But then I started reading and was intrigued by his suggestion that, of the world’s major religions, only Christianity seems to have a problem getting men.
His assessment is that many men have a prior commitment to a religion of masculinity and that modern Christianity seems to threaten their sense of manhood.
The deeper I got into Murrow, the more convinced I became that the author was not a “marketer” who was himself uneasy with something as foundational as the “beatitudes” of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Neither was he saying that the Bible doesn’t speak to the heart and strength of either men or women.
Murrow made it clear that the church must be marked by a healthy expression of both masculinity and femininity and affirmed God’s design for both.
He repeatedly expressed in forceful terms that he is not calling for male dominance or an absence of women leaders.
What he argues is that “from the inside” many of us don’t see that we have, in effect, run a grid through the Bible (my term) and come with a church culture that speaks, sings, and teaches in a language of “gentle, meek, personal relationships, marked by intimacy, sharing, transparency, love and submission.”
Murrow affirms these basic Christian values but says that we have lifted them out of context. He suspects that in our natural desire for conformity, comfort, and control we too often fail to balance the love of Christ with the risk, danger, challenge, and sacrifice that marked his life– and to which he called his disciples.
As I read Murrow, I began to second guess how much injustice I might have done to ideas that I’ve so often emphasized here in this column. Suddenly I realized how feminine it could sound to an “outsider male” who hears me talk about the “wisdom that comes from above [that] is first of all pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (deferential), full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
Even though I wouldn’t want to be caught dead talking or walking like a woman, it occurs to me that that the way I talk about Christ-like attitudes might sound to some men as if they’re being asked to trade in their sports talk, technology, guns and fishing poles for pink shirts, lacy underwear, and high heels.
Murrow is probably right when he says more than a few unchurched men hear us talk about Jesus as if he is a woman in a beard. He knows that some will say, “C’mon can’t men get past that macho stuff!” His response is that if we expect that… we might as well expect women to dismiss their maternal instincts.”
In either case, what’s bad is leaving the impression that it doesn’t take superhuman strength, courage, risk, initiative, sacrifice, and character to be a Christ-like man or woman.
I’ll stop here for now. There’s much more in his book, just as there is far more to be considered in the other book I’m reading by Denise George, titled What Women Wish Pastors knew and is subtitled “Understanding the Hopes, Hurts, Needs, and Dreams of Women in the Church.”
P.S. From some of the comments to this post I need to make it clear that Murrow isn’t saying that i.e. the fruit of the Spirit is/are feminine but rather that i.e. love, gentleness etc. tend to be perceived by outsiders as being feminine rather than masculine in character– especially when they are expressed in a passive, unengaged, nonChrist-like manner.