the green fields beyond


Location: Charles City, Virginia, United States

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jesus the Girly Man

A few recent books and articles have claimed that men aren't coming to church anymore, because church has become too "feminized" or "impotent." These writers claim that contemporary churches sing too many soft, romantic, "feminine," Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs that real manly men can't stand. Now, leaving aside the strange, one-dimensional views of masculinity and femininity that such remarks betray, and leaving aside their disturbing implication that having lots of women in your church is a problem (would they say the same if mostly men were coming?), let's take a quick look at the lyrical evidence. A quick glance through scripture and hymnic history shows that men can write wonderfully soft, intimate, tender lyrics about Jesus, while women can write blood-and-thunder, revolution-starting songs too.

Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to the LORD;
I will praise the LORD, the God of Israel, in song.
Deborah, Judges 5:3,9

Show me the wonders of your great love...
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings...
David, Psalm 17:7-8

He (God) has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.
Mary, Luke 1

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Julia Ward Howe, "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Charles Wesley, "Jesus, Lover of my soul"

Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall
and thought of me
Above all
Michael W. Smith, "Above All"

(thanks to Dorcas George for steering me to some of these examples).

Now, I too am suspicious of self-centered, romantic songs about Jesus, but our worship does need to be both "masculine" and "feminine." Jesus is the New Humanity. He's the prototype of what God wants all humans to be, and if we put our trust in him we are launched, by his Spirit, into a process of being transformed into individual versions of him. Read the gospels; see Jesus stretch and break our modern notions of womanliness and manliness. He's tough AND tender, nurturing AND brave, and he calls us all to imitate him. So can we please cut the crap about "the church impotent" and getting "wild at heart" through imitating Aragorn or William Wallace or whoever, and get back to the real adventure of following the Lion who was a Lamb for us?

Read more!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

For all the saints, who from their labors rest...

Last night we lost a wonderful teacher and mentor, Al Groves. Mel says it better than I can.

The blog kept by Al and his family during this whole process has been an amazing example of how to endure suffering while still holding on to the robust hope that, since Jesus' resurrection, "death itself has begun to work backwards." We'll see Al again one day, whole and free from pain. But until then, we're going to miss him terribly.

Read more!