me by a man if they’re only doing it because I’m female.  If they always offer their seat to women and men or they always open the door for women and men, then that’s fine.  But the assumption with those things is that I am weaker, but let’s face it, I am not more in need of a seat than a man.

The belief in women as weaker is what lays at the roots of male violence.  I delivered an assembly to a group of 240 13-14 year old students.  One boy said, “The thing is I think girls are emotionally weaker than boys, that’s why they get upset more.”  Afterwards a teacher explained that this same boy had been abusive to all his girlfriends.

Although Andrew says women aren’t defective or impotent, but instead inherently “precious”, the reality is that if women are weaker, especially when it comes to “dominion” then they should be less trusted than men in relation to those things.

His example of the men who died in the Colorado shooting was used to say that “men immediately knew” women should be protected, but across the world men don’t immediately know that, how do we know those men’s responses didn’t come from how they’ve been raised?  Andrew excluded the information that the women were the men’s girlfriends and at least four of the people murdered in the Colorado shooting were women, not all of the women had men “immediately” knowing how precious they were and jumping in front of a bullet.

3. Man = Guard. Woman = Helper (Genesis 2:15 and 18)

Verse 15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (ESV)

Verse 18: “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””

Andrew introduces both of these verses and explains that although nowhere in verse 15 does it actually say “guard” he is going to use it interchangeably with “keep it”but doesn’t explain his rationale for doing so.  It’s interesting that at this point in the story there were no threats to human beings, so there wasn’t actually any need to “guard” the garden from anything.  Other versions use the word “take care of…” which definitely doesn’t sound like a “guard” type role.  He does say the word is related to that of the priest role in the Old Testament, however the guards in the tribes of Israel were not the Levites.  In fact the Levites didn’t go to war, their role was to enable the community to worship God.

He mentions how women are called to be men’s helpers, and does reference that helper is used as a word in the Bible to describe God bringing help to His people.  Andrew doesn’t mention that it is a word used to describe God on 15 occasions, he also doesn’t explain how God helping His people differs from what he says as men’s role of “guarding”.  To me they sound quite similar…

Andrew talks of how men will always get up to check for a burglar if there’s a noise in the middle of the night.  That men’s role as guard is “why men protect their families.”  That men would always ensure they were first to deal with suspicious noises in the middle of the night.  He didn’t offer any research to back this point up.  Just his assumption that men always protect their families.

Except men don’t always protect their families.  In fact women and children are much much more likely to be at risk in the middles of the night from men they know than from burglars.  Children sexually assaulted by their father or step-father while their mother sleeps unaware.  Women awakening to find their husband raping them or perhaps not allowed to go to sleep because their husband’s abusive tactic is to force them to stay awake all night.  If we’re going to use collective male behaviour to decide that something is innately built into men, it seems violence and abuse is something we should be talking about.

He also doesn’t explain how single women are supposed to protect themselves.  Without a man are single women sitting ducks for burglars?

Also he seems to think protection is solely a physical thing.  I may not be physically strong enough to protect my husband physically (though some women are).  However, if someone was being verbally hurtful towards him, I would be the first to stand up and say something.  If someone was going to try and take advantage of his kindness or support, I would be the first to challenge that.  Perhaps, as women and men we are supposed to protect each other, based on our gifts, rather than some assumption of difference from a word that doesn’t actually appear in the verse being talked about?

Andrew states, “The role of guarding and protecting is always something God has said, “Men I want you to do.” I could be wrong, but I don’t think this is actually a verse found anywhere in the Bible:  “And then God said, “Men! Guarding and protecting is always your job!”

God likens Himself to a mother bear protecting her cubs.  Jesus likens Himself to a chicken gathering chicks under her wings.  Unless I’m mistaken, those are female images of God protecting and guarding.  In fact, mothers are well known for protecting their children.  There are many anecdotal stories of women having “Hysterical Strength”, lifting a car off their father or fighting a polar bear to save their children.  1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love “always protects”.  Protecting isn’t limited to men, it’s a characteristic of love.

4. Men = Beloved.  Women = Beloved (Genesis 2:23)

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman”, for she was taken out of man.’”

Andrew says that Adam “Initiates the relationship” and Eve responds.  He explains, “That’s why a man asks the father’s permission” to marry a woman.  And states, “That’s the way civilisation has worked ever since.”

Where to start with this..?  The reason a man asks the father’s permission is because historically the woman/girl belonged to her father, and the marriage contract enabled the husband to buy the woman so she goes from being her father’s possession to becoming owned by her husband.  That’s not okay.

When Mr GLW and I decided to get married, God told us we should marry each other.  So we had a conversation about it and decided to get married.  Perhaps Andrew thinks this is unBiblical, but that’s how God worked out our marriage and it is no less valid because Mr GLW didn’t initiate the relationship.  In fact, I think the model of having a grown up conversation about marriage, rather than a romantic proposal, might be more useful for lots of people…

He goes on to say that it’s obvious what this means “in a marriage context, but with implications for single people as well.”  He does elaborate further, leading me to wonder how exactly this works for single people.  Men should initiate all things?  Women should stay silent?  I’m not really sure how this works out in the lives of single people even if Andrew is.

5. Man = Christ. Woman = Church

Andrew says that “Christ leads the church” and that the “church responds and submits to him” and that should be the “same with husbands and wives…this is very obvious.”

Setting aside the content issue.  He has used a communication device here (perhaps unintentionally) which says that what he’s just said is “obvious”.  Basically everybody should get this, everybody should agree with it.  The fact that there are many scholars, theologians and others who don’t accept this is what the Bible says, or that it’s actually quite offensive to say that one gender is more like Christ than the other is neither here nor there when you say something is “very obvious”.

He goes on to liken the spectrum of masculinity to having various points on it.  It looks like this:

<—Servant leadership—Apathetic—Controlling—Domineering/abusive—>

He says that Christian men should be at the servant leadership end of the spectrum .  That is what Christ is like.  Though it would seem women shouldn’t even exist on this spectrum, we’re somewhere else, on the “submission spectrum” no doubt.  He explains that his life hasn’t required him to stand in front of a bullet for his wife, but usually involves him having to get up earlier.  He doesn’t really explain why getting up earlier makes him a servant leader, but anyway.

We are all called to “prefer each other’s needs”, as Christians.  Personally, I don’t want Mr GLW getting up early for me every day, I want us to exist in mutuality, where if he’s tired he can have a lie in, if I’m tired I can.  We submit ourselves to God and each other, in full partnership.  It’s not our gender that dictates how much we offer, or how we offer it, but our love for God and for each other and the gifts God has given us.

6. Man = Representative. Woman = Beneficiary (Genesis 3:9)

“But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?””

Andrew explains that even though Eve was the first to eat the fruit, it was Adam who God addressed the question to.  He doesn’t mention that in verse 13 God asks Eve, “What is this you have done?”  But anyway…

He likens this to a civil servant and a Government Minister.  When the civil servant makes a mistake, it is the Minister who is held accountable for it, because they are the representative of the department.  After using this analogy he then says that “boss isn’t the right language to use” when talking about headship, which is problematic when that’s the exact analogy he has used to explain the whole “man is the representative” thing.

It’s interesting that there is actually a verse about being a representative in the Bible, “Therefore, we are the Messiah’s representatives, as though God were pleading through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ISV)  So we see that actually, all of us, men and women are Jesus’ representatives and when I get to heaven my husband won’t have to make account for my behaviour, I will.

He says that he sees headship as who the woman is identified by.  For example when he sees other men in the room he recognises them by their head, not their shoulders or body.  In the same way, he explains, the husband/father is the representative of the woman.  He goes on, “That’s what still happens in many cultures, even now.  The father speaks for the family…he carries the can…he gives the family their name.”

Andrew may not be aware, but male violence against women is also directly correlated to the level of autonomy and control women have over their own lives.  The less autonomy women have (like in the cultures he’s mentioned) the more instances of violence against women.  Because where women and girls are seen as possessions and as less than equal to the men, they are treated and discarded like possessions.

7. Man = ground.  Woman = Womb. (Genesis 2:16-19)

Andrew mentions the curse on Adam and Eve; childbearing pain for women and the ground being cursed for men.  He explains that this is what he sees as men’s and women’s “spheres of responsibility”.

He omits the part of the verse which says, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”  This is an interesting section to omit, given his previous mention that men should be talking about FGM, rape and domestic violence more.  Every society in the world is blighted by male violence.  And yet the Biblical basis for male violence and domination isn’t referenced at all in his talk.

What is referenced however as evidence of men’s sphere being different to women’s is the Man Drawer, specifically Michael McIntyre’s portrayal of the Man Drawer.  Yes, this is a theological talk that references the Man Drawer as irrefutable evidence of men’s sphere of responsibility being different to women’s.

Towards the end of the talk he explains he would not be present teaching about gender in the same way to women as it wouldn’t be helpful, especially not for single women as “marriage changes a woman’s life an impacts a woman more than a man.”  He didn’t explain how/why it impacts women more.  I’m not sure it does actually.  Surely if he believes that men are supposed to be the servant leader, getting up early and being the representative in the relationship, it should probably be more difficult for men than women, but as it is, I’m really not sure how women are affected in a greater way than men…

Personally, when I do talks or write blogs, I hope everything is as useful to men as it is to women.  It’s interesting Andrew’s view is that his message to men can’t be delivered with the same content to women.  Maybe that’s because, like me, women see the implications of his message on them, or can see that it doesn’t make sense.

Andrew finished by talking about the Gospel and reminding all the men present that in relation to Jesus they are the “female”; the Helper, the Beloved, the Beneficiary.  It’s confusing how this works out for women though.  Are women the Helper to their husband and then Jesus?  Or Jesus and then their husband?

He said that “in the Gospel we [men] play the part of the wife, we respond with submission and obedience…we are recipients, not agents of…”  Which gets to the crux of the matter.  He seems to see men as agents, women as recipients, which doesn’t look so different to the rest of society.  This TED Talk by Caroline Heldman explains powerfully and clearly the ways the media ensure men are the subjects and women are the objects.  Men act, women respond.  This is not good for men or women.

God implanted free will within all of us.  As male and female beings we are called to make choices and we will have to account for those choices.  No distinction is made between men and women in Jesus saving us and to do so, especially within Andrew’s restrictive terms is not enabling us to be more Christlike, or more deeply rooted in God, but rather to find our identity in our genitals and tenuous links to The Man Drawer.

The Christian Porn Conversation

Last week I wrote “Porn is not a thing”.  It was a piece exploring the idea of a “spectrum of pornographies” as apposed to seeing porn as one entity.  Today I want to consider the messages we see across that spectrum.

 

Recently Hannah Mudge posted a fascinating article about a man who spent 5 years filming hardcore pornographic material.  He isn’t “anti” pornographic material and says he doesn’t regret his decision to work in the industry, yet his experiences of filming heterosexual content was on every level different than when filming pornographic content of gay men.  He describes the environment with women in these terms “it almost seemed like an entire gender was being denigrated, like that was the whole point—where very young women were choked and slapped and written-on with lipstick, simply for the crime, it seemed, of being a woman.”  Whereas in shooting gay content he said, “The sadness and the degradation I had come to associate with my job, with videotaped sex for money, was suddenly absent.”

 

Though this man is part of the very culture he critiques, he raises the greatest issue we face from pornographic material; the degradation, objectification and utter decimation of women.  There are other issues, but fundamentally the many and varied ways the spectrum of pornographies destroys men’s (and boys’) views of women (and girls’) is the greatest issue.  It is also rarely articulated in the Christian “porn” conversation.

 

The Christian conversation on “porn” has (in the main) these aspects:

  1. Purity: viewing defiles the person looking.
  2. Addiction: people get addicted to viewing and so it becomes treated as a medical disorder.
  3. The redemption narrative: (mostly) men sharing their stories of moving from sin (watching “porn”) to redemption (no longer watching “porn”)
  4. Neuroscience/Intimacy: After Dr William Struthers (neuroscientific theologian) wrote a book covering the ways viewing pornographic content affects the brain and communicated the solution as greater intimacy, this is regularly talked about and he is the go to person Christians usually quote or invite to talk about “porn”.

 

Though all of the above can be part of the issue, I would suggest of greater significance are the following layers underpinning the spectrum of pornographies:

  1. A gendered analysis: this is about men consuming women.  Man as subject, woman as object.
  2. Industry: people make vast sums of money from selling pornographic material.  Viewers are groomed into harder and harder core porn, in order to bring financial benefit to (mainly) white men.
  3. Power: as we’ve seen in the latest power plays of The Sun around Page 3, pornographic material is more about power than it is about any sort of meaningful sexual experience.
  4. The broken lives: the (mostly) women who are groomed, used, abused and discarded by the industry.

 

Not only does the Christian “porn” narrative mostly lack articulation of these issues, some elements of Christian culture reinforce attitudes within the spectrum of pornographies.  Talk of manly men, who are aggressive and testosterone driven creatures feeds into the messages of men as animals.  The feminisation of the church conversation perpetuates the view that women are the problem.  Modesty culture at root states “men objectify” so women must cover up, the irony of modesty culture and the pornography industry essentially both treating women as sexual objects should not be ignored.  Even responses to the use of pornographic material is problematic.  Talk of “fighting porn” and the war imagery that it often conjures up does not stand apart from and in abhorrence of the violence across the spectrum of pornographies.  Rather it becomes violent language to respond to sexual violence.

 

Then there is the lack of women’s voices within the Christian conversation about the spectrum of pornographies.  Women feature usually as wives or daughters of the men using pornographic material.  “What would your wife think?”  “How is this affecting your marriage?”  “Would you want your daughter to be a porn star?”

 

Women are included mainly only within their relationship to the men using pornographic material.  Just as pornographic material reduces women to ornaments with holes, so this approach reduces women.  Not as far, but still solely as men’s attachments.  Why do women have to be thought of as having a personal relationship to a man in order to have value.  As this edited image powerfully challenges, why can’t women simply be “someone”?

Unknown

The other way women are included is: “women use porn too you know?”   This isn’t inaccurate, women do use pornographic material.  However, rarely are women spokespeople on this issue, or the ones shaping the conversation.

 

We need to change the conversation, broaden it, increase the number and diversity of voices.  We need a conversation which fully acknowledges the industry and the money being made, that sees the connection between selfish capitalism and the increase in the commodification of human beings.  We need to recognise the power imbalance and gendered dynamic across the spectrum of pornographies; being willing to look at our own community and the attitudes to gender and power that reduce women and create a deep imbalance of power between men and women.    Until then, we will never delve beyond the surface of this issue.

Porn is NOT a thing

I’m not a pro-blogger at all.  I just write things as they occur, but it seems this piece has already become part of a series.  I’ll post Part 2 soon (I know, I know, the suspense may be too much for some…).  So consider this the introduction…

 

It seems in Christian circles that the word PORNOGRAPHY is an agreed upon term that is universally understood.  It is rarely explained in the articles or resources talking about it.  Porn; a single entity that according to Martin Saunders’ recent survey 42% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women “struggle” with on a regular basis.

 

Pornography is not one entity.  Pornography is not a THING.  It is a spectrum of THINGS.

 

For many pornography is the sort of thing this cartoon by @easilytempted jokes about:

Porn Plumbers

At one point in time, pornography was an entity that involved bad acting, scenarios and actual scripts.  That time was about 20 years ago.

 

The problem with those talking about pornography in the church is that they have rarely seen any (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) or if they have seen any it’s usually because they have personally struggled with the desire to watch and use it.  This means that those who have seen it talk about it from a perspective of an ex-user (well hopefully EX-user), and those who haven’t often don’t actually know much about it.

 

The other problem with the word “porn” is that it hides the reality.  Language is very important.  We must stop reducing this huge thing that is the pornography industry to a four letter word.  It makes it easier to ignore, explain away and assume we understand.  At the very least we need to refer to this issue as a “spectrum of pornographies”.

 

Pornography can be written descriptions (often called erotica), photographs, video footage or animation.  It is either soft-core (“pornographic material that does not show penetration, genitalia, or actual sexual activity”) or hard-core  (“contains graphic sexual activity and visible penetration”).  Since the ‘90s hardcore pornographic material has become the norm.

 

According to Wikipedia (the MOST reliable of sources clearly…) pornography can be separated into different types:

Genre by physical characteristics

  • Age (This includes everything from “mature” women (MILFs) to “barely legal” images of adult women and pseudo child abuse images of adult women made to look like children.)
  • Body Features
  • Race
  • Subculture

 

Fetish

  • Bondage/BDSM (Everything on a spectrum between performers being tied up, blindfolded, enduring pain, to simulated rape.)
  • Bodily Functions (Varying from men ejaculating on women to scenes involving women lactating, urine, vomit and faeces.)
  • Other fetish (Scenes focussed on fetishes around particular acts, clothes or parts of the body.)

 

Sexual Orientation:

  • Men with women, women with men
  • Men with men
  • Women with women
  • Multiple men and women
  • Transexual or transgender people

 

Reality:

This includes amateur footage, “Gonzo” or “POV” footage is where a performer films while “performing” and also hidden camera footage.

 

Specific sex acts:

  • Anal
  • Other sex acts (This includes (usually) women being penetrated by multiple men at one time)

 

Other categories 

  • Computer generated, interactive and animated
  • Miscellaneous (including content created for and by women)
  • Extreme/illegal (this includes bestiality and some would include child sexual abuse images)

 

To view the most popular pornographic internet search terms across these categories in 2014 click here.  The most popular is “teen”.

 

From this brief overview it is clear that the idea of “porn” including plumbers or pizza delivery guys are a thing from a bygone era, almost quaint really.  The vast majority of pornographic content include or end with a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.  Almost all mainstream pornographic videos and images only feature female performers who have no pubic hair.  This has led to a generation of young people and young adults who think girls and women should be hairless (essentially pre-pubescent) and that the pinnacle of sex is not mutual pleasure or intimacy, but rather a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.

 

If we as the church want to engage with the issues we need to start by understanding what they are.  We can’t have conversations about the spectrum of pornographies without acknowledging what we’re dealing with.  And that means no longer being blind to the issues, but instead becoming informed.  Because currently it seems like the blind are leading the blind on this issue.

 

If you want to get a more informed a good (but deeply depressing) place to start would be by reading Gail Dines’ book “Pornland”.

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!

I am enraged.  THIS article written by Carl Beech and published by Childrenswork magazine has left me ENRAGED.  According to Carl Beech being stressed should lead me to “become vocal and chatty”.  I am not feeling vocal or chatty, I am angry and I want to smash things.

 

I have known Carl for quite a few years.  I had the privilege of working at the men’s event he runs for a couple of years.  I’ve seen him call an event with hundreds to their knees in repentance of violence against women.  In many conversations I had with women who were uncomfortable with some of his ideas and views I defended him, explaining that he loves Jesus and is a good guy.  At the all-male events I attended he was very careful to ensure there were no derogatory comments about women, much more careful than I’ve seen organisers of women’s events be towards men.  Yet over the last few years our paths have crossed less and less and our views have polarised more and more.

 

So here’s my thoughts on what he’s written.

 

The article is framed as “Christian Vision for Men’s Carl Beech thinks it’s time to man up and face the reality of a feminised Church.”

Man up is a term that has often been used towards male victims of sexual abuse to describe how they should respond to the choice of someone to violate them.  It has been used to sneer at little boys when they are hurt and it has been used to bully and devalue men who don’t conform to gender norms.

What does it mean that the church has been “feminised”?  When it’s used to suggest the church is failing, it suggests women are the problem.  It assumes that feminisation is an agreed upon thing.  That we all know that women are touchy feely emotional creatures who love quiche and liturgically dance their way around the building, snogging paintings of Jesus as they cry at the slightest upset, demanding that men join in, insisting they hold hands and skip.

 

Carl explains: Premier Childrenswork dropped me a line and asked me to pen a feature on…take a deep breath: What kind of men do we need in the 21st Century? What does an effective children’s work look like? What needs to change?’

Who decided Carl was the expert on writing about working with children in church?  Unless I’m very much mistaken he hasn’t done a whole lot of it.  He has been very open about his views on masculinity and what he thinks works, with many people at many times suggesting that there are alternative views to his.  Why didn’t they think to invite a few people to comment?  Perhaps Ali Campbell who is an actual expert in working with children?  Why only one perspective and a very narrow one at that?

 

Carl says: “I fully believe that men and women think differently”

That’s fine, believing men and women think differently is fine.  We can all believe things whether they are true or not.  I mean, there’s a flat earth society.  I’m totally up with respecting Carl’s belief in the difference between men and women’s thinking.  Unfortunately he doesn’t stop there…

 

“Our brains are different. Some parts of our brains are bigger or smaller depending on our gender. For example, areas that deal with spatial awareness are bigger in men, while problem-solving areas are bigger in women.”

Yes men an women’s brains are different, but what neuroscience has discovered is that this difference is far too complicated to ascertain what it means.  And what is clear is that neuroplasticity means that there’s no such things as hardwired difference between women and men.  So so many neuroscientists have written rebuffing the so-called science Carl quotes here.  At no point does he reference evidence for his views, but rather infers it is well accepted science, which it is not.

 

Research has shown that stressful situations seem to activate an almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala, which processes fear, aggression and action. While in men it triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response, the female reaction has been dubbed ‘tend and befriend’. Men, as a whole, get angry when they are stressed. Women become vocal and chatty.

Responses to trauma are much more complex than Carl is allowing for here.  We cannot underestimate the impact of socialisation on how people respond to trauma, girls are socialised to be “good” and not to fuss, we are told “boys will be boys”.

 

Hormones also play a role. It seems as though it has almost become a criminal offence these days for men to have testosterone. Athletes who inject additional testosterone get angrier and have a much higher sex drive. Men live with a higher level of testosterone 24/7. Women have fluctuating hormone levels according to their monthly cycles.

I don’t know anyone who has suggested men should be banned from having testosterone.  I have however seen many suggest that testosterone is not a justification for rape, violence or other actions that perpetrated by almost exclusively men.  God made men with testosterone.  He also made men with free will.  So whether it is men and testosterone, or women with monthly cycles, our hormones do not in any detract from the choices we make as humans gifted with free will.

 

It’s widely known that more men kill themselves than women. However, it is also known that more women seek counselling for depression than men. Men don’t report suicidal feelings or depression, they just go ahead and kill themselves; usually in far more violent ways than women, who are more likely to poison themselves. Men chuck themselves off buildings, jump in front of vehicles or shoot themselves. That’s what testosterone can do.

The deep irony of an article which starts with telling us to “man up” then suggesting that men being less likely to talk about their feelings because…MEN ARE WIRED DIFFERENTLY will hopefully escape no one.  No wonder men don’t talk about their feelings!  Weakness and vulnerability are squashed out of boys at an early age.  The masculinity Carl discusses throughout the article perpetuates the very issues which underpin WHY men don’t talk about their feelings.  In fact, a recent campaign trying to prevent male suicide is working on men not being defined by the very stereotypes Carl perpetuates throughout the article.

God made men with testosterone.  It is not testosterone that causes suicide.  Circumstances, mental health issues, lack of support, stereotyping are all contributory factors in men being at risk of suicide.  And let us not forget that 90% of those who self-harm are female, which is inherently a violent act.

 

“We do open up and chat, but often in male spaces. I recently heard about a barber shop that created additional male spaces for guys to hang out. The owner related how men would openly share their feelings at quite a deep level and share very intimately. But when a woman came in and sat with them they stopped sharing and moderated their behaviour in an unhelpful way.”

Ohhh!  So it’s women’s faults men don’t talk?  Not the fact that having to “MAN UP” is a thing men have invented?  Carl’s following comments talk about men not being into lovey-dovey Jesus is my boyfriend stuff, but just here insists men can’t do feelings because…WOMEN.  How about men insisting other men don’t like lovey-dovey stuff perhaps impacting men’s ability to be honest about their feelings?  No…?  Let’s just blame women then eh?

 

So what’s all this got to do with children’s work? Well, a heck of a lot actually. Unless we start to ‘get’ men rather than trying to change them, we’ll never crack it. Yes, there is a broad spectrum of masculinity, just as there is with femininity. I understand that, but let’s get real. Let’s stop using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health.

Oh, so there’s a broad spectrum of masculinity?  I thought all men couldn’t talk about their feelings, had good spacial awareness and get angry when stressed?  Because of their brains?  But now we hear (very briefly) that some men aren’t like that, then a SWIFT MOVE ONWARDS.

Who is using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health?!  Who is doing that?!  Last time I checked (and I actually have checked) the national Christian platform is 62% men, so it’s not there…  How about in Christian publishing?  Christian media?  In local churches?  Oh no, on every level of the church, men are the majority of preachers, writers and holders of the message.  So unless women are controlling the message via some sort of mind meld, I’m unclear as to how the measure is in any way FEMALE.

 

“One example of this trend is the constant emphasis on ‘falling in love with Jesus’.”

I’m not sure where Carl has been in the last decade, but the falling in love with Jesus thing was a sort of 90’s cultural thing.  It didn’t last long and it certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) a CONSTANT EMPHASIS.  I’ve never heard a sermon on falling in love with Jesus.  The only church leader I know who was into it was male (who incidentally also insisted we all hold hands in a service and sing “Bind Us Together Lord”).

 

“I’ve heard pastors tell me that I need to fall passionately in love with Jesus.”

Now, I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing those pastors were MALE.  I know most of the songs Carl is talking about are written by men.  So where exactly is this message coming from?  Because it’s certainly not women who have the majority voice in the church.  Anywhere.

 

“The love I have for Jesus isn’t sexualised.”

I’m sorry to have to break this to Carl, and everyone.  THE LOVE I HAVE FOR JESUS ISN’T SEXUALISED EITHER.  What does that even mean?  How would the love people have for Jesus be sexualised?  That sort of thing is usually relegated to cults who have all sorts of alternative sexual practices.  It’s certainly not something I’m into, or any of the women I know (unless they’re secretly part of a Jesus sex cult I don’t know about…).  In fact I’d suggest it’s deeply heretical and offensive to suggest that any of us have a sexualised love for Jesus.

 

“It’s a love that I hope means I would take a bullet for him, not light a candle and gaze into his eyes dreamily. Men don’t get this eros love for Jesus stuff. They don’t fashion a strong faith in the melting pot of Mills and Boon, but in the context of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up their cross on a daily basis. Testosterone can be harnessed to this end, or we just end up switching the men off, throwing them into the cauldron of redundancy until, confused, they start to display less helpful male traits.”

I love Jesus.  With all my heart I love Him.  I hope that if I am ever given the opportunity to sacrifice my life for Him, that I would do it.  I’m not all into the dreamy eye gazing either.  Where exactly is this MELTING POT OF MILLS AND BOON?!  Seriously, it’s not something I’ve come across and I’ve been in church my WHOLE life.  Women are up for this call of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up our cross daily.  Across the world women are utterly familiar with this, what with doing it for their kids while in many countries we see men don’t do this for their kids.  As the saying goes, “a pound for the man is a pound for the man, a pound for the woman is a pound for the family”.  I know that being a mother and the sacrifice that involves isn’t the sexy taking a bullet kind of love, but it is something that women do more often than men, across the entire GLOBE.

And what are these “less helpful male traits” Carl speaks of?  I guess working in the field of ending violence against women, I would suggest they are raping women, mutilating women, killing women, killing their children, killing and mutilating other men?  Perhaps sexually abusing children?  You know, the “less helpful male traits”…?  As someone working full time in ending violence against women, I can assure you feminisation is in no way contributing to the choice some men make to abuse, rape and violate.  The very thing Carl wants to perpetuate, testosterone fuelled, feeling-less MANLINESS is what underpins the violence done to women and children by men.  It is by learning empathy and compassion that men choose to stop.  It is through taking responsibility (not blaming women and feminisation) that men change.  It is through re-humanising women and seeing them as equals that men re-humanise themselves.

 

“In other words, we’re getting it wrong. We tell boys off for wrestling and scrapping because it feels unseemly and somewhat un-Christlike. It isn’t! They’re just blowing off steam the way boys know how to.”

I’m confused.  Jesus was and is the greatest advocate of non-violence that ever existed.  He didn’t defeat evil with a sword, but by being stripped and beaten.  By giving up all power as God and becoming a human baby, birthed from a woman, and raised as a weak, feeble human.

 

“We don’t let boys play with toy guns because we think they will grow up to be aggressive. Rubbish. They’ll just go out and make swords and rifles from sticks. Harness, don’t extinguish. Go with it, don’t deny it. Shape ’em, don’t destroy ’em.”

My son’s favourite game was cooking right up until he went to school.  Within weeks his favourite game became killing.  That’s what socialisation does to boys, it tells them to kill not cook.  To destroy not build up.  And that is not the Gospel of Christ.  We are called to pick up our cross, not beat people with it.

 

“We need to train our children from an early age to engage with the world around them without losing their faith and integrity. We need them to learn how to win and lose with grace. We need to show them how to be competitive without being brutal and vicious. We need to harness the testosterone of our boys rather than hoping it goes away or trying to re-programme them. We were given it for a reason.”

I feel like quoting The Princess Bride in response to Carl’s constant assertions around testosterone “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”.

Why do we need to teach boys to be competitive?  Last time I checked the teaching of Jesus was that the first should be last, that the greatest will be the least.  And it that’s too hard for Carl’s MANLINESS, then that’s unfortunate, because that’s the Gospel.

 

“We need men who are trained and raised up not just to lead in Church, but in every sphere of society.”

I hate to break it to Carl, but men are already leading the church and society.  Women on the other hand, are a minority voice in all decision making processes the world over.

 

“We need strong men of God who can take a hit for their faith in the media and the arts; on building sites and farms; in factories and accountancy firms. The same goes for women, of course, but they shouldn’t have to do it by pretending to be masculine to compete. They have uniquely redeemable skills and qualities of their own.”

I don’t ‘take a hit for my faith’ by pretending to be masculine.  What does that even MEAN?!  Should I don a fake beard before entering any space where I may need to stand up for my faith?  Boys have plenty of role models for what it means to stand up for their faith.  The Bible stories we tell across Sunday School, the great people of faith they hear about are almost exclusively male.  It’s not boys who need role models for standing up for faith, it’s girls.  I don’t need to pretend to be masculine because I continue to be authentically who God made me to be, with the gifts and talents He gave me, to do the work He has called me to.  The same as all the women I know who are standing up for their faith are doing.

 

“What kind of man do we need in the 21st Century? A beatitudes man. A man who will live and die with Jesus Christ as his master and commander. A man who has submitted his strength and testosterone to Jesus. He is secure in his identity and doesn’t care whether he is good at sport or not. He is who God made him to be. He doesn’t feel demonised because he has big muscles, nor weak if he doesn’t have them; he is not looked down on if he is competitive and aggressive. He’s a kingdom man.”

How is the 21st century kind of man different to the 21st century woman?  As human beings choosing to give our lives to God we should all b seeking to live and die with Jesus as our Master and commander, as our Saviour.  We should all be submitting our strength to Jesus and be secure in our identity.  Surely we should be KINGDOM PEOPLE?  Really?

 

“Do you have men in crèche and in Sunday school? If not, get some.”

Oh yes, because it’s that easy!  Most women I know have been asked to be on the Sunday School rota.  How many of the men are asked?  And surely this could have been mentioned sooner?  We all know that Sunday School is run by women.  So we’ve been told for a whole article that we are the problem with the church, but now it’s our job to fix things.

 

“Do you tell the boys off when they rough and tumble? Why? Let them blow off steam and find other ways to bring the discipline into play. Bring back wide games, I say!”

The problem is we rarely tell boys off when the rough and tumble.  The “boys will be boys’ mantra sits beneath offensive banter, rape and sexual violence, sexualised bullying in schools, domestic violence and other forms of woman and child abuse.

 

“Learn to celebrate male strength as much as you celebrate more feminine qualities.”

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!?!?!?!