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