One of the reasons I have been so intrigued with Murrow’s book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” is that his work explores the interrelationship between spiritual character and the real and perceived nature of masculinity and femininity.
In the middle of such a discussion I find myself in wonder of both the self-evident nature of gender similarities and differences– and the mystery.
Over the years I have heard many attempts to characterize gender distinction in relationships, organizational structure, and communication. At this point I have no doubt that, in the wisdom of God, he has made us as men and women wonderfully similar and different—so as to enable us together to reflect his likeness.
What I cannot see at this point is that it is adequate or helpful to say things like, “Men are made to lead. Women to follow.” Or “Real men are strong, real women beautiful.”
Neither does it make sense to me to say that courage, sacrifice, or honor are masculine characteristics.
It seems too obvious that just as men and women both have a “voice” that tends to be different, so both men and women share the challenges of character, strength, duty, and understanding, in similar, distinct, and complementary ways.
What seems most important is a subject we’ve been talking about the last couple of days. I am certain that the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23); the “blessed” attitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-10) and the characteristics of wisdom (James 3:13-17) are neither masculine or feminine in nature—even though they might all be expressed in ways that are more feminine or masculine.
What I find especially intriguing about Murrow is the way he boldly affirms masculine and feminine differences while not sliding off the road to one side or the other. For instance, while warning that men typically are not as likely to follow women as they are to follow other men, he acknowledges our need for gifted women leadership.
As an example, he writes about the legacy of Henrietta Mears who “led hundreds to faith in Jesus, including Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.” Murrow points out that “During her tenure as Christian education director at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, more than four hundred young people entered full-time Christian service, most of whom were males.” The author says, “Men respected her because she spoke their language.”
What does “spoke their language” mean? Murrow himself asks, “Why did Billy Graham call her the most influential woman he ever met, after his own mother and wife? Mears,” he says, “possessed the spirit of a warrior! She loved people enough to challenge the tar out of them! She was a woman with a healthy dose of the masculine spirit.”
I’m not sure what to make of the way he uses the term “masculine spirit.” But of this I am sure–real love, honest, endurance, and self-sacrifice, as they are expressed in real Christ-likeness, transcend our gender and make us into courageous, caring, men and women who are good for one another and others.
This obviously is not the end of the conversation, but only the beginning :-)…