Maybe you’re been following the saga of Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins. Martin walked away from the team because he was being “bullied” by Incognito, apparently by the use of racial epitaphs and threats of violence. The fascinating thing to me is that there are voices on both sides of this issue–some condemning Incognito and some condemning Martin. Those who condemn Martin say that this is a part of the culture of the NFL and that he should’ve handled this in house. He should’ve stood up to Incognito, and, even if he took a beating, “acted like a man” and gained the respect of the clubhouse.
It’s hard for me to relate to the Martin bashers. Admittedly, I don’t play in the NFL and don’t understand what it takes to withstand the violence of the sport. And, therefore, I just don’t understand the culture.
Maybe. But I know what its like to be bullied. In the 7th grade, I endured weeks of intimidation and abuse from a number of my male classmates. Before and after school were a living hell for me, avoiding beatings and the worst kind of name calling. My blood was in the water and there was a feeding frenzy. I felt deep shame over my inability to successfully fight back and I hid the whole series of incidents from my parents. I can’t express how horrible it was. As a result, I’m taking Jonathan Martin’s side in issues like this no matter the circumstances. Could I have handled is differently or better in 7th grade? Yes. Could Martin have handled this situation better? Maybe. But there’s no reason why anyone ever should have to feel this way.
So, since 7th grade, I’ve been wary of male group-bonding. I’m suspicious of what kind of culture will be produced in a testosterone exclusive environment. It’s too easy for me to equate the kind of chest-thumping, show-no-weaknesses, humor-at-the-expense-of-others, male togetherness rituals with the abuse I endured in 7th grade. They are of the same piece. They smell the same to me.
Is this my problem? Maybe. But the Incognito-Martin incident tends to underline for me the connection. I’ll admit that NFL locker rooms are an extreme instance of all-male culture, but I’ve seen it other places as well, even among preachers. There’s not a bigger bunch of chest-beaters than a room full of preachers.
You can imagine my reaction to the kind of macho, male-centered, brand of Christianity popular in certain circles these days. Driscoll’s famous quip that he couldn’t worship anyone whose ass he could kick isn’t too far from the Dolphins’ locker room.
I have no illusions that this is only a male problem. One of my favorite scenes from Seinfeld is when Jerry and George are explaining to Elaine how giving someone a wedgie is the male way of maintaining a proper pecking order. Elaine is incredulous, having never heard of such barbaric practices. Jerry asks her what the female equivalent to a wedgie might be. “We tease each other into eating disorders,” is her classic response. Estrogen has its own forms of violence.
So, one way to deal with this is to say that God needs men to be men and women to be women and to blow-up certain understandings of masculinity and femininity as God’s design for the family, the church, etc. Men will act like men and women will act like women and that’s the way God wants it.
I see it another way, however. I’ve noticed the difference in meetings when a member of the opposite sex is present. The difference is striking. The humor is different. The way differences are dealt with is different. The level of respectful speech is raised. And I think this is a good thing. And to me this gets at the teaching of both creation and the new creation. Male and female, taken together, are created in the image of God. Not one over another. Not each separate from the other. But both, taken together, represent the image of God. There’s something that happens when we can live into this reality which runs counter to either a male-centered or female-centered culture, that points to the way we were created and also to the coming realities of a new creation.
This perspective neither denies the differences that exist between men and women, nor does it glorify them. Instead, it says we need each other to appropriately bear the image of God in the world.
So, I think a room full of preachers is better when some of them are women.
Maybe our definition of preachers is what needs to change. We live in a church society in which the role “preacher” has been defined and fleshed out, not necessarily informed by Bible teaching and apostolic practice, but by what we inherited from a clergy system only half restored from it’s apostate trappings. Define “preacher” out of early church teaching and practice. To what degree does this word’s usage today represent anything we find in the NT? Is there a word “Preacher” in the NT? Looking for the role of “preacher” in the NT is not easy. Looking for proclamation of the gospel is everywhere and by all kinds of people. One nice thing is that if you are creating artificial roles it is easy to define them as you like, isn’t it?
Good remarks, Tim; except, you already know the word “preacher” does occur in the English NT several times, so why ask? But you’re right about the difference between the biblical sense of the word and the contemporary meaning we typically assign to it.
I really liked a couple of things in this piece Mark. The first, insignificant perhaps, but delightful nonetheless. The serendipitous slip, “Racial epitaphs.” Now, you are either getting us to think by messing with us or it was just a case of misshapen identity. Racial epithets have certainly lead to many an epitaph to be sure! Loved this. The second is the way the second to the last paragraph distills the essence of your entire article in two sentences. “This perspective neither denies the differences that exist between men and women, nor does it glorify them. Instead, it says we need each other to appropriately bear the image of God in the world.” Wow. If I’m not mistaken, I believe those two sentences distill the essence of everything you’ve been writing about this for the past month. That truth nuances/rewrites one of your earlier sentences. “So, the way to deal with this is to say that God needs men to be TRULY GODLY men and women to be TRULY GODLY women.” Because when we ARE being truly godly men and women, all that is different about us brings honor and glory to God and blessing to all our relationships and all that is equal / the same about us brings honor and glory to God and blessing to all our relationships at work, at play, at church, and at home. That in itself would tend to blow up everything that needs blowing up. And of course, I liked THAT sentence about blowing things up because I’m a guy. This, admittedly, may not be one of the more enlightening comments, but I had fun writing it anyway.
Thanks for the post: I’ve never thought about this, but I think you’re right about how the presence of “other” CAN elevate the level of discourse in a meeting.
Of course, it can also be an excuse for more bullying; I once heard a semi-famous fundamentalist preacher give a lecture on the end times (of course.) During the Q&A, a woman in the congregation asked a question. He responded, in front of the entire group, “My dear, you should wait until you get home and ask your husband to explain that to you.”
The sad thing is “My dear” may not have had a husband at home. How simple minded and unchristian can a “man” be to make such a statement. If you do the demographics of almost every congregation you will find that there are more women than men in the pews. Without the women in our congregations very little work of ministry would get done. In the 35 years of ministry I have witnessed women who have been “withdrawn from” for teaching and baptizing other women. Women told to “keep quiet” or leave the room while “men” conducted the business of the church. Men appointed to be the “Deacon” of a ministry so that their wives would do the work, and the list go on and on. I do not find anywhere in the Bible where God the Father or Jesus the Christ had such an attitude toward women, quiet the contrary.
May God help us to recognize each person for their abilities without regard to race or gender.
So we are supposed to have women preachers because mark got his ass kicked in the 7th grade and has male bonding issues?
Nope, Graeme, we should have women preachers because we believe it says something important about the image of God. And I suppose you mentioned my ass-kicking to shame me or belittle me, but I’ve come a ways since the 7th grade. I sense not everyone has.