The Common Good

An Open Letter to Christian Men (From One of You)

Christian men - males who are caught up in the ancient, raw, and radical Jesus movement, this is to you:

Word Collage on Stop Violence Against Women. Via mypokcik/Shutterstock

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It's high time we say something, do something - good Christian men, stand up. Women are being raped and sexually abused across the world, and we continue to theologically shrug our shoulders. It's just the way it is, we say.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we turn a blind eye to the ways in which our holy scriptures have sanctioned this throughout history. It's not just the "Titus 2 Treatment," which was recently (and beautifully) turned on its head by a brilliant author and theologian.

It's also the same old prejudice by which women were denied ordination (and still are) within Christianity. It's the women being told to "carry their cross" and "submit" in domestic abuse situations.

It's popular biblical role models primarily (or exclusively) being men - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - while biblical women are either erroneously labeled as prostitutes (i.e., Mary of Magdalene - who, by the way, Jesus had no problem with, regardless of her unknown profession), or substituted for a hyper-sexualized trope (i.e., Jezebel and Delilah).

We teach our children about Moses and David, but not about Deborah, Jael, Ruth, and Esther. We sing about Peter and Paul, but not Tabitha and Chloë. We hear about the wisdom of Solomon, but not so much about his 700 princesses or his 300 concubines (I Kings 11) - or his "forced labor," for that matter (I Kings 9:15). Those 1,000 women get a verse or two in the biblical narrative, but are largely nameless and, therefore, expendable.

And it's not just from the Bible. It's also age-old proverbs that might as well be biblical, the way we keep hearing (and perpetuating) them, even in our religious communities - "boys will be boys;" "she was asking for it;" "they're just rumors." And then young men leave high school thinking rape is funny.

It's embarrassing. And it's distinctly horrific when we men keep silent about it, not wanting to take sides or be seen/labeled as, ugh, feminist - a continually maligned designation excellently summed up by a bumper sticker I saw recently. "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

It's more than embarrassing. It's against everything the Jesus movement is about. Jesus' ministry was bankrolled by women (Luke 8:1-3). The unemployed male disciples were too busy misunderstanding parables, and bugging Jesus about who was the greatest, while the women were the ones who followed him up from Jerusalem after all the men had betrayed Jesus and vanished into thin air (Mark 15:40-41).

Mary Magdalene was the first "apostle," literally translated as "one who is sent," seeing Jesus risen from the dead and running to tell the male disciples (John 20:11-18).

In one of Luke's stories of the risen Jesus, when the women tell the disciples about what they had seen, the men smirk and call it "an idle tale" (Luke 24:11). A old wives' tale, in other words. I often get crap for referring to God with female pronouns (even though it's biblical - God is described as a mother hen and a female bear, among many others), when we keep missing the larger point. Namely, that when we make God a man, men become gods.

How disgusting (it should be) to Christian male sensibilities. We are made in the same imago Dei as women are. There's no asterisk in the first story of creation, after the bit about "male and female God created them (Genesis 1:27)."

This means that when we look at women, we are looking at the very image of the Divine. Nothing less. That divine image is being sold into sex slavery as we watch men battle each other for the Super Bowl (an event I look forward to every year, by the way). That divine image has to fight for the ability to be seen as equal, paid as an equal, and treated as an equal in our world and society.

And women have to do this in Christian communities as well.

It's pathetic. It's dangerous. It's not the least bit part of the Jesus movement. It's the antithesis of it.

Good Christian men, stand up.

Jason Chesnut is an ordained pastor in the ELCA, and has been funded by a local Christian community for a three-year project to create a new worshiping community in Baltimore, Maryland. He's eight-months in, and has no idea what he's doing. But the Holy Spirit does, right?  Right? This piece first appeared on the blog, Faith Interrupted.

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