I was in the grocery store today, and I heard a man behind me jokingly telling his friend, “So manly.” He was clearly making fun of his friend for a “nonmanly” purchase or something, and the friend was in on the joke, too. It was all in good fun, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the exchange, but I wasn’t surprised to hear the rest of the exchange, in which I found out that they were church friends who had run into each other.
The man who had said “so manly” looked very, well, manly-man. Tall, bearded, with a short, pretty wife and a few kids. In fact, I recognized his wife from a multi-church event. I knew how much time and effort she put into parenting and volunteer work. I knew some very personal, heartbreaking struggles she’d had. She either didn’t recognize me or didn’t see me.
While I was checking out, a grocery cart tipped over and crashed to the ground, and everyone turned to make sure that a kid hadn’t fallen. “She’s okay,” we heard and all breathed a sigh of relief. It was only a child-sized cart that the young shopper had lost control of. Another man said, “Shopper in training!”
“Unfortunately she’ll become an expert,” I heard from behind me. Turns out Manly Church Man was checking out at the register next to mine. “Probably more of an expert than even my wife.”
Here’s what I wish I would have said. DON’T YOU SHAME YOUR WIFE! SHE PROBABLY DOES A SHITLOAD MORE FOR YOUR FAMILY THAN YOU DO! AND DON’T YOU TELL A STRANGER’S LITTLE GIRL THAT SHE’S GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A FRIVOLOUS SPENDER! But I only looked my cashier in the eye and wondered if she’d heard the same thing.
Why are so many church men stuck in this picture of manliness? Millions of dollars are spent every year on nonfiction Christian books aimed specifically at men. Just look at their titles and covers. Old school masculinity being sold like it’s not being sold to any other group of men.
Jesus spoke to women with as much respect as he spoke to men. Angels spoke to women just like they spoke to men. I still struggle with Paul’s words about women not speaking and wonder if God would really want them in the Bible. (Here’s a site that explores the misunderstanding about Paul’s words: https://www.gotquestions.org/women-silent-church.html )
Not only does the church’s view of masculinity hurt women, it hurts men. Young men who do not fit the typical picture of a church man don’t feel like they belong at church. What if they want to wear makeup? What if they don’t like sports or camping? Did Jesus die for them? Yes! Can they be powerful for the kingdom? Yes! Let’s not hinder them.
And if the manly church man culture hurts women and young men, it hurts Jesus. It hurts Jesus because Jesus feels the hurts that we feel, and it hurts Jesus because when nonchristian people don’t want any part of Christianity because it offends them (for nonlegitimate reasons—I’m not saying that we should deny Biblical truths to go along with society) Jesus loses many opportunities to save.
So, Manly Church Man, when you’re at the grocery store, people are listening to the way you talk about your wife. In a society that’s reeling from the misogyny of the current White House administration, they are listening more closely than ever.
Don’t limit Jesus.
And for goodness sake, tell your wife today how much you appreciate her.