What Image of God Do We Believe Men Carry, Exactly? | Sojourners

What Image of God Do We Believe Men Carry, Exactly?

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I wasn't raised in the church. This means that I wasn't raised with certain preconceptions about how different genders naturally relate to one another. So, even though I have been a Christian since college and even though I have served as an ordained Baptist minister, I am still surprised by the ubiquity of certain attitudes around gender and sexuality, specifically whether married men should have any kind of relationship at all (friendly, etc.) with members of the opposite sex.

Forget for the moment the myopic gender construction involved in that particular problem. Let's just take it at face value. Married men must be supervised at all times lest they be tempted to break their marital vows — or run the risk of appearing to break their marital vows.

Are these the only two options available to Christian men? Correct that … heterosexual married Christian men?

Once again I am faced with the reality that I am grateful I did not grow up in any kind of conservative Christianity. I'm grateful that Jesus came into my life and saved me through the work of various female Christian leaders, pastors, professors, teachers and that today I am free to work and minister with them as mentors, colleagues, and peers.

I do not know what I would've done if I were told and came to believe that I was not to be trusted alone around women. That I only have two possible responses: one, to be on a leash of some kind and thus well behaved, or two, to be a sexual predator.

What kind of Christian anthropology is this? What kind of image of God do men then maintain? How is this considered virtuous? I understand that there is a long tradition of this kind of sexual ethos as presented as a honorable and pure. But what it actually says about men is that if we are left alone with women we will hurt them and, more importantly (?!) hurt ourselves.

It assumes that women are not actors in our lives, only receptacles for our desires, base and cruel.

Or it assumes that women are the "weaker sex" and in this world to be sexually dominated by men in some way until they are married when they are suddenly able to control their man.

Sexual abuse is real. So too is sexual health. And, certainly Christians need to espouse some healthy sexual ethic. No question. No argument.

But the bizarre and even cruel theological anthropology underscored by this particular way of relating to women does not lead to sexual health. Instead, it assumes that every man is a sex addict and every woman is a drug. Thus, men, at best, are powerless over their own sexual desires and must need to be rescued from them.

No wonder men from this particular theological corner of the Christian world believe that men are disrespected and unloved. They are right. But it’s not by a hostile secular culture — or even by progressive strands of Christianity. Instead, it's fundamental to their self-understanding. Thus, they will never be satisfied until they can actually discover redemption for themselves. Until then, they will scapegoat women or anyone else who gets in their way.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece included a tweet from a parody account. That tweet has been removed.