Adam McHugh – IM Book Thoughts: Jesus Feminist

Dropping the Mic: Reflections on Jesus Feminist
by Adam McHugh

We are shaped by the voices we choose to listen to. I know that everyone is seeking to “find their voice” these days, that unique contribution and perspective each person brings to the world, but sometimes we neglect the communal aspect of the discovery. We don’t lift up a rock one day and find our voice under there. Our voices are formed more than discovered, and the people that we become are, in large part, determined by the voices that we pay attention to.

Churches are also shaped by the voices we choose to listen to. The people that we choose to give authority to have a powerful say in what sort of communities we are and what sort of communities we are becoming. Yes, we affirm that God, the Bible, and the ancient creeds are our authorities, but the truth is that those authorities are almost always mediated to us through human beings. The Scriptures weren’t written in English, after all.

It is unavoidable that churches will be formed in the images of those who lead them and those who are allowed to speak in them. Communities have a way of taking on the personalities of their leaders. Those whose voices are heard the most will have the loudest influence on the character of a community.

Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, makes the pretty airtight case that it has predominately been the masculine voice that has reverberated throughout sanctuaries and church classrooms and theological halls in contemporary Christianity. Though there have been notable and important exceptions, the voices of men have echoed the loudest from our pulpits.

In my endorsement, I wrote this, “Sarah says she doesn’t feel a call to preach, but she speaks with the fire and artistry of a great preacher. Her sermon is one of hope: though the Church has often ignored the voices of women or lumped them into one limiting category, a revolution is coming. Sarah’s voice is prophetic and she will free other women to speak and act with power, love, and courage. And may it be a summons for men in the Church to speak less and listen a lot more.”

I was not just being colorful in talking about Sarah’s preaching. If you have read my book, you know that I believe strongly in diverse leadership and that I want to see a lot more women teaching and preaching and pastoring and leading in our churches. This is an equality and justice issue, absolutely, but it is also a spiritual and community formation issue. Who are the voices that are shaping us? If we only hear the voices of men on Sunday mornings, and in Tuesday night budget meetings, what, and who, are we missing? What are the scriptures that get neglected? What are the images and metaphors for God that are overlooked? How are our church budgets lopsided? What are the gifts and who are the gifted that we are neglecting?

I believe it is high time for us male leaders to drop the mic for a while. We have had our turn to speak and now it is time to listen. If we are truly serious about being “servant leaders,” then we need to acknowledge that the first task of a servant is to listen. If you are not listening, you are not a servant. You can’t talk about an “upside down kingdom” without getting on the floor and looking up.

I do not mean that sort of listening that is simply listening for ammunition to use in our argument, the silent pause before the thunder. I do not mean listening to the warm-up act before I headline the tour. I mean the sort of listening that comes in with an genuine openness to having our minds changed. The sort of listening that says I will listen to you not just once but again and again and again, because you have had to listen to me again and again and again and again. I will lead with my ears. I will risk listening to the pain of others, and I will be open to their pain breaking my heart. I will take up my cross and die to myself so that others may be exalted.

I have no doubt that Sarah’s book will get a wide hearing among women who have felt silenced or relegated to corner ministries in the church, but this post is primarily a call to men. Read Sarah’s book. Especially if you are prone to disagree with her theology, take a small step. If you don’t believe that women should be preaching in church, take a risk and go and hear a female preacher on Sunday morning and listen for the Word of God. Stop talking and listen.

One image of God that Sarah says is neglected by the predominance of the male voice in our communities is God as Mother. If women were preaching every Sunday we would hear a lot less about war and football and a lot more about childbirth. I am convinced that something new is being born in the church, and God’s daughters are waking up to the gifts the Spirit has given them. It is a time for hope. The music of the future is wafting backwards into the present, and I hope the Church is listening.

51 thoughts on “Adam McHugh – IM Book Thoughts: Jesus Feminist

  1. Would it bother you to know that the Holy Spirit is rendered female in Hebrew and neutral in Greek, but never male? English translations don’t translate the pronouns properly. Yet, I wouldn’t say the Holy Spirit is female and God is male, they are Spirit and that is genderless.


  2. Cliches? Really? Try dealing with the text of scripture and some of my ‘cliches’ rather than just dismissing my comment out of hand. Here is your ‘second round.’

    Why has God overwhelmingly referred to Himself using the male gender?

    Why did the second person of the Trinity incarnate as a male? What does this mean for the Church and Christian Spirituality?

    What do you do with Paul’s clear instruction about not allowing women to be Pastors? (Importing parts of Galatians referring to our equality in regards to salvation in Christ earns you no points because it wrenches the Galatians passage out of context and tries to cram it into instructions on the office of the ministry.)

    Why does Paul argue from creation ( rather than culture) in regards to a male only clergy?

    If you are going to discount the Scriptures or go ‘Higher Critical’ at least admit it up front. If not, lets hear your exegesis.


  3. I know what you mean. Most Christian fiction I’ve seen is an embarrassment, at least the stuff that’s allowed in Christian bookstores.


  4. I don’t know, Patrick, you might’ve shoved one or two more cliches in there, if you’d tried a little harder. Maybe give us another round?


  5. I can’t comment on the book itself since I haven’t read it, but I’m completely with you on the rest. Amen and amen.


  6. I think the reason that I’m uncomfortable thinking of God as a “She” is because Jesus – the incarnate God and the totality of God’s self-revelation – was a man.

    I agree that talking about gender roles can get really ridiculous, and I’m not a macho man (I kind of like football, but I have no interest in fighting and I hate actually playing sports), but I think the only way that we can debate about issues like God being female is if we think of God as a construct of our own minds, upon whom we can project whatever attributes we desire, rather than as the God who has revealed Himself for all time in the person of Christ.


  7. Thanks for the recommend, Ted. I’m not much into Christian fiction, so I’m probably going to pass, though.


  8. “One image of God that Sarah says is neglected by the predominance of the male voice in our communities is God as Mother. If women were preaching every Sunday we would hear a lot less about war and football and a lot more about childbirth. I am convinced that something new is being born in the church, and God’s daughters are waking up to the gifts the Spirit has given them”

    God has not shown Himself as Mother or female in the Scriptures. Jesus was male. The Scriptures forbid females in the Pastorate. In creation female is derivative of male. This book seems ( in this review) like an attempt by the author to mold God in her image. I would have a lot more respect for the author and her ilk if they just dispensed with any pretense of the authority of Scripture and said so. Her take on Church and Ministry places it squarely in the center of the cultural Marxist paradigm of power and the struggle for power, and reflects our culture’s increasing desire to will men to be other than they are.


  9. Dana,
    I think we like the “triumphant glory” part for obvious reasons. The difficulty arises in our reluctance to truly embrace the blood sacrifice that we must pass through to get there. Oh yes we talk a good game, but when it gets right down to it we tend to diminish the cross as the “warm-up band” while we wait for the main act.

    There is a reason we are told to pick up our cross. It’s not just about the burden. For if it was He could have just as easily told us to pick up a sack of potatoes or a stack of bricks so we could simply just “carry our load.” But he told us to pick up our cross. And a cross has an end game – our death. And we don’t like nor want that part. Hence our focus on the triumphant glory. But death precedes the glory and where’s the fun in that?

    So we live in cheap grace because it’s easier. But there is a consequence.


  10. Rick, I was writing a novel back then too, now dead, but I was thinking the same thing. And I would have gone with three (3) re-writes.


  11. I have a comment stuck in moderation. Must be the reference to Che Guevara. Oh yeah, he’s in South America, right there with the pin-up girls and the Virgin Mary. Not entirely sure if there’s a connection.


  12. I thought The Shack’s theology was pretty good, liked the portrayal of the God and Spirit. I thought the story AROUND the theology was really weak, especially the writing. As you say, Ted, it needed a serious re-write, or two, or three. I’m trying to write my own novel, and all I could think as I read The Shack was:

    1) I hope my writing isn’t this bad;
    2) If Young had just given me a month with one of his drafts, I could’ve improved it 1000%!


  13. It was useful to me. I didn’t hear any buildup beforehand, only after-the-fact rantings against it, notably from Mark Driscoll, and that made me want to read it all the more. The biggest disappointment was the poor writing quality, but I managed to get beyond that.


  14. Just asking. Somebody else brought this up and I was curious.

    Not only in shops and buses, but I’ve seen a nude calendar in the administrator’s office of a government hospital in Ecuador. The female office workers, in their high heels and lipstick, didn’t seem to be too shook up about it.

    In a different hospital administrator’s office, also in Ecuador, there was a framed portrait of Che Guevara. It’s a fun country.


  15. flatrocker,

    I do think that “cheap grace” is indeed prevalent in NA, but not because there’s too much Resurrection. Resurrection is usually seen as a big miracle that shows God’s validation of the sacrifice of the Cross; the balance is very skewed toward the Cross. Almost nowhere in western Christianity is the R. seen as the defeat of death. Sin is seen as THE issue, and the cheap grace that abounds is the result of reducing faith to praying a certain prayer in a certain way so one can “go to haven” after one dies. However, John the Baptizer announced a baptism of repentance, and that seemed to be good enough in anticipation of Christ. Joseph, Zachariah & Elizabeth, Simeon in the temple, and others in scripture were described as “righteous.” There are plenty of places in the psalms that say that the Lord already forgives, especially when we tell the truth about our sin. God’s hands have never been tied, either by our sin or his own holiness.

    No – though sin is important, because all sin is relational and a diminishment of love, the big issue is ultimately death; since we have turned from the source of life, death and corruption are all that awaits us, unless the Creator does something about it. It is fear of death that keeps us enslaved to sin, Heb 2.14-15. If the sting of death is removed, the way out of slavery is opened, especially since God’s forgiveness and mercy are on display on the cross. God doesn’t need to punish anyone. That’s one particular interpretation of the meaning of salvation; and there are other ways of looking at it…

    You’re right, we can’t divide the indivisible; but it seems to me that the Resurrection is a noodge higher than anything else in the Christ Event – though all of it is important – because that’s the final tumbler that unlocks the fetters and sets us truly free.



  16. And I love feminine women. Masculine women scare me. Femininity in men doesn’t bother me so much. Is it even legal to say this kind of stuff?


  17. I just thought it was severely over-rated. Perhaps the insane buildup it received prevented me from enjoying it a whole lot ’cause the expectations were too high. I dunno, I just wasn’t all that incredibly moved by it.


  18. Yup. I’m with you. I think we just all need to treat one another as human beings and we won’t have to play these silly games of intra-tribal warfare. My wife and I to this day have not once discussed “gender roles” beyond “hey, honey, look what they’re arguing about on the internet!” Then we both just chuckle and roll our eyes. We don’t relate to one another on the basis of pre-determined roles. “Love one another” is enough instruction to keep us busy for a while.


  19. Ted, you are always out of line, period. 😛
    Hispanic culture tends to be a lot more traditional, it is still their job to stay home and raise the kids, and to cook in the kitchen. The culture still seems to have a much higher tolerance for chauvinism. That could explain the shameless display of the pinup, but I’m with Dana – the Mary stuff is strictly religious.


  20. The more I read and ponder on this post the more troubling it becomes. What seems to be proposed here is that the content of a message is of less importance than who the messenger is. This may be one of our fundamental issues with modern discourse. We simply obscure and diminish the message in favor of the message giver. In essence we elevate the “who” over the “what.” Our allegiance to who is speaking lets us off the hook to deeply examine the implications what is being said.



  21. Uh-oh. Umi, you might want to read The Shack (No! Not The Shack! Anything but The Shack!).

    The author, William P Young, portrays the Trinity like this: a large, vocal, African-American woman (called “Papa”, strangely enough) for the Father; a frail Asian woman for the Spirit; and a middle-eastern man for the Son.

    Lots of room there to offend somebody, and the book certainly did that. My only problem with it is the poor literary style. Needed a serious re-write, but as a story it’s worth a read and challenges how we look at God.


  22. Damaris,
    I think the Pope was peeking in our our blog this morning 🙂
    This is a report from Vatican Radio on his homily from today’s Mass:

    Only silence guards the mystery of the journey that a person walks with God, said Pope Francis in his homily at Mass on Friday morning at the Casa Santa Marta. May the Lord, the Pope added, give us “the grace to love the silence”, which needs to be guarded from all publicity.

    In the history of salvation, neither in the clamour nor in the blatant, but the shadows and the silence are the places in which God chose to reveal himself to humankind.

    The imperceptible reality from which his mystery, from time to time, took visible form, took flesh. The Pope’s reflections were inspired by the Annunciation, which was today’s Gospel reading, in particular the passage in which the angel tells Mary that the power of the Most High would “overshadow” her. The shadow, which has almost the same quality as the cloud, with which God protected the Jews in the desert, the Pope said.

    “The Lord always took care of the mystery and hid the mystery. He did not publicize the mystery. A mystery that publicizes itself is not Christian; it is not the mystery of God: it is a fake mystery! And this is what happened to Our Lady, when she received her Son: the mystery of her virginal motherhood is hidden. It is hidden her whole life! And she knew it. This shadow of God in our lives helps us to discover our own mystery: the mystery of our encounter with the Lord, our mystery of our life’s journey with the Lord.”

    “Each of us,” affirmed the Pope, “knows how mysteriously the Lord works in our hearts, in our souls.” And what is “the cloud, the power, the way the Holy Spirit covers our mystery?”

    “This cloud in us, in our lives is called silence: the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guarding the mystery with silence! That is the cloud, that is the power of God for us, that is the strength of the Holy Spirit.”

    The Mother of Jesus was the perfect icon of silence. From the proclamation of her exceptional maternity at Calvary. The Pope said he thinks about “how many times she remained quiet and how many times she did not say that which she felt in order to guard the mystery of her relationship with her Son,” up until the most raw silence “at the foot of the cross”.

    “The Gospel does not tell us anything: if she spoke a word or not… She was silent, but in her heart, how many things told the Lord! ‘You, that day, this and the other that we read, you had told me that he would be great, you had told me that you would have given him the throne of David, his forefather, that he would have reigned forever and now I see him there!’ Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’ John Paul II would say this, speaking about Our Lady in that moment. But she, with her silence, hid the mystery that she did not understand and with this silence allowed for this mystery to grow and blossom in hope.”

    “Silence is that which guards the mystery,” for which the mystery “of our relationship with God, of our journey, of our salvation cannot be… publicized,” the Pope repeated.

    “May the Lord give all of us the grace to love the silence, to seek him and to have a heart that is guarded by the cloud of silence,” he said.


  23. FranH, I haven’t read anything from Sister Joan for a while, but I found her to be a voice of sanity during the 2003 Iraq war, while the rest of this country was mad with power. Her column in National Catholic Reporter online was a breath of fresh air, as I hadn’t found any place to go within evangelicalism in those dark days. Still haven’t.


  24. The videos I’ve seen are trying to promote accountability among men, “obedience” to something or other, presumably Christ or the bible, but too often seem works-righteousness. The intent is probably OK, or maybe they’re just trying to sell books and videos and like to hear themselves talk.

    The manly-man nature of it is often comical, as you’ve said. Not quite “Me Tarzan, you Jane” (they wouldn’t dare), but pretty close. Military imagery (which I have low tolerance for), sports imagery (which is OK up to a point), and wearin’ plaid checkered shirts while ridin’ horseback or drivin’ pick-up truu-ucks.


  25. Dana,
    The severing of the cross from the resurrection probably cuts both ways.

    In South America, too much cross and not enough resurrection – so much suffering for so many
    In North America, too much resurrection and not enough cross – so much cheap grace for so many.

    Your point is well made, how can we divide what is indivisable?


  26. I’ll insert my opinion while the others are contemplating their answers…

    Having been raised Catholic, I think the helpless baby/crucified one in Mary’s arms doesn’t have as much to do with “feminization of the church” as it does with idealization of Mary, and a focus on the sufferings of Christ rather than his defeat of death. I think it’s an outcome of point of view that severs the Cross from the Resurrection. It could surely speak to the sufferings of so many (perhaps the majority?) of people in S. America.

    Forgive my ignorance.



  27. Thank you, but I’m well aware that the RC considers her very liberal in her views. But isn’t this is what the “Jesus Feminist” & others like it are getting at? Who are the ones with the voice/power in leadership to say this, to label her as such? She has fought tirelessly her entire religious career for the voiceless of which women make up the greatest percentage. I’m not saying that I agree with everything she says, but I respect her views on the place of women in the church. There’s no harm in listening & contemplating her perspective.

    By the way, Jesus was considered a dissenter by Jewish officials, was he not?


  28. I don’t know if this aligns with anything truly theological, but I’ve always seen the image of the Trinity as encompassing the Masculine, the Feminine, and the Union: Father – masculine, hard, logic and judgment; Spirit – feminine, mysterious, comforting; Son: the union of the Godhead with humanity.

    Maybe I just don’t think about this kind of stuff, but it’s not from GOD and the use of the “HE” pronoun where I have felt somehow less because of my gender in church. But I also don’t have problem with some areas of the church being reserved for men, and others for women.

    Perhaps this stems from the inherent selfishness found in the emphasis on only personal salvation and forgetting that as the Body of Christ, we should be concerned with each other as much as ourselves. I dunno.


  29. I read an interesting article by Camille Paglia – one of the originals in the feminist movement and now self proclaimed liberatarian. In a nutshell she basically states that modern feminism is looking to shut down men entirely, and in her words that is a wrong direction to go in as ‘men are here to stay’. Googe and I am sure you will find (also an interesting opinion on the Duck Dynasty outrage by the press)…


  30. A woman a few years older than me who I won’t name here (and a friend of mine) with two grown young men just posted this on my Facebook page – just to prove I’m not the only person out here who feels as if shutting men up is the solution to the problem your friend addresses Adam in her book… “Feminism is no longer interested in masculating women, they want to feminize men. And worse than that, they HATE men. They want women to act like the men they hate and reward them. They want men to act like little girls to control them. This is how twisted feminism has become. I love manly men. I gave birth to two of them.”


  31. Fran,

    From a Catholic Church perspective Sr. Joan is radical left wing, and is at odds with Catholic teaching on a variety of subjects (she is known as a dissenter). She is not allowed to teach in my diocese (we are close in proximity). So her opinions are just that, opinions and not at al sanctioned by the Church.


  32. One glaring problem I see here: There’s not enough of us sharing he gospel as it is – male or female – so, we will sacrifice the gospel of grace going forth so that we can level the playing field or right this wrong? We need to have all “males” put down the microphone, in other words, God may have called you to preach the gospel but you need to lay off right now because this very important book has come out. Well, no disrespect to the book, but I don’t think the answer here (or anywhere quite frankly) is to ask males to be quiet, certainly not those called to preach the gospel – be it from a pulpit, in a jail house, at the barber shop or on the factory floor. To battle one extreme with another really isn’t a solution, it’s just another problem – or compounding it. There’s plenty of room today for women to speak the good news of Jesus, plenty. I don’t think we need to silence the men called to do so. As a father of two young women in their early twenties I have no issue with women being given the same exact opportunities and platforms as men are given, but I think what you propose here Adam, one, it isn’t going to happen next week (or the way you propose, I don’t see all the men with microphones setting them down, nor do I think they should), and two, I think this sort of approach is both over-reactionary and counter-productive. Men called to preach should listen, but that doesn’t mean they must stop preaching in order to listen, they can do both believe it or not (despite the fact men are largely portrayed as brainless buffoons and/or as spineless sissies in our culture today). Many of the women I know would like to see men be more assertive when it comes to the microphone, or for that matter sharing Jesus with uncle Billy at Thanksgiving dinner. As men we’ve largely abdicated our role to serve others (which you rightly admonish us to do here Adam) – which in part – like it or not, as followers of Jesus – is sharing the good news of Jesus with others (which does require words, see the New Testament if in question and Paul’s admonitions in particular – with or without a microphone). In closing, there might be gender wars out in the culture, but this ought not be in the church. We might begin anew by pressing a reset button on this whole gender issue and find that we can respect one another as men and women instead of craftily undermining one another – for there is neither male or female in Christ.


  33. What a great comment, thank you. Pretty sad to discover that 99 per cent of human debates is not about what the cover story says, it’s s really all about the same thing: power. If an endlessly valuable human is degraded, reduced to a tool, well, you can’t make an omelette without….


  34. Perhaps this is an issue that is meeting its time, spiraling back again hopefully with new & deeper understanding. Just a week ago I read an article by Benedictine nun, Sr. Joan Chittester, on the same subject. She highlights how we need to expand our definition of feminism, that we don’t need a theology of women (as Pope Francis stated) but simply to take God’s creation seriously. While you may think that a Roman Catholic nun would feel the sting of gender inequality most prominently, it is everywhere, even mainline Protestant churches that have ordained women for years.

    How many of us are actually comfortable imagining God as She? Let’s start there. How & why were male & female created if God is not equally both? My experience with most of the Lutheran pastors I’ve met (male) is that none have truly spent time contemplating/imagining this. Hence the overabundance of football/baseball/male-oriented stories with an occasional reference to God as mother hen. Having said all this, perhaps the most beautiful metaphor for the Holy Spirit I’ve heard was told by a Franciscan priest some years ago. He said he thought of the Holy Spirit as a pregnant woman full of new life, ready to give birth. I was moved by the imagery but also by the realization of how few images of God as woman I had ever heard. The Church, all churches, need to do more to give equal voice to those who make up more than half of their congregations.


  35. The more I read and ponder on this post the more troubling it becomes. What seems to be proposed here is that the content of a message is of less importance than who the messenger is. This may be one of our fundamental issues with modern discourse. We simply obscure and diminish the message in favor of the message giver. In essence we elevate the “who” over the “what.” Our allegiance to who is speaking lets us off the hook to deeply examine the implications what is being said.

    If we follow the proposal of this post, then it’s time for NT Wright and Pope Francis (and Chaplain Mike and Jeff Dunn for that matter) to just shut up and let other voices have their say. Thank God Billy Graham finally has the good sense to just stay in his wheelchair and hang out at the cabin. Is this what we want?

    Or maybe….
    How about for every Mark Driscoll, we pray we have ten or twenty Mother Teresa’s.
    Or for every Joyce Meyer we pray we have ten or twenty Ravi Zacharias’s.
    And for the rest of us we pray to discern the difference between a message and a messenger.

    Shew – I feel so much better.


  36. Ted,

    We even have some of these “Men Only” programs over here on the Catholic side. Last year I got sucked into one of these thinking it was some spiritual growth thing. When it turned out to be some shallow culture war, typical me man you women schlock I was out of there (the sabre rattling was comical and I was wondering who plagerized some applied Bible program from a non-denom group and threw Mary into the mix to make it sound Catholic). Anyway – this conservative just has no time for man/woman wars when it comes to spirituality. Now when it comes to other things I know there are probably a few women I can beat at arm wrestling while chewing on a newly shot deer… hoo-ra (ok – joking)…..


  37. “If we’re really into silencing voices, maybe it’s time we silence all our voices and listen for something much more profound than the next round of our own misplaced brilliance.” Yes x 100.


  38. I found the first three paragraphs most interesting as we are going through a leadership change at our church. This is something I had thought about before and am interested in how it works out. The outgoing pastor is very much an extrovert and rah-rah type, always trying to get everyone wound up and ‘purposeful’, many sermons stray close to performances. The incoming pastor is very different and quite calmer. Will be interesting.


  39. I don’t know anything about anything over here, but I’m sick of the gender wars. I’m sick of the ‘rights’ wars. I’m sick of constant conflict everywhere, of conspiracies under every rock. I’m sick of hearing about being a ‘helpmeet’ and I’m sick of hearing about the patriarchy. That said, I probably won’t read this book. ::hides under the bed::


  40. Interesting that Pope Francis has recently promoted breastfeeding, even in public. Maybe there will be more sermons about childbirth after all.

    HUG, I’ve noticed in RC churches in South America that the imagery surrounding Christ follows two patterns: The helpless baby Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary; or the dead, helpless Jesus hanging on the cross. The image of Christ Jesus as a triumphant king, as in the statues over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil or Cochabamba, Bolivia, is rare. Does this speak to the feminization of the Church?

    Another quirk about South America, probably unrelated, but while we’re talking of women and Mary: it’s common to see a nude pin-up of a woman in a shop or on a bus, and it’s common also to see a shrine or painting of the Virgin Mary. Sometimes in the same shop or bus. It’s been mentioned that the Latino tends to look at a woman (either) as a virgin (or) as a whore.

    Miguel? Am I way out of line here?


  41. Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, makes the pretty airtight case that it has predominately been the masculine voice that has reverberated throughout sanctuaries and church classrooms and theological halls in contemporary Christianity. Though there have been notable and important exceptions, the voices of men have echoed the loudest from our pulpits.

    From the pulpits of some churches, like mine for example. I’m in a conservative American Baptist Church and it’s controversial here to have a woman preach. Although it has been done, it’s usually in the guise of a woman missionary who has come to tell us about her work in Thailand, or in Chile, and although she may take the place of the pastor’s sermon it is not called a sermon.

    We have a recent men’s ministry at our church (which I support in theory) that has held Sunday classes for men and teenage boys for several months. This also includes monthly men’s breakfasts, some of which are followed by outreach projects to do chores for those who need help around the house and grounds. All of this is good, mostly, and I qualify this only by noticing…

    The over-masculinization of some facets of it. I have on my desk in front of me the notes I took from a video (all of the Sunday classes are video, starting with the “Stepping Up” series last winter). The one here is from “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge, last July, and it was at that point that I stopped going to classes and went hiking during that hour for the rest of the summer.

    It was like a long Marlboro commercial without the smokes. To paraphrase Revelation, “If only there were cigarettes! Because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth!”

    But I digress. There was lots of horseback riding, no particular destination; a “masculine journey”; movies of “glory” that included blowing up a ship (Midway, with Charlton Heston) and talk of sacrificing one’s life & becoming a hero (Braveheart, Gladiator); playing war as a boy. Eldredge glorifies the desire for “a battle to fight” and “a beauty to rescue”. “God gave us a masculine heart.” “That’s the journey I’m on.” “God created Adam outside of Eden.” “Men don’t have nesting instinct—man was born in the outback.” “We know that we’re made for battle, adventure and beauty.” Made for “that which is unpredictable.” “Wild, unfettered, brave and free.” “Desire of the masculine heart: what do you want?” “I want to live purposefully; I want to live aggressively.”

    And, of course, a bible verse to back up this B.S.: “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

    And yada-yada-yada.

    One of my best friends is the leader of the men’s ministry. I know him and trust him entirely, and I had a conversation with him about this two weeks ago after the men’s class. We had a half-hour before the worship service and missed coffee hour, but we talked it out. I told him about my concern that the videos were overly macho, too much military imagery, and way too works-oriented. I hear the term “obedience” thrown around, but obedience to what? Jesus gets tacked on as an afterthought. Hardly any grace.

    My friend said that in his experience men don’t show enough obedience, enough discipline, and that the church (not necessarily First Baptist) is overly feminized. Look at the congregation. Look at who is running programs and boards. It’s the women, because men have opted out, stayed home (and he chided me a bit for hiking through the late summer and fall instead of coming to class). He recommended a book by David Murrow entitled Why Men Hate Going to Church. I googled the book, and I see my friend’s argument.

    However, the masculinization of the church, if it follows the lead of some of these utterly bozo and banal videos, or the form of Nietzsche’s Will to Power (“The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!”), or of a works-oriented “other gospel”, I say count me out. Maybe the women have the right idea and we should listen to them after all.

    Did I mention that Mark Driscoll’s head would pop up occasionally in the Stepping Up series? Just enough to letcha know who was in charge, although subliminally.

    So, is it the women? or the men? who really call the shots in our churches? According to Sarah Bessey it’s the men; according to David Murrow it’s the women. If Murrow is right, should men “take back” our churches? Maybe. But the videos I’ve been watching show a poor way to go about it.


  42. > “I believe it is high time for us male leaders to drop the mic for a while. We have had our turn to speak and now it is time to listen.”

    Isn’t it interesting how when we discover an issue so heavily biased in one direction, that the solution is to heavily bias it in the other direction as if this will in some way “even the score.” So that “on the average” it somehow nets out balanced. And we feel so much more self satisfied for our accomplishment.

    If we’re really into silencing voices, maybe it’s time we silence all our voices and listen for something much more profound than the next round of our own misplaced brilliance.

    Kind of what Advent is supposed to be.


  43. One image of God that Sarah says is neglected by the predominance of the male voice in our communities is God as Mother. If women were preaching every Sunday we would hear a lot less about war and football and a lot more about childbirth.

    Seems to me that the RCC emphasis on St Mary originated to address this very issue.


  44. Since the preaching aspect is not the dominant portion in my faith tradition this does not really resonate with me. My wife leads a weekly spirtual contemplative group and she does a wonderful job with lots of good things to say. But in the liturgy of the Mass I don’t think it lends itself for difference between male and female. I see out their in the denomination world that the mainlines already have women as preachers so I am assuming this particular piece is focusing on Baptist traditions or the non-denomintational churchs where the rules are left up to the pastor.

    I have been lucky I guess… don’t hear much about football or culture war stuff on Sunday (except for the weekly – Go Steelers – but hey .. I live in the Burgh), mostly what I hear pertains directly to the three readings and the psalms without getting into Bible application or personal opinion. In my opinion masculine voice is not a bad thing, contrary to today’s view of men. But I also value the spiritual element of women, who speak more from the heart than the head (and I could use that) but I prefer that in above mentioned spiritual formation groups instead.


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