The Antidote for Toxic Masculinity in the Church

I was reading an article recently about the Stronger Men Conference in Springfield, MO, and how some controversy arose regarding a shirtless, sword-swallowing male acrobat who was part of the Christian conference's entertainment.  

During one entertainment portion, a tank driven by Chuck Norris also crushed a couple of cars, but that's beside the point. 

Apparently, to some of the dudes gathered at this conference designed to teach men about the subtle art of patriarchy and how to protect it, the acrobat touched a nerve, and their overt homophobia kicked in. 

This led to some pretty awful diatribes about LGBTQ+ people and a doubling down on why it's essential to keep "those people" out of church and relegated to the margins of society. 

The level of hatred, bigotry, and downright meanness that was put on display was pretty impressive, even for a bunch of fired-up, angry white Christian nationalist dudes. 

[To paraphrase Shakespeare here, "Methinks they doth protest too much." Just saying.]

I've been to conferences like this in the past (minus the sword-swallowing acrobat, though), and let me tell you, the vitriol that gets spilled in those spaces about anyone who is considered an "other" is very real. 

Jesus once told his followers to "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you."  He couched this in an exhortation that went something like this: 

"It's easy to love your loved ones; nothing extraordinary about that. But if you extend your love to those you have considered an "enemy," now that's something special."

A better way to interpret the word "enemy" here is "someone who opposes you, your beliefs, identity, etc. 

But it feels like Jesus' teachings are falling on deaf ears in the Church, and not just in the right wing. There's plenty of animosity from all sides.  

The question that many of us might have is, "How did we get here?  How did we get to a place where there are so many Christians who think it's perfectly all right to hate, discriminate, fear-monger, and condemn anyone who is different or who disagrees with them?"

And what do we do about it? 

In a recently written article titled "The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart," Peter Wehner explores the resurgence of this behavior among Christians today.   

He writes that when politicians could (without many Christians blinking an eyelash) add open hatred and resentment to the political-religious stance of ‘true believers,’ it crossed a line. "Tribal instincts seem to have become overwhelming.” 

Wehner then goes on to say that the dominance of political religion over professed religion is seen in how, for many, loyalty to political figures became a blind allegiance. 

The result is that many Christians “have come to see a gospel of hatreds, resentments, vilifications, put-downs, and insults as expressions of their Christianity, for which they too should be willing to fight.”

This brings me back to the Stronger Men Conference.  

From attending conferences like this in the past, I know that well-meaning, devoted, faithful followers of Jesus attend those conferences. And I know from experience that most of them filter out the good from the bad.  

What they crave is community, connection, and affirmation.  

They have been told their whole lives that they need to act a certain way, never show emotion, and be strong and courageous, yet many live lives of quiet desperation, feeling not good enough, not strong enough.   

The Church needs to offer them more than toxic masculinity, bigotry, and hatred. The Church needs to give them a real glimpse into Jesus's life. 

No politician and few mega-church pastors will offer them Jesus, however, without first making Jesus in their own image.  

We must listen more carefully to Jesus's words about love, inclusion, sacrifice, and salvation.  We all need to hear the intrinsic value of loving everybody, which is inextricably bound to a life of following Christ.  

We all need to do everything we can to ensure that the Church of Jesus Christ does not entirely lose its way.  

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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