Grow a pair for god

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/09/uprooting-the-christian-masculinity-complex

Another all-kinds-of-bad article.

Block is unconvincing in claiming that Ignite’s congregation are ‘warriors’. As most of his point stems from this assertion the article itself can’t stand on its premise. Block obviously has knowledge about the Masculine Christianity movement, but fails to include enough background to explain why Ignite falling within this movement somehow makes them warriors. He aptly describes them as a “more in-your-face, gun-toting, beer-swilling version of manhood”, but if that’s all it takes to be a warrior then every red state good old boy can claim the title. Block may be writing under the assumption that his readers have this background knowledge and can connect the triangle of dots from Masculine Christianity to warrior to Ignite, but in doing so he simultaneously weakens his argument because of a lack of context and leaves himself open to criticism from those who’ve come to a different conclusion about the relationship he assumes exists.

After tarring Ignite with his own brush he proceeds to say why their version of Christian masculinity is wrong. Block believes that “some Christians are allowing cultural concepts of masculinity to dictate our theology, rather than letting our theology dictate our understanding of gender roles”. Here we come to the weird mishmash of beliefs that Christians hold because they look to long dead cultures for advice about how to live in the modern digital world.

The ‘warrior’ cannot be our fundamental identity. After all, the biblical concept of battle is one primarily of response to outward aggression: A shepherd boy becomes a warrior after the Philistines invade; the Israelites are oppressed and then a Judge rises to protect them. Even when God sends the Hebrews to claim the land promised to their ancestors, it is clear these people are not warriors by birth. They were born slaves; they have to learn the art of warfare.

First, Block fails to recognize that the cultural concepts of masculinity he highlights are themselves constructions of masculinity from the cultures they used to exist in. What it is to be masculine over 2000 years ago was constructed by the culture that was active over 2000 years ago. What it is to be masculine now is constructed by the culture the construction arises from now. Without culture there is no definition of masculinity. Separated from that culture by several millennia and half a world, those constructions have little force with us.

Second, the above biblical warriors either did not exist, or in the case of David who has some evidence of possible existence, there is no evidence that he even did the things claimed by Block to be warrior-like or masculine. Without any historical evidence that the masculinity he alludes to even existed it makes as much sense to use Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings as the model for masculinity. But to Block, if it’s written in the bible then whether its real or imagined it must be worthy of consideration. And so for Block making fantasy characters the model of masculinity is not at all strange.

Third, he compounds the above two errors when he offers his own explanation of what Christian masculinity ought to be:

To better understand the Christian male’s calling as a male, it’s helpful to go back to the beginning—to examine what the Scriptures tell us about the creation of the first man, and what God intended for Him to be. And the simple fact is, when God created Adam he didn’t make a warrior; he made a gardener.

Gardening isn’t easy work. It demands great labor and—since the Fall—requires the sweat of our brow. It’s dirty and it’s tiring. It involves careful, perhaps even painful, pruning. Ultimately, it even demands recognizing that your work on its own is not enough. You need the sun to shine. You need the rain to fall. You need God to make something out of your own weak and feeble efforts.

Genesis is a fiction, so for a start it’s problematic that Block adheres to it for his definition of masculinity. But let’s entertain the idea that modern masculinity should take its concept from what amounts to a couple of sentences in a fantasy story. Block’s reasoning is that god intended Adam to be a gardener, so the traits of a gardener should be associated with what it is to be masculine. So now Block is not only relying on fantasy characters for his model, but the whole fantasy world. A man who should have lived forever in a magical garden with a woman and a nefarious snake is a milieu that Block thinks is transferable to our modern world. If that doesn’t stretch ones credulity enough Block also conveniently forgets that Adam was exiled from the garden and can never go back. As it is a fantastical milieu which even when taken as reality is forever unobtainable, its aptness to defining masculinity is questionable.

Fourth, his focus on Genesis as the sole arbiter of what it is to be masculine is weakened when it is used to examine what it is to be feminine. Supposedly god created both masculine and feminine in the garden, yet there is no separate vocation for what it is to be feminine. So with Eve a gardener too, we are left to conclude that there is no difference, at least how Block has examined it, between masculine and feminine. This is certainly not countered by what Block believes the duties of a gardener to be:

Gardening isn’t easy work. It demands great labor and—since the Fall—requires the sweat of our brow. It’s dirty and it’s tiring. It involves careful, perhaps even painful, pruning. Ultimately, it even demands recognizing that your work on its own is not enough. You need the sun to shine. You need the rain to fall. You need God to make something out of your own weak and feeble efforts.

With the above paragraph equally applicable to either masculine or feminine Block has done nothing to differentiate between the two.

In conclusion, Block’s article continues the problem of Christians cherry picking advice from an ancient text written by a long dead culture. By filtering what it is to be masculine through his favored selections from the bible Block is essentially making the same mistake as Ignite. And as shown with the fourth point above where Block fails to look at the implications for feminine based on his interpretation of masculine, Block once again shows that male Christianity will always struggle with ‘non-masculine’ interpretations. The bible was written by dudes and about dudes. Got that?

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