Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Review of A Review

Today I'm writing a paper on "Gender in Light of Creation" which is at present about 10 pages too long, so, needless to say I am slicing and dicing. The following is an exerpt that doesn't quite fit but which I could not bear to throw in the trash. It is basically a review of a book review.

This guy in "The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" (which I think can be a somewhat helpful but mostly invigorating publication) was reviewing Donald Miller's book To Own A Dragon, and adding to what I think Tony Campolo refers to as "Great Adventures in Missing the Point". So here's my two cents on the issue. I could probably say more, but as mentioned, I have some editing to do. Maybe a few of you want to check up on this and tell me what you think. I find this issue quite interesting and important.

It is not uncommon for people to joke about what it means to be a "real man" or "woman", but for many today there seem to be genuine questions behind the jokes. In his book about growing up as a boy without a father, Donald Miller reflects on the alienation he felt at various evangelical men’s conferences which played upon stereotypical male identities in order to promote healthy manhood. In spite of these well-intentioned conferences, he writes, "I spent a lot of time believing I wasn’t a man because I didn’t like football analogies, or because I didn’t want to put a cheesy bumper sticker on my car."

This is why when he was given the opportunity to speak to 900 college men he decided to cut through the confusion with some affirmation and clarity, by telling them that biblically the one thing it takes to be a real man is a penis.

This prompted one reviewer to write: "Is Miller really approaching a biblical definition of manhood when he distinguishes between what a man does and what a man is? Does the Bible not speak of manhood specifically in the terms some of these students provide (Matt 7:9-11; Eph 6:4; 1 Tim 5:8)?"

Upon inspection, these passages do call men to certain ideals, but when one looks at the creation account to see how exactly the Bible defines manhood, like Miller says, there is a surprising lack of specifics. It is interesting that a journal for biblical manhood could miss the point of what Miller was saying. In an age of gender-confusion, boys and girls need to be affirmed in their manhood or womanhood and not sown seeds of doubt in every area where they don’t measure up or don’t match the stereotypes.


Tony Tanti said...

Interesting topic to bring up. I've yet to attend a church in my life that isn't guilty of alienating the "non-typical" man or woman. Men's retreats and women's retreats are often the most stereotype filled irrelavent events in the church calendar year. And I've seen in more than one church in the past year the bulletin announcement for "strong men" to help someone move or some women to help in the kitchen.

These things are not the problem per se but are symptoms of an evangelical church culture which is so behind the culture regarding gender equality that they are in danger of becoming entirely irrelevant.

I hear over and over that it's because that's what the majority want, but maybe it's really that most people who don't fit in to the stereotype don't stick around.

Coutts said...

i don't agree that gender stereotyping makes the church irrelevant, since the gospel is the key to its relevance, but you are right that the more behind we are in this regard the more we lose credibility, along with any assemblance of sensitivity (or hope of helping less "typical" people come to grips with who they are as men or women in Christ) that we might have had.