Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let Me Be Man*

Mamas, Don't Make Your Boys Grow Up To Be Females**




Several weeks ago I was recovering from knee replacement surgery, when the little lady came into the room and said, "I'm going outside to move mulch." This meant she was going to go to the mulch pile, load up the wheelbarrow, push it to shrubbery beds, then unload and spread the mulch, repeat, repeat. I responded to her announcement with, "I don't think that's a good idea." "Why?" she impertinently asked. I explained: "(1) You're still recovering from two knee replacements, both of which had complications, in the last 9 months (2) You're a girl."

From time to time I looked through the windows to watch her moving mulch. And, as things like this tend to go ("Give her and inch; she'll take a mile"), one thing led to another. Soon she was digging up and moving 20 years of accumulated dirt that covered the driveway of the Rectory we moved into in June. I watched helplessly. 

I am still hesitant to be seen by the neighbors, such is my shame. I have not recovered from a shaming I received in Louisville, MS, over 30 years ago. This happened because I allowed her to mow the grass. A neighbor, who wrote a gossip column for the weekly newspaper, said to a church member, "That woman works all the time. That man - I don't know what he does." This is surely vindication of Tim and David Bayly. Had I not permitted this rebellion against her sex, I could have saved myself untold embarrassment. 

There is a discussion within the evangelical-reformed community about men, women, egalitarianism, complementarianism, and Trinitarianism. It has been going on for what seems like eternity. It is beginning to look like it will go on ad infinitum if not ad nauseum. 

People such as the Baylys hate the word "complementarianism" which they regard as a weasel word. Hiding behind complementarianism is egalitarianism. What the Bible teaches, they say, is patriarchy ("father rule") which is grounded in the Fatherhood of God and the "eternal economic submission of the Son to the Father." 

On the other side of the discussion there is growing dissatisfaction with the word "complementarianism" by writers such as Rachel Miller and Aimee Byrd. They believe that the word is tainted for at least two reasons: (1) Its use can amount to "patriarchy." (2) It has become connected to subordination within the Trinity. Rachel Miller says, "We need a new name", though she does not have one to suggest. 

It is unfortunate that the doctrine of the Trinity has got entangled with the doctrine of the sexes. The fault for this lies with those advocates of patriarchy who assert that female submission applies to all male-female interfaces, not just home and church, and that it reflects the eternal submission of the Son to the Father.

Rightly the other side has vigorously asserted the doctrine of the eternal, ontological equality of the Father and the Son (the Spirit, too). On this they are entirely right. 

But I also have a suspicion as I read those who oppose patriarchy. Let me put it like this: I agree with you that female submission is limited to marriage and church. It does not apply to the the workplace, the state, or other institutions. But, I wonder if you are not becoming uncomfortable with female submission altogether, including submission in marriage and church. What changes do you want in the way males and females relate to one another in marriage and church? What qualifications would you apply to male headship and female submission? When may a wife not be submissive to her own husband an all things? When may a woman teach and exercise authority in the church? What problems do you have with the "traditional" Christian understanding and practice of male-female relations? 

In my view what those who oppose the proponents of patriarchy need to say is, "The Persons or the Trinity are equal. The doctrine of the Trinity has nothing to do with the relations of men and women. Whether there is subordination or equality among the Persons of the Godhead is irrelevant to the subject at hand. Male-female relations are prescribed in texts of the Bible that deal with the subject. Now let's exegete, discuss, and debate these texts. (Those who hold to patriarchy will likely resist as they "need" the subordination of the Son to the Father for their doctrine of male-female relations. On the other hand, the doctrine of Trinitarian equality has nothing to do with the complementarian view of male-female relations.)

I have digressed. What interests me today is the dust-up about the First Things  article "Why Men and Women Are Not Equal" written by Glenn Stanton. Stanton writes: 
Women create, shape, and maintain human culture. Manners exist because women exist. Worthy men adjust their behavior when a woman enters the room. They become better creatures. Civilization arises and endures because women have expectations of themselves and of those around them.
Both Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller have pushed back hard against this heresy. Rachel quotes a friend with approval:
Worthy men do not need to adjust their behavior when a woman enters the room, because they are gentlemen no matter whose company they find themselves in. Worthy men act honorably because they are worthy men, whether they are in a room full of men, mixed company, or alone!
I think Mr. Stanton's use of "civilization" is too broad. There is much more to forming, preserving, and passing on civilization than what women do. But he is right, despite the denials of women such as Ms. Byrd and Ms. Miller, that women do have a much needed "civilizing" effect on males. Males do act differently when women are present, and that, contrary to Aimee and Rachel, is as it should be.

What is hard to push back against is the observable reality that boys and girls, men and women are different. It's ontology.

Watch boys playing. They will knock each other down. They may spit. They might play "chicken fight" in the pool. Now introduce girls into the mix. There may be a few girls who will mix it up with the boys, but generally the play changes when girls are part of it. This is one reason that boys will object to having to play with the girls. You don't knock a girl down, or spit in front of her, or try to "drown' her, because your mama and daddy taught you to treat girls different. But, it is not wrong if boys, playing without the girls, are boys.



It is true of men, too. There are things that men who are friends may do if they are by themselves and no women are present. They may pee in the woods. Or pass gas loudly and laugh about it. Or use the indelicate word my wife hates for that particular
bodily function. They may smoke cigars and drink beer. They might say "hell" instead of "heck." They might skinny dip in the pool. And they, too, may spit. Introduce women into the mix, and the dynamics change. They change, not because what the men were doing is bad, but because they are not appropriate when women are present.


Not only will boys be boys, they must be if there is any future for civilization. The problem with the flattening of male-female differences is not that girls will become boys but that boys will become girls. And that's bad. Who will have the chicken fights? Who will kill things and bring them home? Who will rescue the young damsels? Who are going to be the lineman and linebackers in football? Who will smoke the cigars? Who are going to fight the wars?

The big problem we have today is not with overly masculine men. It is with girly boys. The war on boys has had a lot of success.

My wife lived part of her life with six males. (Or, as she sometimes said, she lived with six male members, only she didn't say "male members.") Through those years she often made two observations: (1) She was very thankful she was not a guy. (2) Since her least favorite human beings are adolescent girls, she was very glad she had only boys.

When the six of us males were together, we often acted like guys. When she came into the room our conversation and behavior changed. Why? Not because she is delicate or weak. Not because we were doing anything wrong. But because she is a woman. Because we showed her deference as the wife and mother of our home. Because I had been trained by my parents, and we had trained our boys that men and women are different and that there are ways to act around men that are not appropriate around women. If we did not, she kicked butts and took names. But if she were to have to deal some of the evangelical-reformed women who are blogging today, she would be baffled by the problems they write about that to her are non-problems.

But I have a nagging question: What does it say about me ontologically that the little lady moved the mulch when I said not to move the mulch. What does it mean that this morning when I was working on this, I took a break, opened the back door, and found her washing the car?


* With thanks to Elizabeth Elliot (Let Me Be Woman)

** With thanks to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings

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