Race, Sex, and the Generation Gap

Challenges That Can't Be Avoided

I suppose there have always been generation gaps. I recall an incident that took place in a class with Dr. Morton Smith. In those days I was among the last of what used to be the "traditional" seminary student, men who graduated from college and went directly to seminary. You went to college for four years and graduated at 21. You went to seminary for three years and were ordained at 24. 

But there were also "older men." Some of them were students, who had careers in business, but now were called to the ministry and enrolled in the Master of Divinity program. One day, as we were walking back from chapel (in those days held at the old Westminster Church on Clinton Blvd.), one of the older students made a disapproving remark to another "oldster" about some of us who were not wearing socks. Having grown up in the beach town of Pensacola, FL, it never occurred to me that there was anything improper about going sockless. You wore blue or dirty white tennis shoes without socks to school or for more formal occasions weejuns without socks.

But back to Dr. Smith. The incident I am recalling involved some older local men who were not Reformed and not preparing for the ministry, but who wanted to take some seminary classes. Some subject came up (I have no idea what it was, though civil rights and the Vietnam War were hot issues of the day), and, after allowing the discussion to progress for awhile, Dr. Smith commented, "I think what we have here is a generation gap."

I expect that Adam, who lived to be 930 years old, had many occasions to comment to Eve, "What's going on with these kids of ours? We didn't bring them up like this. Where did they get these ideas? What's up with that cacophony they call music?" And, if Adam, how much more Methuselah , who had to contend with one more generation than Adam since he lived to be 969?

My interest today is with a generation gap that characterizes our society and has a big impact on the church. In America one of the advantages of being an Episcopalian is that you live in the backwaters of denominationalism where your concerns, if you are an evangelical of the Cranmer sort, are Anglo-catholicism and N.T. Wrightism. But since I am that rare American Episcopalian, the evangelical (which was also true of the founder of my denomination, Bishop Cummins), I have a concern for the evangelicalism that is often spelled with a big "E."

It is my belief that two of the great challenges that exist in contemporary Evangelicalism are race and sex, both revealing a huge generational gap. 

Surely the generation of which I am a part, and that is quickly passing from the scene (I have reached threescore and ten years), experienced some big changes regarding race and sex that sometimes created a gap between us and our parents' generation. Regarding race we may have grown up with segregation (my high school was "integrated" with two black girls and one black boy when I was in the 10th grade) but we became integrationists. We believed that no one, because of the color of his skin, ought to be denied any of the rights of an American citizen or an opportunity to get a job and move up the economic ladder. We bought Dr. Martin Luther King's vision of judging people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character. We believed that by integration, all of us could be assimilated to a common culture, which was predominantly western (though enriched and modified by various cultural influences including black influences) in nature because the West was the highest form of human civilization and culture that mankind has yet produced. It looked simple. As the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, et. al. had been assimilated into American culture, so, if given a fair and much too long delayed chance, would African Americans. 

Regarding women, we became egalitarians. Though World War II opened the door to women working outside the home, most of our mothers were stay at home moms (housewives, as they were called). However, many of our contemporaries got jobs and had careers and kids. 

Were women created by God to be subservient to all males in society? No. Margaret Thatcher was not an example of the "monstrous rule of women." She was an example of meritocracy. She succeeded politically because of her gifts, experience, skills, work, and accomplishments. Are there other women of Margaret Thatcher's abilities? Then, please God, raise them up and give them success - women of courage, today's Deborahs, women who know what they are committed to and who can lead political cultures into the way of truth, justice, and right. Such women can lead us, not into women's ways of truth, justice, and right, but into the ways of truth, justice  and right where sex makes no difference. The P.M.'s name may be Winston or Margaret, but he will not lead as a man nor she as a woman, but both as steely Prime Ministers.

However, today integration and egalitarianism are not enough. In fact both represent, not equality, but the dominance of those who are white and male over the oppressed members of society, such as blacks and women. 

This is the generation gap. Younger adults have absorbed the view that the structures of society give white people and men  privileges that put blacks and women at a disadvantage. Whites and males have created these structures and imposed them on blacks and women. Whites and  males make the rules that give them the advantage, and then they expect blacks and women to play by these rules that put and keep them behind. There are not just incidents of discrimination; there is structural racism. There are not just places where women are not fairly treated; society is structured to be sexist. 

Worst of all the oppressors are not even aware of this reality, so they must be confronted with their guilt, re-educated and sensitized, and they must change.
White people must see that insisting on standard English, teaching the Western canon in literature and philosophy classes is culturalism (which is what racism really is), and traditional SAT testing and scoring are examples of white prejudice and dominance. These are tools used to keep blacks down. 

White people must accept the massive collective guilt that is theirs because of slavery and Jim Crow laws and instinctive racism. They must apologize, and find out what black people want them to do about the past and present. White people must stop pointing out the examples of such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Ben Carson, Condoleezza Rice, Tim Scott, because these black people are not really black. They have been educated and socialized to the point that they operate as effectively whites. 

Men must stop encouraging one another and their sons to "act like a man" or "man up." Men must know that holding a door open for a woman may be perceived by her as a micro-aggression which at best is thoughtless and at worst is a put down that says, "You're not able to open the door yourself. You need a man." Men need to stop being their manly selves which leads to toxic masculinity, sexual aggressiveness, and spousal abuse. Men need to observe, listen to, learn from women, and change their concept of masculinity.

Older generations may not be aware of this change in the worldview of the younger. The younger generation are not concerned with merit and equality, for these are not sufficient. Their concern is social justice.  They want those who are white and male to acknowledge the privileges that white males have historically enjoyed and used to their own advantage to the detriment of people of color and women. If they are evangelicals, these concerns for racial, sexual, and economic justice are transformed into "gospel issues."

It is not enough that a black person can attain anything for which he or she is qualified and works. No, the standards are wrong. The standards are white, and they must be changed to deal fairly with the unique experience of blacks.

It is not enough that a women can attain anything from CEO of a large company, to Secretary of State, to President of the United States. No, the standards which are defined by males must be rethought, modified, and perhaps radically changed to take into account what women are, think, feel, and want. Do you need to be able to carry 150 pounds to be a fire person? Then the standard must be changed since most women cannot cannot 150 pounds. Do men approach life the way they do a department store - go in, shoot it, get out of there, and take it home? Perhaps they need to change. Do boys spit and scratch and sometimes pee outdoors? Maybe they need the Barney Fife treatment - "nip it in the bud." 

To bring all this into the world of the church, if you want examples evangelicals for whom race is the primary category of life, look at Jemar Tisby, Michelle Higgins, and her father Mike. If you want an example of an evangelical for whom sex is the primary category look at Valerie Hobbs, who describes her academic focus: "My primary research at present focuses on the discourse of conservative evangelical Christians, particularly the ways in which members of this community talk about gender roles. I am especially interested in corpus-based and corpus-assisted discourse studies and have built several of my own corpora." 

If you are a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America or a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention, listen and you will hear the the generation gap regarding race and sex.



I Am Valerie, Hear Me Roar

No Paul Did Not Say,
"Act Like a Woman"

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.
                        St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 16:13, 14

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman.
                Helen Ready

Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl
                                            Bob Dylan

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like women, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
                                                  Valerie Hobbs

I feel like Jude. I wanted to write about something else, but circumstances intervened, and "I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." In my case, I wanted to get started blogging as "The Reformed Reformed Episcopalian" and argue that  Anglicanism from its beginnings was not only a reformed English church, but also a Reformed church, though somewhat different from the Reformed churches on the Continent, nevertheless not only reformed but Reformed in doctrine. However my attention was diverted to Dr. Valerie Hobbs' latest, Act Like Women, at The Aquila Report. 

Her reasoning as I follow it, is:

(1) What Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians was 13:13, 14 was: "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (ESV).

(2) What Paul was doing when he wrote "act like men" was to use as a metaphor the Roman soldier: "Here, Paul draws on military imagery, evident from the Greek: grēgoreite: keep awake, keep vigilant, take as your inspiration a Roman soldier. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual life, intended for all Christians, men and women" (Valerie Hobbs).

(3) Who are the Christians today who most embody the characteristics of the vigilant Roman soldier? Valerie's answer is, "Christian women" who have endured "toxic masculinity."

(4) Therefore, if Paul were writing today and wanted an apt metaphor, he likely would write not "Act like men," but  "Act like women."

A few notes on what Valerie has written:

(1) When Paul wrote "to act like a man" or "to conduct oneself in a manly or courageous way" (A  Linguistic Key to the New  Testament), his metaphor was not how the Roman soldier acts but how a man who is manly acts.

(2) The way the phrase is translated:

            "quit you like men" (KJV)

            "quit you like men" (ASV)

            "be courageous" (RSV)
            "act like men" (NASB)

            "act like men" (NIV)

            "be strong" (NKJV)
            "be courageous" (NRSV)

            "act like men" (ESV)

(3) What is clear is that even the more "dynamic" translations understand what the Apostle wrote as based on "manly characteristics" or "manly virtues." No one understands the the word as associated with those character traits which are distinctive of the female person. The Greek word has to do with "men" and even those translations that are "looser," seeking the significance of the word over its literal meaning, translate it with reference to words that are associated with "manliness" - that is, "courage."

A few notes regarding Valerie's understanding of the text:

(1) Dr. Hobbs has missed what Paul wrote in Greek. She calls our attention to Paul's use of the metaphor of the Roman soldier. But it is not the third ("act like men") but the first verb of the sentence that calls our attention to the soldier, "grēgoreite," translated as "Be watchful," which means "to watch, to stay awake, to be alert" (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament).

(2) Paul does not write "act like a man" or "be courageous" until the third verb of the sentence. Here he uses used "andrizesthe" (from aner/andros - male or man) which means "to conduct oneself in a manly, or courageous way" (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament). "The word was also used in a papyri in the exhortation 'therefore do not be fainthearted but be courageous as a man'" (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament). In other words, while Paul calls us to emulate the Roman soldier with the first verb, he calls on us to emulate men with the third verb.

(3) For Paul men and women are essentially one in Christ: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus'' (Galatians 3:28). But essential oneness and equality in Christ does not extinguish the differences between men and women in this world. Men are called to be leaders and women followers in the home (Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7). Men are to teach and rule in the church while women are to listen and learn (1 Timothy 2:8-13, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35). 

(4) As there are differences of role in home and church, so there are differences of nature and natural characteristics between men and women. When Paul's readers, male and female, read, "Act like men," they had no struggle with understanding, for they knew what men are naturally like. Men are designed to be courageous, though there are men who fail to "act like men." It is the man who places himself between his wife and children and the attacker. If it is the wife who must stand between the attacker and her husband and her children, then she is having to fill an "unnatural role" in which she, rather than her husband, must "act like a man." As much as Dr. Hobbs may wish to flatten the differences between men and women, husbands and wives, and to blur the distinctions between men and women, the Bible won't allow it, for the Bible everywhere teaches that men and women are different in creation and redemption. There is such a thing as "acting like a man" and "acting like a woman," and when a woman acts like a man or a man acts like a woman the natural (created) differences are denied, or, to put it more bluntly, rebelled against.

Finally, what are we to make of Dr. Hobbs? She is a Christian and a feminist, or, to put the terms together, she is a Christian feminist. Three times she speaks of "toxic masculinity" not just in society but also in the church. What is her goal? The removal of distinctions between men and women in society and in church so that there is "equality and fraternity":
By now, to all with eyes to see, the evidence is clear of the pervasiveness of a toxic masculinity that cultivates male violence, sexual aggressiveness, and emotional distance. But it is too early to say whether we will see any change in our society’s perception and treatment of women and other vulnerable people. What might it take for Hollywood, for politics, for all our institutions to be transformed into bastions of equality and fraternity after the reckoning of its tyrannical power players?
I fully grant Dr. Hobbs right to be a Christian feminist. The one thing I do not understand is why she, as a Christian feminist, should have a voice at a website committed to confessional Reformed Presbyterianism. 


Act Like Women

A Christian’s strength of character isn’t derived from their sex but from the object of their faith.

Men and women have their differences, but what I’m arguing is that a Christian’s strength of character isn’t derived from their sex but from the object of their faith. The women exemplifying these traits do so for the same reasons some men do: because they are made in God’s image and equipped by Christ’s work and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do the things commanded them in 1 Corinthians 16.

As the public surfacing of countless accounts of men’s abusive behaviour continues with no end in sight, the consequences of this necessary but painful upheaval are yet unknown. By now, to all with eyes to see, the evidence is clear of the pervasiveness of a toxic masculinity that cultivates male violence, sexual aggressiveness, and emotional distance. But it is too early to say whether we will see any change in our society’s perception and treatment of women and other vulnerable people. What might it take for Hollywood, for politics, for all our institutions to be transformed into bastions of equality and fraternity after the reckoning of its tyrannical power players?
This past Sunday, my pastor preached on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
The New American Standard translates the latter part of verse 13 as this: “act like men.” Note that Paul does not command us to act like The Man, though of course we are told this elsewhere. Here, Paul draws on military imagery, evident from the Greek: grēgoreite: keep awake, keep vigilant, take as your inspiration a Roman soldier. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual life, intended for all Christians, men and women (see Ephesians 6:12).
One difficulty with biblical metaphors, however, is the temptation to interpret them literally. For some complementarians, these verses and others like them demonstrate that leadership, strength, and courage are primarily masculine, that is, they are qualities God designed men (and not women) to have. Among other things, men’s typically greater physical strength is frequently appealed to as evidence of this. Women have strength, so it goes, but it is a different kind of strength, lacking a warrior-like quality necessary for protecting the weak and vulnerable and guarding boundaries. Some go so far as to warn men not to give away their strength to women. To do so is to relinquish one’s manhood. Or so they say.
Truly, we don’t have to look very hard to find pastors using these verses as a mandate of so-called ‘biblical manhood.’ A sermon preached at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi is one prominent example, directed entirely to men. Here, the pastor says that “Paul is calling the men of the church to literally be a man.” We encounter a similar message on Christianity TodayThe Gospel Coalition, and of course the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. As Jeff Robinson at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, “Paul, in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, summarizes authentic biblical manhood well.”
The great irony in this way of thinking is that, in my observation of the modern church, it is primarily Christian women and not men who display the qualities Paul speaks of. Indeed, over the past few years, as I have researched issues affecting women in the church, I have seen such powerful courage and demonstration of Christian character among women as should make the aforementioned complementarians stop their mouths.
Those who think women lack an inner warrior need only look to those who have fled dangerous homes and faced poverty and great uncertainty, at great risk to themselves and their children; to the women who have put their bodies between an abusive spouse and a child; to those who have come quickly after a husband’s unfeeling words to a child and comforted, encouraged, and made that child whole; to the single women missionaries and Bible translators who outnumber their male counterparts; to the women who do jobs that men are taught is beneath them, for no pay; to the women whose work in the home and church is so often devalued, unacknowledged, and taken for granted.
In a culture rife with toxic masculinity, women are leading in still, quiet, unnoticeable but monumentally sacrificial ways. Among the excesses of complementarianism, many women are standing firm in the faith, doing all in love for their families, their churches and their God, who sees and loves them and knows their worth.
Christian women’s heroic self-sacrifice is nothing new. Kristin Aune writes, “Women’s (mostly voluntary) work has always been crucial to Christianity’s vitality.” Others, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, go further, alleging that men within Christianity have historically strategically emphasized the altruism of women, particularly to the service of men. The point here is that many men would rather be served than serve.
Putting aside that provocative point, the strength of Christian women has nothing to do with their sex. Men and women have their differences, but what I’m arguing is that a Christian’s strength of character isn’t derived from their sex but from the object of their faith. The women exemplifying these traits do so for the same reasons some men do: because they are made in God’s image and equipped by Christ’s work and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do the things commanded them in 1 Corinthians 16. There are certainly men who flout the cultural norms taught them from birth, choosing by God’s grace to display the strength of character and steadfastness necessary for leadership. Consider Aimee Byrd’s example, “The pastors and husbands who … are quietly taking out the trash and wiping runny noses.”
But there are also those in the church who have confused strength with dominance. At this crucial moment, as the Christian church considers how to resist and reject rampant toxic masculinity around and among us, men would benefit not from ‘manning up’ but from looking for inspiration in an overlooked place: the sacrificial strength of Christian women. As Penny Long Marler contends, “As the women go, so goes the church.” Consider therefore how Paul’s metaphor might translate to all our ears today:
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like women, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love.
Dr. Valerie Hobbs, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, University of Sheffield.

The Curmudgeon's 2017 Top Ten

The authorities of my young life always told me that, "Everybody's doing it," is not a good reason to do it. Parents, school teachers, youth group leaders would ask, "If everybody was setting themselves on fire, would you do it?" That seems to clench the argument until you think, "Well everybody's not setting themselves on fire, but they are going to the dance, or wearing their hair longer, or seeing Alfie." 

I have noticed that everybody, including Bloggers, is posting year end top 10 lists. This seems good enough excuse for me to do so, too. Now I don't qualify to play with the Davids who slay their 10s of 1000s, or even the Sauls who slay their 1000s. But that doesn't stop me from joining in the boasting - er, telling others how my humble efforts have been used. 

So, here are my top 10 Blog posts of 2017. I give the title linked to the Blog post, tell the number of looks (which is not the same as number of readers) the post got, and provide a brief description of the content of the post.

1. The Regulative Principle Doesn't Work (3426) I point out the liturgical chaos in the Presbyterian Church in America, which holds the regulative principle of worship, and argue for the prescribed worship of The Book of Common Prayer.

2. Who Cares What Tim Keller Thinks?
(3256) I respond to Tim Keller and 99 other evangelical leaders who wrote the President to tell him the Christian view of refugees and immigration.

3. Critical Race Theory, RTS, and SBTS (2772) I describe Critical Race Theory and its influence at Reformed Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

4. People Ought to Care about What Michelle Higgins Says (2757) I describe Michelle Higgins' (a black female on staff of a PCA church in St. Louis) race views and analyze a poem of hers.

5. It Was All Over Before Terry Johnson Entered the PCA (2370) I respond to the Rev. Terry Johnson's lament about the worship he experienced at the 2017 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

6. The Dishonoring of an Honorable Man (1955) I write of the character of Dr. Morton H. Smith and about the failure of Reformed Theological Seminary to be represented at his funeral.

7. I Think I've Been Intellectually Snobbed (1819) I respond to Dr. Sean Lucas' and Dr. Otis Pickett's responses to my Blog on Critical Race Theory (#3 above).

8. What about Hugh Freeze? (1783) I write about former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, a professing Christian whose moral scandal led to his resignation.

9. Russell Moore Lives, but There Will Be Blood (1693) I write about controversies surrounding Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, because of his views of and involvement in politics and certain social issues.

10. Does John Piper Believe in Salvation by Works (1225) I explore the controversy regarding John Piper's view of works in relation to salvation by faith, now and at the judgment.

Don't forget or pass up the opportunity to know yourself before beginning a new year. Find out if you, too, may be a Curmudgeon by reading the brief 30 Indicators You Could Be a Curmudgeon.