Over the last few years we have seen a number of movements in Christianity to involve more men in the church and in spiritual activities. I welcome this trend, because spirituality has too long been the province of only a small percentage of men. This is not because I think that women need men to keep them straight in church. Rather, it’s because men need spiritual food as well. The church is enriched by the involvement of a great variety of people.
The problem that I see, which was emphasized by Mark Driscoll’s recent video (link to my post about it), is that we reshape the gospel to fit the people instead of the people to fit the gospel. I don’t mean that the gospel is for only one type of people, but the gospel does (or should) change people in substantial ways.
To some, however, there seems to be a new Jesus. Replacing “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is the Jesus who would own several guns, go hunting and fishing, be a sports fan if not an active participant, drive a pickup truck, and always have control of the TV remote. This is the Jesus who wouldn’t let anyone push him around, whose solution to crime is to go catch them and put them in jail or hang them. Some folks sound like Jesus likes people who don’t share these characteristics less. Men, such as myself, who don’t need to have the remote in their hands and don’t own a gun aren’t taking leadership and aren’t masculine enough. Their wives won’t really love them, and God despises their lukewarm attitudes because they are not clearly and obviously in command of their home.
Now some good, very masculine men may be offended by that last paragraph, but you see I think the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is also a dangerous caricature. For some years we’ve had in many churches the sort of Jesus who can’t stand the hunters and fisherman, who has a special section of heaven roped off for the folks who drive pickup trucks so they won’t get in the way of the truly spiritual folks who drive subcompacts, and probably doesn’t like cops because they arrest people instead of converting them.
OK, now I’ve offended another group. My point is simply that Jesus is there to take you from where you are, and to lead you to be a better person, no matter what your personality. Christianity is not about making you into some sort of caricature of the personality someone thinks is most “Christian.” It’s about taking a variety of people and making them better able to serve their fellow human beings.
There are folks who serve one another who are quite fond of guns. One pastor I know is a retired sheriff’s deputy. He’s a good shot and a wonderful Christian man at the same time. Another man I know personally is gay, and spends his life well beyond what we’d normally call “duty” in service for others. I know a dentist who has led numerous mission trips and has a special ministry to children when he leads teams in service. He also has a substantial supply of guns (I’ve handled and discussed most of them with him myself), likes to shoot, drives a pickup truck, and could be mistaken for a ruffian if you didn’t know him. My father, on the other hand, is an MD who was a missionary all his life, and served World War II in a conscientious objector’s camp in Canada because he refused to bear arms.
All of these people were and/or are servants of God and followers of Jesus. There isn’t one stamp for it. A gospel of masculinity is not a good replacement for a gospel of femininity or any other specialized gospel we invent. What we need is a gospel that includes all those God is calling. God will make use of our diverse gifts and personalities and smooth the rough edges where necessary.