How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind
Yesterday I posted a picture on FaceBook of an ex NFL player, Jay Feely, holding a gun standing between his daughter and her date going to Prom. I was upset by this picture for several reasons, as were many others, because this picture said so much about what is wrong in society. I knew the picture was a joke, but this joke was so inappropriate in light of gun violence. It is also inappropriate because it shows how we as a society are treating our boys and girls. Living in Texas it is so hard to see the harm because it is the air we breathe here. We have a traditional view on masculinity that is harming all of us. I am going to recommend some books at the end of this post to help those who want to know more regarding this subject. I talked to my husband and he said even he would have missed the underlying problems with the picture had he not already been on heightened awareness of gun violence. My husband is a High School teacher. He is very aware of children who are dying in schools because of guns and are now robbed of the chance to go to Prom.
There is a lot to discuss so I am going to have to make this a 4 part series: 1) Gender Roles 2) Purity Culture – Church’s unhealthy posture towards sex and sexuality 3) Guns 4) White Supremacy. The church’s role encompasses all of these. I may think of more tomorrow to add, but this is what I have outlined tonight.
My first thought as a mother when I saw the picture was – if that father had done that to my son he would have Hell to pay. This momma doesn’t laugh at threatening jokes- truth is always carried in a joke. He would be thankful I subscribe to a theology of nonviolence. Here is what I wrote on FaceBook:
As a mother of a girl – I do worry about her safety with men. The #MeToo#ChurchToo gives me hope a better day is coming for her. Not to send us back to the Billy Graham rule though! – but to a place that men and women can truly function as partners, using wisdom how they meet and talk. It can be done—I know for a fact because it is already happening.
But this bothers me as a mother of a boy! I don’t care if this is a joke. I hate these jokes. You don’t have a right to threaten my son with a gun even as a joke. He will be raised to treat everyone with respect.
We can do better than this. Drop the narrative that “Boys will be boys” and give a new narrative “Boys will be good humans”.
I received several responses from well meaning christians who did not see the problem as I did. These are friends I do life with, and I want to respond in a more thorough way why it is problematic. What they saw was a father who loved his daughter and making a funny joke. (But all were aware and cared deeply about gun violence and the insensitivity to that). I want to talk about the first problem I see, the problem with gender roles.
There has been a lot of movement for women as of late in regards to the massive injustice we have experienced: sexual assault (in churches too), inequality in pay, women also bear the brunt of gun violence- 50 women shot to death every month by their partner according to EveryTown research, we are also still fighting for our place at the table in church leadership (I am at a church that fully affirms women and it is a game changer). Jimmy Carter said the worst human rights violations has been against women. Look worldwide and it will break your heart. Women of Color in the USA also have an unconscionable story. White Supremacy is trying to get us to ignore these stories with distractions.
Now let us talk about our boys. Gender Roles are harmful and I am going to list reasons why
- We are limiting the Spirit by telling people who they have to be and what they have to do. The Spirit will not play by our rules.
- Our definition of masculinity is toxic. That picture was the prime example of Toxic Masculinity – women are property and boys obviously cannot control themselves so we have to threaten them to behave. I know this is a joke and the boy probably thought it was great b/c he is now a part of the system. (We don’t even consider the psychological effects this is having on our boys in society). No one said anything about the love for the boy – the focus was on the girl.
- We teach boys not to feel. Feelings are considered feminine and our society does not value feminine characteristics. Many people brag when their girls are Tom Boys (what a weird name for a girl who defies our norm) and not girly girls. Americans idea of feminine is weak – we like Strong. But if someone is going to be weak, we allow girls to be weak, boys cannot be weak. Boys really are not as free as girls in our society, hence the mass shootings that continue to happen daily by mostly white men! (I will discuss that further in White Supremacy)
- Boys are more likely to be spanked than girls according to Carol Howard Merritt author of “Healing Spiritual Wounds”.
- Wounded people wound people. Our women suffer largely because our men are lonely, depressed and not free to be who they are (especially if who they are defies the norm of manhood).
- Head of the Household is a big task to put on one person. It is also not theological. A partnership would be a much healthier model. Also Single family households are of great value too. If we tell women they can’t lead then what about single women? This model puts a lot of pressure on men who think they have to own the narrative. Jake had no interest in being the Spiritual head of our house. Not because he doesn’t love Jesus – he was just calling BS and I am glad he did even though it scared me early on. Oh Church! When can we be free?! Jake and I are team Jake and Lindsay. Wherever we feel the strongest is where we lead. It is a wonderful partnership we have that allows us to follow the Spirit without our human boundaries. The Spirit produces good fruit. If we see something we are doing producing bad fruit we repent (rethink) and try a different way.
I could go on all night about how we harm people giving them a narrative that may not be their God given narrative. We get to tell our own stories and live our own life, but we also lay down our life for others. When you know you are God’s beloved, you will not leave those who don’t know or who are being harmed. Power and principality takes people over and they become blind. My greatest lament with White American Church is not our differences of opinion, but the posture of arrogance we have taken because of our desire to keep power.
Ironically, when I wrote about my lament about this picture – Richard Rohr’s daily mediations this weak are discussing Gender. He said we need to reclaim Women’s Wisdom. Cynthia Bourgeault, who works with Rohr, has done extensive study on Mary Magdalene. Mary is the first to see the Risen Christ and may have been a closer friend and follower to Jesus than his 12 male disciples. “To reclaim Mary Magdalene is to reclaim Christianity. Without her, our understanding of what Jesus really taught is incomplete. In fact, it is significantly distorted.” –Rohr
We need to remember the writers of the Bible were living in Patriarchal times, and those who chose what was allowed in the cannon are men as well. But even with those hindrances there are still enough examples of women in the Bible we read to know women were leaders and valued. Isn’t it interesting Mary Magdalene, who announced Christ’s resurrection is not included among the apostles names, but Paul who was not at the Last Supper and never met Jesus in his earthly life was? That is a significant point we should contemplate and wrestle with.
Books I recommend:
Man Enough by Nate Pyle
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Drop the Stones by Carlos Rodriguez