I am no expert on the battle that seems to be raging in our country, and our world, in regards to gender identity. But I have been thinking on this issue a lot, and my thoughts are only in the preliminary stages, so as to make any arguements or statements I make, a little rough at this point, and up for debate. And a pre-warning: I jump all over the place in this blog.
But what I do know is that there is a lot of confusion in our culture right now over femininity and masculinity, and it crosses many lines from socialization, to culture, to religion, to Christianity? Why am I talking about this issue? Mainly because this article appeared online yesterday, in regards to a French marketing study. And if you read this article, some of the findings are unbelievable, and scary as well. What is also amazing is the contradictory statements within the article. Here is a sample of some of the findings:
Macho man is an endangered species, with today’s male more likely to opt for a pink flowered shirt and swingers’ clubs than the traditional role as family super-hero, fashion industry insiders say.
“The masculine ideal is being completely modified. All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned,” said Pierre Francois Le Louet, the agency’s managing director.
Arnold Schwarznegger and Sylvester Stallone are being replaced by the 21st-century man who “no longer wants to be the family super-hero”, but instead has the guts to be himself, to test his own limits.
“We are watching the birth of a hybrid man. … Why not put on a pink-flowered shirt and try out a partner-swapping club?” asked Le Louet, stressing that the study had focused on men aged between 20 and 35.
“He is looking for a more radical affirmation of who he is, and wants to test out all the barbarity of modern life” including in the sexual domain, said Le Louet, adding that Reebok with its “I am what I am” campaign had perfectly tapped into this current trend.
“There is an increasing desire for people to be in charge of their own lives, and an intolerance for any lack of autonomy,” he told the debate.
“We have to help people to create their own look. And we absolutely must help people to dream, and if we help people to dream perhaps the world will be a little bit better,” he said.
Dennis Prager who has been talking about this issue for the last couple of years, devoted his entire morning, this morning, to this issue.
This issue has cropped up in many circles, from the landmark book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, to the popularity of books by John Eldredge and his team at Ransomed Heart ministries. Just the other day I was watching Fight Club, as Tyler rants about the demasculization of men, from culture, to possessions, etc.
Confusing? Yes. My students seemed to be confused as well. I listen as girl after girl tells me how no guys will ask them out, and guy after guy tells me that they have no clue what a girl wants, and they would just rather not risk it and be friends in a large social network.
Are the lines, and issues being blurred here? Yes. Do we have roles to play? Are there gender differences? Etc., etc.
This issue is especially confusing in the church where men and women seem to wrestle over Biblical and spiritual roles. And in most cases the theology tends to be bad, and often there is not much of a Biblical case of what they are arguing for. Maybe the question really is, as one pastor said to me: “The question is who we are in Christ?” It’s a question of identity in Christ, not of gender identity. Because, what is it that really makes a man a man, or a woman a woman, outside of the obvious? Is it the roles we play, or the chores we do, or the leadership in the household, in the community, etc.?
A man can look like many different things. He can be tough, and sensitive. He can dress like a cowboy, or put on a suit, or even dress a little more “metro” as they say here in Los Angeles. He opens doors, and shows respect and courtesy. If he’s married, his roles aren’t limited to tradition, but he supercedes them and helps his wife in the house, and with the kids. His identity is not limited by his actions, or his roles, or what he wears. But rather, his identity is of that in Christ. And when we are in Christ, and we find our identity in Him, I believe we live out who we are supposed to be.
But for now, the war is raging, and this trend is going to continue to manifest itself in fashion, movies, literature, music and more. And for now, my students, as well as myself and others are going to have to continue to push our way through the battlezone and to look to Christ for our identity.
Jesus in Mark 1:9-11, begins his ministry, by knowing where His identity was. It was not in the things He could do, those things with which He was tempted by in vs. 12-13. But it was in knowing that He was beloved by God. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (vs.11).
And when we find our identity in Christ, we are pushed beyond our conception of what things are supposed to look like, or the identity we find in roles. And in the church, when it comes to being male, it would seem fitting, that our identity is found in Christ, not in some role we have over women. It is found in being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (5:25).” It would seem that a man’s identity is found in relationship to Christ here, not in his identity in relationship to his role with his wife. It is his identity in Christ that points him how to live, rather than maleness, or roles, showing him how to live. There is a fine distinction here, that is large enough to cause all kinds of problems, but I believe that when we truly understand this idea, we know what it means to be male, and we are not confused about it.
This is an interesting time to be living as the culture is shifting all around us, and at times, we allow too much of the culture to tell us how to live in the church. But as Christians, if we want to truly know who we are as male and female, it is with Christ we must begin. It is with Him that we must find and know our identity.