This tweet caught my eye recently:
another response to a critique of "biblical manhood." how does Elijah fit the "biblical manhood" ideal? all this dude did was chill with birds pic.twitter.com/X1bl6PaztI
— Socially-Distanced Universal Friend (@GrumpyTheology) September 14, 2020
The whole thread is interesting:
Also, Samson is an…interesting choice for “biblical manhood.” easily manipulated by women. so insecure about his masculinity he flew into murderous rages. his story ends on the depressing note that he did more for the world by dying than he ever did while he was alive.
David: too scrawny to fit into armor. played the harp. bisexual disaster.
Moses: had very little to no chill for a chunk of his life (killed a guy & went into exile for 40 yrs, didn’t want to be Hebrew liberation leader, broke Ten Commandments Stone Edition b/c golden calf, beat up rock instead of talking to it b/c impatience, …)
Elijah – really good in the kitchen (everlasting oil & flour) not so brave when it comes to queens (runs away from Jezebel)
Another thing about David—he danced, and publicly. And maybe not decently, because his dancing upset his on-again, off-agin wife, Michal. Actually, that story is possibly worth repeating:
2 Samuel 6: 16-23
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. [Then they bring the ark into a tent, and make offerings, and distribute food, and send the people home.]
And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”
And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
Well that’ll show her.
So, there’s some “biblical manhood” for you right there.
Remember, masculinity has been constructed in different ways in different societies at different times. It’s not a constant. It is a construct. At one time, this was considered manly:
Evangelicals like to talk about “biblical manhood.” They talk about it a lot. What’s less clear is what “biblical manhood” actually is—or how it’s actually biblical.
Let’s look at an example of evangelical’s discussion of “biblical manhood”: 5 Themes of Biblical Manhood, by Dennis Rainey. Rainey picks and chooses verses from all over the Bible, and in some cases does not even use any verse at all to support his claims. “Biblical manhood,” to many evangelicals, means not what men actually did in the Bible (a la David), but rather a cobbling together of various Bible verses to create something that looks less like a biblical ideal than it does like an ossification of 1950s white suburbia.
Let me give you an example. Here is the third of Rainey’s five themes of biblical manhood:
3. A man protects his family. To borrow an illustration from John Piper and Wayne Grudem on the essence of masculinity: When you are lying in bed with your wife, and you hear the sound of a window being opened in your kitchen at 3 a.m., do you shake her awake and say, “The last time this occurred, I was the one who took our baseball bat and investigated to see if someone was breaking into our house. Now it’s your turn, Sweetheart. Here’s the bat!”? No! But being a protector calls for more than ensuring physical safety. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character, and teaching him to reject the lies and temptations of the world. This father protects not only his son but the generations to follow as the wisdom he shares gets passed on.
Say what? The Bible never addresses 3am break-ins or baseball bats, and Rainey can’t even find a verse that at all makes his point. Instead, the closest he can find is a passage in Proverbs that talks about a man teaching his sons. That d0es not at all back up Rainey’s claim that protecting one’s family, a la a baseball bat in the middle of the night, is a theme of biblical manhood.
Jael put a tent peg through Sisera’s head. Lot offered sexual use of his daughters to a mob. The Bible is full of complicated characters acting in a variety of different ways.
Let’s look at another of Rainey’s themes of “biblical manhood”:
2. A man provides for his family. First Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are strident words.
They may be strident, but they are also gender neutral. This passage does not have personal pronouns in the Greek! Anyone who does not provide for their household is condemned, but you know what? Some women had households (Lydia, anyone?), and not every man had a household (Onesimus, anyone?)!
Rainey goes in:
When a man doesn’t work and provide for his family, he feels a sense of shame. His self-worth sinks. A man who doesn’t work, who can’t keep a job, who moves from job to job, or who refuses to assume his responsibility creates insecurity in his wife and children.
This does not come from the Bible. I mean good grief, the Proverbs 31 woman provides for her household, buying and selling and shipping and purchasing, while her husband sits at the gate with the elders.
Yep. That’s right. “Biblical manhood” is simply an ossification of white 1950s suburban ideas of manhood, with the term “biblical” stuck on the front for absolutely no reason. Period and full stop.
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