Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"The New Spiritual Man"

Meanwhile, back at the ongoing "New spiritual man in America" discussion, this is a good time to go over some basics.

First - and contrary to the notion that talking about men's spirituality as something distinct is by definition sexist or reactionary or, God forbid, politically incorrect - I am possibly the least chauvinistic man in North America. To wit:
  • I am married to a phenomenally gifted Presbyterian pastor and I understand the role of "minister's spouse"
  • When the kids were growing up I served several tours of duty as a "stay at home dad"
  • I orchestrated pediatric visits, baby-sitters, play-dates, meals and car-pooling
  • I still handle 95% of our cooking and kitchen duty today
  • I actually believe Genesis 1:27: "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
Next: The fact is, historical trends in mainline Christianity reveal a wholesale "pulling back" by men. Today active participation, leadership roles, attendance, and commitment beyond Sunday morning worship services all reflect significantly more involvement by women than men.

Observation: I honestly believe one of the best indicators of health in a church (more useful than membership, general attendance, baptisms, or Sunday-school attendance) is the number of men present (aged 25-65) who are excited about their faith and who passionately follow Jesus.

Then - and this is significant - many initiatives to re-engage men have tended to lean toward chauvinism, have held out the cultural stereotypes of a previous generation as the ideal, have bought into the values of the so-called "Christian Right", have identified with the term "evangelical" as social/political ideology rather than divine commission, and have sought to role back the progress of women instead of embracing a partnership that moves forward rather than attempting to re-invent the past.

Consequently I am excited and encouraged every time I meet men who have made the faithful commitment to follow Jesus... rather than simply preserve "North American Christian Religion" as a social or even anthropological time-capsule from the 1950's.

Ooops, there I've said it! I've actually made the distinction between these two ideas.
  1. An orientation to religiosity that tries to mold Christ into the image of conservative middle-America.
  2. A commitment to follow Jesus that intends to see men and women transformed into the image of Christ.
Paul does a great job with this idea in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3:12-18. Read it, then think again about my great hope that the "New Spiritual Man" in America will not be limited (like the people of Israel whose minds were hardened) by reactionary efforts to re-invent the past... but instead will become/is becoming transformed into the image of Jesus - from one degree of glory to another....
  • Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

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