Friday, September 07, 2012

Jesus' parable about the father who runs like a woman

Here’s a question I got recently:  Why has the Church become so feminized?

The young guy who asked me was earnest and sincere, and quite tuned in to conversations in the blogosphere on all things masculine in the church – men’s “roles,” authority issues, and more.  He’d come to embrace a certain narrative that goes something like this:  Until recent decades the church was run by men.  Liberalism and feminism contributed to the rise of women, the softening of biblical authority, and the feminization of the church.  Today, the church is more highly populated by women, but men of integrity must show renewed commitment to biblical authority and biblical roles, which will bring men back to church and bring Gospel renewal.  He said to me, “Chuck, what I think the church needs is men without fear, men willing to stand for truth.”

I respectfully disagree with the entire narrative.  In fact, though I respect the sincerity of this opinion, I think it’s been embraced by young men who don’t know much theology or church history, and who are often led by older men who, for whatever reason, actually live in tremendous fear.  Let me explain with an alternative narrative.


One story, however, tells the Grand Story of the Incarnation – Luke 15 – the prodigal son (and as some say, the prodigal ‘father’) passage.  It’s a story about a man who so loves his son that he is willing to look like a woman to save him.  Read that line again.  This isn’t me saying this.  Read the many great books of Kenneth Bailey, a writer I was first exposed to when his text was assigned in seminary at RTS Orlando.  A middle eastern scholar, Bailey lifts the veil, showing that what the father did only a mother in that day would do.  In running to his son, he brought shame to himself.  In exposing his legs, he looked like a woman.  In his display of raw emotion, he’d be cast better as the over-emotional female than the stoic male.  This, I suggest, is God’s character revealed in the Incarnation. [emphasis added]

... Men, I have a challenge for you.  Don’t settle for the silly, cheap, and fearful polarizations created by Christian leaders who use words like authority, feminization, and role in a way that disconnects from the narrative – the Christ narrative.  Don’t buy the accusations of liberal.  Don’t see it as moving away from truth.  Don’t trust the contention that the biblical text isn’t central, for some.  The cruciform narrative, in fact, is far more central, far more important, and far more revealing – particularly of a God who defies all cultural manifestations of god, whether in the form of the ancient near east (ANE) or the ultimate fighting championship (UFC).

Men…pray this…If this is the man I am to become, may I be given the grace to lift my robe and run, like the prodigal father, with vulnerability and without fear, into the brokenness of the world – even as the onlookers jeer.

Long, long extracts from a post I spotted that I decided to post tonight.  I have a pastor at my church to thank for highlighting this linked piece.

Now I've read enough of the comments over at the original post to notice that some men have pointed out there is no necessary contradiction between the prodigal love of the father in Luke 15 and the Jesus who is considered to open up the can of cosmic whoop-ass in Revelation.  Yes, okay, we're aware of this already but in the last ten to fifteen years the guys (and it's been guys, overwhelmingly) who feel that the pussified nation needs to be reminded that Jesus is coming to open a can of whoop-ass (though this will be implied rather than explicitly spelled out because there needs to be some wiggle room for the proverbial can that is being opened to have some other ingredient) are not necessarily retaining a balanced understanding of who God is.

If we're going to see about going "there" and saying it's necessary we should bear in mind the caution that even an advocate of this approach has casually tossed off, that we should not speak so certainly about things that have not happened yet.  The can has not been opened and when Jesus arrived the way He fulfilled the Scriptures was not exactly as people expected or even dreamed of.  That, too, is part of our understanding of who Jesus is and our understanding of God is through Jesus as the foremost revelation of God's person and nature.  That is, after all, why we go by the name "Christian".


P Hardy said...

To be truthful J, I drop by here for the great guitar articles. And as a one-time church youth leader but now an atheist, I find the theology way over my head.
But it is fascinating to see someone engaging with theology in a serious, meaningful way and making it readable for the lay observer.
Even if, as a European, I don't have any clue what Mars Hill is about :)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Thanks for bearing with me on the theology/doctrinal stuff, P. Hardy. I've got more musical writing planned, I just sometimes divert things for long stretches to deal with theology and local church history to flesh out what seem to be gaps in investigative journalism and coverage of certain spiritual communities.

That said I've got some reviews planned for a few CDs of chamber music. I found a CD of music for mandolin and guitar and another CD of music for alto saxophone and guitar. I'm also at a point where I think providing an overview of another CD of music by Rebay. The Tedesco- song cycle recording I got a year ago I haven't felt up to writing about because I can't afford a score to refer to for text-painting.

There's definitely stuff in the works for a Chamber Music 3.

P Hardy said...

"I just sometimes divert things for long stretches to deal with theology and local church history to flesh out what seem to be gaps in investigative journalism and coverage of certain spiritual communities."

Hey, it's your blog. I admire the diligence even if I don't understand it. Write what you choose; you do it well