I was planning on taking today off from blogging. I really should thing about a sermon for Sunday and all that stuff, and maybe acknowledge the existence of my children. I was all set to do these great things until I checked out my Twitter account (don’t bother following me – I am boring, borrrrrrrrring!) and I saw a link to the following blog.
The blog post is about John Piper’s call for a masculine Christianity and a masculine church. Normally I would ignore such rants, but Piper is a fairly popular and influential person who has the potential to screw up many Christians. Blogger Rachael Evans smartly asked for guys to respond so she would not be labeled as some angry feminist. My straight, white, male guilt kicked in and here I am writing.
I’m not going to rehash Piper’s argument – I suggest going to Evans’ blog to see a good summary or go here for a more complete text.
So I’m not just rehashing feminist’s arguments I’m going to try to avoid using some great theologians.
Thus I suppose I should avoid mentioning Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s chapter, "God in Communion With Us," in the book Freeing Theology where she points out that the idea of Complementarity (the idea that a woman reaches her fullest existence through a relationship with a man) does not speak to the notion that a man does not have to have a relationship with a woman to reach his full potential as a child of God and in no way reflects the Trinity, i.e. God, i.e. the one in who’s image we were created.
I guess I shouldn’t mention Elizabeth A. Johnson who makes the simple change of talking about God by starting with the Holy Spirit rather than God – creator, and notes many of the feminine aspects of the Holy Spirit and how those aspects are found in God – creator and in Christ.
No, I will resist using these theologians because they just are not masculine enough. I will instead address Piper’s claims myself.
First, he describes Masculinity as:
Theology and church and mission are marked by an overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community. All of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus."
Take out the “godly male” part and I don’t see what makes it masculine. This describes my mother (as well as my father) and many other women and men that I know. Seems to just be a convenient definition that is not grounded in any studies of sociology, psychology, anthropology, or anyone who may actually know what it might mean to be “masculine.”
Second, Piper references scripture saying that all the priests in the Old Testament were male – I guess he forgot Deborah – and all of Jesus’ apostles were male which is only if you us a very specific understanding of the apostles that emerged through time. I’m not going to respond to his Biblical arguments with other Biblical arguments. What I see is a convenient reading of scripture. That is, Piper wants to make an argument about masculinity and then find all of the information he can use in scripture so he can back it up while ignoring anything that may suggest otherwise. I have never encountered the Bible as so crystal clear on one topic. Piper is employing poor scholarship at best and a dangerous hermeneutic that can lead to many other dangerous assumptions like slavery is ok, and polygamy is necessary, and it is appropriate to kill your children or at least sell them into slavery when they act out. If I want to use scripture to argue any of these points I can by using the same method Piper uses – find the passages that work and don’t mention anything else.
Third, Piper is neglecting a large part of the feminist nature of the church in church history. Granted I’m not sure exactly what feminine means, but I’ll work off the common assumptions for now. With that in mind Bernard of Clairvaux’s great sermon On the Song of Songs talks about a holy kiss that we have on and with Jesus. Hmmm….
Jonathan Edwards pushes the idea of religious affections, a whole-body experience of religion. It is emotional and spiritual (disclaimer – I am not an Edwards’ scholar so I may be missing some of the nuance). I don’t know if this is feminine, but based on what Piper is suggesting I think it is.
Finally, I do want to refer to my sister theologians, specifically about the idea of the nature of God. If Piper is a Trinitarian, and I am sure that he would claim that he is, then the nature of God is one of equal, relational, indwelling where one aspect of the Trinity is not above any other nature of the Trinity. If one aspect of humanity is deliberately placed above another, then we are not reflecting the nature of God, but the broken nature of humanity. The church, then, should be a place that strives not for a masculine feel or a feminine feel, but one of mutuality and equality.
End this post with your own bit of angry rants and explicative that this is still an issue with people. We should be well beyond this…. AHHHHH