Wednesday, May 21, 2014

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY AND MEN

It is a given fact that many women feel threatened, hurt, or of low self-esteem when faced with the images of perfection they face in magazines and on screens, most of which have been airbrushed. It is a common assumption that thin is in. I would say that this is changing. I mean just look at the success the full-figured Kate Upton has had. However, my point is that most  women would feel threatened and lowly if put in a room full of supermodels with which they had to interact. They would constantly be comparing themselves and seeing how far short they fell. What the hell does this have to do with evangelical Christianity and men? Read on if you please...
 
I became an evangelical, born-again Christian on April 12, 1986. That is when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, forgive me my sins, and become my Lord and Saviour. That is a decision I do not regret. However, now at 40 years old in 2014 as a man, I feel myself increasingly disillusioned with and distanced from the whole evangelical movement. Why?
 
The main reason is that there are so many reasons I do not qualify to be a man according to many evangelical Christians.  First of all, I couldn't even name the 7 Promises of a Promise Keeper.  Somewhere along the line Christians started to think it was okay to define who is and isn't a 'real man'. There was even an ad I saw for a 'Real Man or Men' conference. A recent article warned Christian ladies not to marry 'playboys', 'deadbeats', 'addicts' etc.  Movies such as Fireproof (with Kirk Cameron) and Courageous certainly raised the expectations of what a real man is to be.  And I don't even come close.
 
Many, many Christian women believe their man MUST either be living in victory in Jesus or at least always be trying to attain it. As a man who struggles with anxiety, depression, social phobia, and elements of OCD that is just not always at the top of my list. No use me lying. As the Petra song says: "Sometimes I feel like Jekyll and Hyde/Two men are fighting a war inside".  Some days I am strong, sometimes I am not. I waver to and fro.  Pastors and Christian folks oft place sexual purity as a requirement for being a real man, an ideal husband, a worthy father. I'm sorry but whether or not my son is a sexual conqueror or not in this sense as he grows up, he is a real man, albeit imperfect perhaps.  I have had my battles with addiction but whether or not I am at a given time living more like Billy Graham or more like Ron Jeremy, I am still a real man.  Christian women want their men to be sexually pure in thought and deed, but yet are not always willing to help their men in tangible ways. For example, if you truly want your man to be 100 percent  sexually pure, probably best not to take him to pool parties or to the beach or the waterpark where bikinis and cleavage abound.  Now don't twist what I am saying. I have no problem if Christian ladies want to wear such attire. A man is responsible for what he looks at and thinks about. I like the Beach Boys who sing about pretty girls.  But realistically MOST men are going to be prone to lust in those situations whether they know Christ or not.  Ladies, asking your man to be a sexual conqueror over lust is like your husband asking you to avoid shopping.  You may be able to do it for awhile, but sooner or later, you'll probably cave. And I do not want myself or my son to dwell in a bed of guilt for sexual failures.  Please don't stretch this to say I think affairs are okay. I am talking about matters of the mind. I think that a Christian man can learn to admire beauty without coveting but it takes a hell of a lot of effort, likely a lifelong battle.  There are Christian married men who photograph female models. What do we say to that? Should we say a Christian man should only look at and promote his wife's beauty?  This is another inconsistency I see.
 
Another area I find hard is that there is pressure for evangelical Christian men to be big family people.  I like to spend a lot of time alone. I would prefer spending much more time just with me and my wife watching a movie, or having coffee, than at tons of family gatherings with the inlaws.  Once in a while an extended family get together is fine, but it should always be secondary to one's marriage and time spent as man and wife.  There is a reason there are a lot of jokes about inlaws. But in the circles in which I have run everyone seems to get along nicely without any major disagreements. Sometimes I long for an in-law to express a strong difference of belief with my mother or father-in-law on something major politically, or religiously, or to do with the family. Or for there to be a tiff of some sort. How about a mix between Roseanne and the Cosby Show when it comes to family?
 
If one is to be a good evangelical Christian man, they should love going to church, get involved, and maybe join a small group during the week.  Again, here I fail. Church for me is not a place of safety where I make deep connections with God.  It is a place where I am told how I am not a good enough man.  I hate dressing up.  I like some worship music, but a lot of it is 'God as my girlfriend' church sounding songs rather than manly rock and roll.  I do not agree with the elevation of pastors to positions of respect that I'm not sure they always deserve.  Again, with my anxieties, group gatherings are not always the best for me. I would rather meet with someone one on one for coffee for a spiritual discussion than go to a Sunday service to hear what I likely already have heard before.  I long for growth and learning, not preaching to the choir.  I hope I have more to learn about God and Christianity in the future than I have already learned.
 
The point of this article is to say to both women and men: Don't expect your husband or wife to be perfect. Don't love or not love him/her based on their performance. For example, if I married a woman who was living up to all that was in Proverbs 31, but years later she did a complete turnaround and did not exhibit those qualities, should I separate from her or divorce her? My answer is no.  My wife, as I am, is a deeply flawed human being saved only because of the grace of God.  I do not want 'the perfect woman' as the church would define her. I want a real, live woman who loves Jesus but doesn't have it all together.  I am reminded of the Smitty song 'Picture Perfect' which says: "You don't have to be picture perfect to be in my world".  I do not want to marry a woman like Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore, who are wonderful leaders. I just want a companion who loves me and loves Jesus, who at the end of the day is human and has both strengths and weaknesses.  It is much more interesting going through life with someone who is noticeably imperfect than with someone who is sanctified completely.
 
And that is my attempt at summing up my current thoughts. Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to contact me if any clarification is desired.  I have said a lot but not perfectly.