The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
If you are agreeable, I would like to step back from consideration of the morality of homosexual acts, and spend some time on the badges or tokens of masculinity. We discussed this earlier when we addressed what it means to be malakoi, but there is more to be said on the subject. I wrote earlier that one of the things you had to review in your life were those characteristics that you had come to believe were virtuous, but which were actually indicative of the broader problem. For example, there is a gentleness that is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and there is also a gentleness that is effeminate and gay.
So how to tell the difference? We live in a time when learning how to distinguish such things really is one of our pressing needs. But rather than set ourselves to a difficult task, our generation has set itself to a much easier task, that of mocking any attempt at understanding the biblical assignment of our roles. How easy would it be, in this climate, to make fun of someone who simply wanted to “be manly.” What? You want to thump your chest? Chew tobacco? What exactly?
We have been mocking manliness for so long and so thoroughly that we have gotten into the graduate school of such mockeries—I mean the self-referential ironies of the lumbersexual.
First, let me outline the requirement, and then we can turn the hard work of making some necessary distinctions. The Bible does say that soft men (malakoi) are not going to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). Near the end of that same letter, Paul says this: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). The phrase quit ye like men translates one word, which is andrizomai. The word for man is aner, and so this verb literally means play the man, be manly.
We are taught in the Old Testament that external, cultural gender blending is not a trifle. Moses describes it as an abomination.
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 22:5).
Now your temptations are toward other men, and your surrounding temptations are to be soft, like a woman ought to be. There is a corresponding temptation for women, but it works in the opposite direction. Men should be hard, and are sometimes tempted to be soft. Women are to be soft, and are sometimes tempted to be hard. The man who is soft and effeminate is sinning against his nature, whether or not he ever gets into bed with another man. He is being gay, to use one of our words for it. A woman who is gruff and broad-shouldered, and swaggers out to the mound is being butch, to use one of our words for that. Because I am talking to you about your temptations, I don’t want to pursue this too far. But understanding the corresponding sin among the women can help you understand what is going on.
Our culture got a bad case of gender dysphoria well before lots of individuals got it. It doesn’t take much to get shouted down these days. Just suggest that young girls need to be taught how to be ladylike, and the derision starts right in. Just suggest that young men need training in how to be manly, and the hooting commences. But if men can go to Hell for being effeminate, as the apostle Paul plainly teaches, then women can go there for acting like Bruno.
If a Christian school has a girls’ basketball team that performs a haka dance before the game starts, you might have a problem. If your daughter is tatted up like Blackbeard’s surliest lieutenant, you might have a problem.If a Christian school has a girls’ basketball team that performs a haka dance before the game starts, you might have a problem.
In the passage from Deuteronomy, the phrase underneath “that which pertaineth to a man” is keli geber, and could readily be rendered “the gear of a warrior.” This is not a prohibition of a cute pair of slacks from Talbots, but rather a prohibition of women decking themselves out in the masculine regalia of a warrior. For the men, they are prohibited from putting on a woman’s garments—cross-dressing, in other words. Men must not buy and wear women’s silk underwear—it is perversion. Women must not aspire to compete with men in masculine pursuits—it is confusion.
Now I grant that it is hard to get through a paragraph like the preceding without sputtering . . . because we have all been catechized so well by the unbelieving secularists.
I grant that this is simple out at the edges, but there are aspects of this that are not easy. So what is the difficult part? Well, of course, courage is a virtue for Christian women as well as for Christian men. I grant it. Jael the wife of Heber was no buttercup. And then there is this question. What about the cultural differences and variations in what exactly constitutes a token of masculinity, or a token of femininity?
Sex roles have a biological, creational aspect to them. This is a fixed center. I am talking about sexual intercourse, the conception of a child, the bearing of a child, the nursing of a child, and so on. Women are created to nurture. Men are created to provide and protect. That is the center, and every sane culture in the history of the world has honored that center. One of the effects of such honor is that the central things are strengthened and reinforced. But cultures do vary, and their ways of showing this honor have varied.
Let me use the American salute and the British salute as an illustration. The biblical requirement to honor those in authority over you means that a Christian enlisted man is required by Scripture to salute his officers. But the Bible says nothing about whether to do this with palm out or palm down. The necessity of the honor is a creational reality; the language of the honor varies from culture to culture.
And so this is why the kilt is not a dress. This is why it is not unfeminine for a mom to climb into a 6,000 pound SUV in order to barrel down the highway, whatever her great-great grandmother would have thought about it. This is why it is not a sin to teach your daughter how to throw a ball. This is why the judge behind the bench is not wearing a black mumu. This is why customs can and do change. But the scriptural requirement is that they change from a society in which the tokens of the sex roles are well-defined to a society where the new tokens of the sex roles remain well-defined. If you change from one where they are well-defined to one where everything is confused and blurry, what happens?
One of the things that happens is that young men and young women are left without instruction, without guidance, and without reinforcements. But many of them desperately need instruction and help, and when the society that ought to be offering it mocks them instead, the results are not pretty.
Put it this way. All men know in their bones that they are supposed to fight in order to protect the women and children. No one needs to teach that. Creation teaches it. Nature itself teaches it. The Bible teaches it. “And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4:14). That is the creational center. But young boys do need to be taught how to bang their spear on their shield.