Biblical Manhood: Warrior Theology

Find part 1 of this series on “Biblical Woman/Man-hood” here.

This post is in response to Simeon Snow’s blog, Brave Warriors, found here:

 

Warrior imagery is often used by those who wish to affirm masculine strength. Unfortunately, there is more than 1 type of warrior, such as: 1) men who thoughtlessly & often times violently demolish everything in their path, conquering whoever & whatever gets in their way [think Huns in ancient China] or 2) men who rescue damsels in distress & thereby indirectly validate their masculinity by showing their strength vis á vis conquering the damsel’s situation [think Arthur & Lancelot]. An important difference between these 2 is collateral damage. Both conquer, but the first muscling through without restraint & the second restraining himself at times in order to be gentle or chivalrous with the damsel, but tough on the shared enemy[ies]. The first is more offensive while the second is more defensive.

 

God is described as a warrior in the Old Testament & God fills both of these types of warriors at different times as God destroys the Israelites’ enemies on some occasions [such as the Egyptians in Exodus 14] & other times rescues the Israelites [such as Gideon & the Midianites in Judges 6]. Sometimes these 2 actions of God are 1 & the same. The Biblical Manhood movement [a sometimes ugly brother of The Biblical Womanhood movement] uses a warrior metaphor to describe “Godly Masculinity”.

 

Simeon writes that there is an emphasis on “righteous confrontation, strength, and courage”. Interestingly, these qualities remind me of many honorable & respectable men, but also remind me of incredible women, too. Such as Esther and Rosa Parks, both women of faith. Simeon also points out a goal of the Biblical Manhood movement- to restore the church. I have heard firsthand some leaders in this movement attempt to blame the decline of Christianity around the globe because men are not “stepping up”. To say nothing of the guilt and/or shame tactic, this is unfair. However, there is truth to this- too many men sit on the sidelines & do not take their so-called faith personally & deeply enough.

 

The flaw- this lack of engagement is a human problem for men and women! The Great Commission [Matthew 28:19], Paul’s exhortation not to forsake the assembly [Hebrews 10:25] & pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17], & other commands in the Bible pushing believers to take their faith seriously are not gender specific. God expects everyone who is in The Church to participate in The Church as each is gifted. [1 Corinthians 7; 12] All hands, feet, eyes, & hearts on deck- male, female, or otherwise.

 

Unfortunately, in its attempts to ‘encourage’ [read- shame/guilt trip] men toward deepening their faith & sense of spiritual responsibility in relationships & daily living among a variety of people in the world, femininity is devalued & made shameful. Simeon writes that the Biblical Manhood movement’s desire to “counter the problem of men only maturing in ways that are feminine”. This implies there is only 1 type of feminine & that 1 narrow feminine definition is inadequate. Just as only femininity is unbalanced, so is only masculinity. Narrow definitions of masculinity, femininity, and gender do not benefit anyone. Rather, this leads to exclusion, confusion, & shame.

 

Simeon makes an excellent point that many times machismo snippets of men’s stories in the Bible are taken to validate a call to macho masculinity- such as David, Samson, or Benaiah- but overly considering external actions such as physical strength or warrior imagery without adequate conversation surrounding their spiritual and interior lives. While David is called a man after God’s own heart, he should not be a masculine ideal. David was adulterous [Bathsheba- 2 Samuel 11], needed a bold word of correction from Nathan [2 Samuel 12], dishonored his wife [Michal- 2 Samuel 6], & so on. David also wrote many Psalms & there is plenty of evidence to suggest he had an active relationship with God. Still, parts of David’s story in the Bible can be interpreted as a warning for what not to do.

 

I had to control myself from giving a slow clap standing ovation when I read Simeon’s comment on Pauline masculinity- “it would be putting words in Paul’s mouth to say that true Masculinity is Godliness”. I must add that if true masculinity is indeed Godliness, then true Godliness is masculine & that leaves women up a creek & inherently devalues femininity- a big no no against valuing God’s Creation! Genesis 1:27 says male & female God created them. However, masculine & feminine- society created them.

   

Overall, just as the Biblical Womanhood movement makes some good points & I trust has positive faith-affirming motives, so does the Biblical Manhood movement. However, both are crucially flawed. There is more than 1 “Biblical” definition of femininity and masculinity. Both the Biblical Manhood & Biblical Womanhood movements have an Anglo-Western perspective as evidenced by its narrow ‘definitions’ of femininity & masculinity that are as culturally relative as food & music. As Rachel Held Evans writes in A Year of Biblical Womanhood, “Biblical cannot be used as a cheap adjective” For more on her book, read my review here.

 

As a moderately progressive Christian, I continually remind myself that the enemy [if there must be enemies] is not faith-seeking Christians who believe differently than me. Rather, the enemy, in this case of gender issues, is anyone who does not uphold the dignity, value, & equal worth of every person- male, female, or otherwise. The enemy is anyone who makes cheap blows & insults that only reveal their ignorance & lack of motivation to education themselves. The enemy is anyone who is incapable of having a civilized conversation. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. While I may passionately disagree with Christians that have a more conservative or more strongly gendered perspective than me, I still call them my brothers and sisters, not an enemy, as we all desire to understand what it means to be who we are- carefully balancing gender, sexuality, & faith. A little grace goes a long way. Give & receive. 

 

_Voosha_the_Warrior_King__by_Morgorth

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Simeon
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 16:44:45

    Loved it, good read. 🙂

    Reply

  2. chrismclain
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 11:32:22

    Good thoughts. We should talk about this sometime. I have a lot of cognitive dissonance about this sort of “Biblical Manhood” movement. Both you and Simeon have said some really good things, but I suspect there is more to it that I can’t quite put my finger on now.

    Reply

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