With Grace

Thomas Creedy continues to learn about gender through Christian grace.

Being 21, engaged to be married, Christian, fairly conservative and white and male probably makes me a minority these days. If it doesn’t, then there’s still work to do for some people.

I want to say something that will be immensely unpopular, but I hope also challenging, refreshing, and in some way reasonable. I’ve been raised in a Christian household, attended Church—at first unwillingly, then willingly—all my life, and this reflects on my understanding of life, gender, and ethics.

I’m marrying a wonderful, beautiful, out-of-my-league-except-by-what-we-Christians-call-God’s-grace Christian girl from a similar but different background. Thats always been expected of me—though I could easily have gone a number of ways. My parents—wonderful, conservative Calvinists that they are—have always encouraged me to examine, question, and think about things. And, actually, honestly, the Christian ethic and approach to gender—or, at least the one I know and live—definitively works for me.

It’s conventional to bash those of us who hold a conservative, or more derogatorily, “traditional” ethic regarding sex, gender, and masculinity—but I’m very grateful for it. I’ve had to adapt over the years as different people, different persepectives and different lifestyles made their mark on my life —but I’m slowly learning that Jesus’ ethic really is the best way to live.

Relating to others—loving others—as you would have them relate to yourself. Wanting the best—God’s best—for them above your own interests. Hoping for the best possible outcome. Being sacrificial in hospitality. These are things that define my ethics—even as I completely fail to realize them on a regular basis. I’m still human—I’m not Jesus.

My views on gender have evolved as I—and my faith—have reached this strange process called “maturity.” I’ve been involved in reading all sorts of things since coming to university—I discovered that a traditional, hierarchalist mentality singularly failed to be useful in an academic context—even the faith-friendly discipline of theology. But, actually, the core of that traditional understanding remains entirely valid. Not universal, but definitively applicable. I honestly believe that there are two “kinds”—male and female. I believe that identity is not restricted or limited to gender (or sexuality, or class, or race, or preference, or anything like that), and think that psychology has a huge amount to teach us about how gender identity is constructed.

Regarding gender roles—and I’m sure this will be unpopular—I DO think there is a difference between men and women. I’m reminded of an older, brilliant pastor, who said (the man has 3 daughters!) that his girls could be anything—except a husband, a father, or an elder. I think that rings true—the latter being fairly irrelevant in a secular sense. I believe that there is a distinction—which goes to the heart of our language—between male and female—but I also accept the need for space for those who do not conform or “fit” so easily into those definitions. In fact, my faith and faith-ethics have equipped me to be prepared for those who don’t wish to define as “normal,” whatever that may mean.

One of the things I am consistently learning and re-learning about God is that God is infinitely bigger, more varied, wildly loving, and diverse than I could have imagined. I believe God is ultimately concerned with good—and with order—even though sometimes circumstances—especially in the lives of individuals—don’t seem to reflect that. But I hope in something, believe in something, that gives an innate worth to EVERY human being—regardless of what they do, are, or think. No one, in my understanding, is beyond redemption.

And that is where the Christian idea of Grace—in a salvific and relational sense—is so useful.

With Grace, I can talk to people I can’t understand and utterly disagree with.

With Grace, I can start to change and be open to different things.

With Grace, I can be immensely grateful for what God has done in my life—and seek to uphold that in the lives of others.

I might be wrong about things. Thats part of the job description of a man. But I’m trying to do the best with my limited faculties. That, for me, is what being a good man is. Treating others with Grace—because God did first, and because it’s what I believe I’m called to do. And so I’m grateful for my background, even as I understand and research more and more of what’s going on.

 

—Photo credit: r.f.m II/Flickr

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About Thomas Creedy

I'm a final year theology student at Nottingham University, looking longingly to the next sailing adventure, panicking slightly about how best to be a boyfriend, student and Christian, and always calmed down by U2, a good single malt, or a sunset at sea. I blog athttp://admiralcreedy.blogspot.com and tweet at @admiralcreedy.

Comments

  1. I think it is great that you view gender through the lens of God’s grace,

  2. I was interested to read what your views are of HOW the genders are different, and I don’t think you actually explained it.

    • Hi, Author here!

      I apologise as this seems to be a common theme – I was writing effectively an exploratory post, which snowballed on my own blog into a discussion of gender roles with specific reference to church leadership. There should be a post going live later today which deals with this further.

  3. I kind of echo Lynn in that you kept mentioning that you believe in traditional gender identities and roles…but you didn’t quite explain what you mean. Also there’s this:

    “In fact, my faith and faith-ethics have equipped me to be prepared for those who don’t wish to define as “normal,” whatever that may mean.”

    The sentiment is great…but where I feel the need to pick at you is with the phrase “don’t wish to define as normal.” I have yet to meet a person (outside of high school) who doesn’t wish to define as normal. I want my identity to be what is considered normal, most certainly. My goodness how easier my life would be. I don’t really have a choice, though. I am what I am (thank you Gloria Gaynor).

    In fact, I’d argue it’s the rather overarching desire that pretty much everyone has to be ‘normal’ that drives a lot of the fight for non-gender conformity to be accepted. I get the feeling that with this article you’re saying that you think the gender binary is natural and normal, but you respect other people’s right to choose to live their lives how they want. That’s a good thing, at first glance…but unfortunately I think it fails to really understand that people don’t ‘choose’ to live outside the gender binary, just like people don’t choose to be homosexual. It’s just who they are.

  4. Yes, please be more specific on those differences and I’d love to know why women can’t be elders.

  5. Valter Viglietti says:

    I’m puzzled by the lack of specifics and explanations…

    And I wonder: could it be because, if he really explained his vision, he could not reconcile being a “conservative” and loving people outside if his “rules”?
    Could it be he just skipped over this contradiction?
    … or maybe it’s just my cynicism talking… ;)

    • I’d hope that, in my definition of conservative, that would necessarily entail loving people outside of my ‘rules’, because that sort of radical love is one of the oldest ideas in my faith :)

      • Valter Viglietti says:

        @Thomas Creedy: “that would necessarily entail loving people outside of my ‘rules’”

        Thomas, I’m glad to hear that. So many times I see people who declare love in theory, but are full of hate and despise in practice. :(
        It looks like you are not like that, and you really believe in “radical love”. I applaud that. :)

        I’m not a conservative, but I’m ok with people thinking differently than me… as long as there’s mutual respect.
        Likewise, I’m not a Christian, but I appreciate most of Christ’s teachings. Alas, as many noted, beliefs and practice don’t always go and in hand:

        “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
        (Ghandi)

        That’s why, at the beginning, I’m suspicious when I read vague talking about love and acceptance… ;)

        • I’m glad you are suspicious – Christians have not done a good job at being accepting – its why I think its up to individuals to live as Christ intended, and live in a trajectory that echoes God’s will.

          For some, that might mean change they would not willingly embrace – for others it means facing up to things.

          Its a journey. But with Jesus, the best journey-wingman, into God’s love, the best destination.

          • Valter Viglietti says:

            “But with Jesus, the best journey-wingman, into God’s love, the best destination.”

            Well, looks like you’re the “real deal”. ;)
            I wish you the best for your journey, and I’m curious to read more from you about this topic.
            BTW, I like the concept of grace.

  6. I like what you wrote but it appears that you may be walking on eggshells. Treading lightly so as to not offend. I know what that can be like. I can feel the heat of the breath of many who are waiting in the wings. I assure you, once you clarify the “roles” some will come out with guns a blazing.

    One thing you said about in your childhood your faith was once forced but you are now willing is similar to many people. Heck yeah, as a child, I too was pretty much forced but later I clearly see my faith as my foundation in life and as you already know …. It’s GREAT!

    @Valter “And I wonder: could it be because, if he really explained his vision, he could not reconcile being a “conservative” and loving people outside if his “rules”? Could it be he just skipped over this contradiction?… or maybe it’s just my cynicism talking”
    I’m hoping it’s your cynicism. I hate using the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” but it rings very true in a Christians life. We’re all sinners and accordingly we have no room to hate people. There is nothing to “reconcile.”

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Tom B: “We’re all sinners and accordingly we have no room to hate people. There is nothing to “reconcile.””

      Tom, that could be true for you, but not for somebody else.
      As I said above to the author, many don’t “walk their talk”: they talk about love but they don’t practice it. Maybe you’re not like that, and I’m glad about it, but you can’t deny such people exists.
      As a matter of fact, believers are more hateful than atheists, on average. :?
      Just because someone believe in a wonderful theory, it’s doesn’t mean they live by it.

      “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.”
      (Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut)

      • Brian Reinholz says:

        It may sound strange, but it actually makes total sense that religious people are more prone to judging, or even hate.

        When you ascribe to a religion you inherit, among other things, a set of ethics to follow. (I don’t believe that the ethics are really the heart of what being a Christian means, but that’s another conversation.) As you continue to seek this, it’s very easy to build self-righteousness…look at how hard I’ve worked to grow in these ways…and even build resentment for those who don’t “seem” to be trying.

        Yes, this is fairly screwed up and ignores the truth of grace…If someone is really able to acknowledge God’s grace, and their own faults, they will not be prone to this self-righteousness. But it’s a daily battle for most Christians.

        I guess, all I’m trying to say is, you have a good point Valter, but it might also help to understand why Christians are prone to this. Just as non-Christians need grace for their mistakes, Christians do too. We’re all trying to grow.

        I agree with the general consensus of the audience…I would like to hear more specifics from Thomas. But I appreciate the point and what he’s saying…even if a lot of conservative Christians are judgmental or seem prejudice, that doesn’t include all people. And it is possible to have ethical disagreements about someone’s lifestyle and still love that person, and yes, not judge them either. (I know that’s not the most popular opinion…nobody wants to be told somebody thinks they’re doing something wrong. But the reality is we’re all in various states of fault.)

  7. Jameseq says:

    Im an Atheist however I really enjoy reading the articles in the ‘Spirituality Section’.
    It brings new voices (the great majority of people believe in an Intelligent First Cause), and new male perspectives to GMP – how faith guides and instructs men in their masculinities

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