Promise Keepers has so far embraced a rhetoric of both servanthood and soft patriarchy, a position ambiguous enough to make Christian feminists of both sexes push them for greater clarity. “Promise Keepers will have to walk a narrow line,” writes seminary professor Howard Snyder, “calling for male leadership without putting down the leadership of women.”
Recently my neighbor told me about a widower living in double jeopardy. With no homemaking training in his past and no wife to clean up after him, his house was piled high with junk, dirty dishes, and soiled clothes. In addition, he had to share that house with a virtual stranger: his child.
I have been told on a number of occasions that men who adhere to an egalitarian view of the marital relationship and who see no ministry restrictions for women in the church approach the Bible from some personal bias that keeps them from seeing the truth. What usually follows in the conversation (lecture) is armchair psychologizing as to why such men want or need to hold an egalitarian view. I find armchair psychologizing somewhat specious and boring when it occurs among my professional colleagues, so I am quite intolerant when laypersons enter into such endeavors, particularly when I know they are applying their theories to me! Nevertheless, in violation of my own rules in this regard, I offer some of my ideas as to why men have a psychological investment in holding to a hierarchical view and thus may show little willingness even to entertain the possibility that an egalitarian view could be scriptural.
Change begins with our language, because what we say and what we write reveals our unchallenged assumptions about women. Beyond that, however, we must change our missions commitment to include evangelizing and training the world’s women.
While agreeing that God is not male, some tradition-minded Christians have taught that God is masculine. The difference here is that God may represent a kind of masculine spiritual principle without being “male” in the literal sense. The purpose of this article is to refute this idea
“Why don’t you attend as a volunteer, and then we can observe the rally from different angles.” This was Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen’s suggestion. She was coming to Pittsburgh to report for Books and Culture on the 1996 Promise Keepers’ rally to be held at Three Rivers Stadium. Mary would be there in an official capacity, and that seemed more up-front to me. I didn’t want to be a spy. But she proved persuasive.
Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles.
As the role of men in families is debated in America, since 1991 the rapidly expanding evangelical (Promise Keepers) men’s movement has sponsored conferences filling major sports stadiums. Christian bookstores are creating new “men’s" sections for the many new books on masculinity being produced by most of the conservative Protestant publishing houses. A survey of these books shows that the books do not display a monolithic “return to traditionalism" approach to the changing issues of gender and family relationships.