Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Deliver Us from Manhood

Three and one-half years ago I wrote a series of posts questioning the whole idea of “Biblical Manhood.” My concern was to call men to quit worrying about being “manly,” whatever that might mean, and to embrace decency instead. “Biblical Decency” seems to me to be a far more defensible concept. To be a decent, trustworthy, and compassionate guy seems to me to be something more critical than exercising some dubious quality called masculinity.

Those posts bear reposting. We live in a moment that more than ever seems devoid of decency. Among the many examples that could be named (such as the macho chest pounding that passes as US foreign policy, and is cheered by some Christians) the primary one that leads me to revisit these posts is the one that has landed hard on my corner of the Christian world. In this corner, the one that birthed the idea of “Biblical Manhood,” there has been shown to be great rottenness. That brings shame on us all.

Aimee Byrd, a thoughtful and articulate woman, has written a book in which she challenges some of the assumptions and consequences of the Biblical Manhood movement. The response she has received has been ugly. “Biblical Men” can apparently be mean, which should cast a suspicious cloud over the whole business. The controversy has been well summarized by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today and discussed by Byrd herself here and to some degree here. It seems that to some men what matters is not that she is thoughtful and articulate. What matters is that she is a woman. Frightened, I suppose, by a strong and courageous woman, they have launched ad hominen attacks on her character, her appearance, and her biblical faithfulness.

This is disheartening to me. (No doubt this is because I’m an effeminate softie.) But I would think it obvious to most that decent men or women do not demean the looks or reputations of others, whether those others be men or women. How can this be such a hard lesson to learn? Boys will be boys, some say, though even that is worth questioning. But men should be granted no pass to be cruel. We will be, of course. Occasionally we will say something mean or disparaging of another. But when called on it, decent men own it and seek forgiveness. So do women. It’s a part of being a Christian.

So, yes, for what it is worth, these things bear repeating and reposting. So, I will repost over the next several days. If you don’t want to wait, you can read them in their original setting here.

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7 Comments

  1. In such a time as ours when the whole idea of God’s creative purpose in making “man” – male and female (Genesis 1) is resisted and opposed, as a minister of the Word, I experience a Biblical “knee-jerk” reaction in your suggesting we pastors and Bible teachers (or the “Church”) move away from “manhood” considerations (and “womanhood” considerations) and consider instead Biblical “decency.” I will read your articles, but I am just saying up front, your “move” off the subject of gender roles to consider Biblical decency is a move I implicitly – don’t trust. I don’t want to avoid gender roles and apsects of my manhood as set forth in scripture, I want to understand them. For God to reveal to me He has purposed my manhood – male gender – and then for you or anyone to suggest – “But you’ll never understand it – so just be a decent Christian person” is a solution I cannot embrace. I’m just saying – this is how I initially respond to your presentation of this subject. I have to overcome this sort of resistance to read your articles, as I suspect others do as well.

    • I appreciate your honesty in this. I get the knee jerk. Though I am not in any way suggesting distinctions between male and female, you and I may no doubt differ on how those are to be determined. However, I have two fundamental concerns. The first is that some of the distinctions made are overdrawn and indefensible. On this we no doubt could have a profitable conversation and agree in the end to differ. But the second is far deeper and more important to me. That the Christian not be a bully, that the Christian show respect for all people, that the Christian speak with charity and deference toward and about others, that these things should not be up for dispute. When I see men defending uncharitable behavior as manly, I say something is terribly awry. When I see ungodliness, in me first, but in others, my heart desire is to deal with that first, as the weightier matter of the law. Thanks for weighing in.

  2. It is interesting to me that the first reply to your post completely ignores the gist of what you said: that the way some Christians are ACTUALLY BEHAVING is not, in fact, ACTUALLY CHRISTIAN. (My inelegant words, not yours!) It is no secret I don’t dwell in your “corner of the Christian world”. But from my corner of the Christian world, where the sin of misogyny also has quite a history and hold on behavior, I am always grateful for your authenticity and compassion. I am also grateful for your courage in suggesting that how we live is every day proclaiming our theology to the world – regardless of the words that come from our lips, regardless of our gender, and regardless of which corner of the Christian world we claim to reside within.

  3. Tim Trouten

    This is a great little post Randy. Thank you for being decent!

  4. Gail Brightbill

    Thank you for this.

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