A CHRISTIAN VISION OF MANLINESS: SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION
Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Warren
Cost: $10 (Scholarship available)
Registration: To register online, please click here.
The social theorist Zygmunt Bauman says that we live in the age of ‘liquid modernity’, an age where the ideologies and paradigms of understanding of the past have been swept away. We are adrift, it is safe to say, in a time of profound uncertainty and tentativeness. The slam poet Taylor Mali draws attention to this anxiety in his poem ‘Totally like whatever, you know?’: ‘In case you hadn’t noticed,/It has somehow become uncool/to sound like you know what you’re talking about?/Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?/Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s/have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?/Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?’
But at the same time, and for the same reason, our age is one of profound dogmatism, with experts and activists across the political and institutional spectrum speaking with manufactured certainty and heaping scorn upon their opponents. Brené Brown has written recently in this vein that the only thing we now hold in common as a nation is rage.
Nowhere, perhaps, is this combination of profound uncertainty and profound dogmatism more evident than in our loss of confidence in what it means to be a man. We know and can identify ‘toxic masculinities’; we wring our hands about the increasing number of men who ‘fail to launch’; we increasingly see masculinity detached from embodiment and dissolved into a subjective attribute of identity; and we see an alarming rise, especially among younger men, but now increasingly among prestigious societal leaders as well, in ‘feral’, predatory, and nihilistic masculinities. And everywhere it seems, we are not having conversations or debates so much as savage shouting matches.
In the church, to be frank, we are not doing much better. We are better at identifying what we are against in our men than we are for in building each other up in godly manliness. We have heard prominent pastors, like drill sergeants, tearing Christian men down from the pulpit for being ‘boys who can shave’. But what is a noble, godly vision of manliness that we can aspire to? Where do we see it commended and modeled in Scripture? In the history of the church?
This is a difficult topic, and there are bound to be disagreements, but to me it is worth the risk to open this conversation as a church. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb has argued, unless we as the church have ‘skin in the game’, trying to figure out together how to grow as men together with grace and patience with one another, how can we profess to offer the hope of Jesus Christ to the world? Let’s reason together, let’s build one another up, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Christ be an alternative in this discussion to the outrage that surrounds us.