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J.A.A. Purves

I'm no longer writing this book ...

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And I have a couple minutes before walking out the door today, and because thinking about this is bothering me I wanted to -

I don't want to respond gracelessly. If I have, forgive me.

You haven't. And I apologize if I have.

Perhaps I'm reacting against a "Christian men should be Braveheart" campaign that I see trending in the church, rather than to Persiflage's premise. If so, I am sorry. I have been writing and speaking frequently recently against the idea of The Christian as Overcoming Hero Who Smacks the World Into Shape, in favor of The Christian as Saint, who meekly and humbly takes up his cross and leads by the example of the grace-loving suffering servant. Because Saints and Heroes are, by their popular Western-mythology definitions, two very different things.

But as I remain puzzled by Persiflage's premise, I am certainly interested in seeing him describe it more thoroughly.

My premise is essentially that we live in a culture that encourages men to act like women, and, this is undesirable, for both men and women. The question then becomes that when men start acting like women, how does one distinguish between what is bad about this without implying that women act badly.

I haven't read or heard very much about Driscoll and his church actually. In fact, I first became acquainted with him a year or so ago only because of the controversy caused by some of the things he had said, or that it was at least reported that he had said.

Edited by Persiflage

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There is something very powerful in knowing that Jesus took all the physical blows - and the verbal/emotional ones - for me. His forgiveness of those who harmed him spurred me to seek to forgive those who had done (in some cases, were still trying to do) harm to me ...

For the record, I pretty much agree with this entire particular post of yours.

As a not-so-parenthetical note, I grew up during the most intense days of the Civil Rights movement. The people who put themselves in harm's way in order to assert their humanity - to demand equal treatment under the law, the right to vote, redress of wrongs - were not violent. They deliberately chose another way, even in the face of intensely violent reprisals. (Bombings of churches - that killed children; police dogs and fire hoses being turned on them, horrific physical beatings, reprisals against families, wrongful - and brutal - imprisonment, murders - including lynchings - etc. etc. etc.) I do not think much would have changed had they fought those who oppressed them (with violent actions of their own, that is). The images of non-violence being met with violence were pervasive, on TV, in the newspapers.

Still agreed. Although I wish they could have had some sort of more organized violence/protection to defend themselves from lynchings. Even though they often fought separately, the stories of WWII and Korean War veterans coming back home to the South, and the violence that resulted a couple times when guys found their black military buddies being told to sit at the back of the bus, or being refused service at the bar - warm the heart. But there was nothing unmasculine about nonviolent, civil disobedience in the Civil Rights movement.

It is, I think, very much a living out of what Thomas a Kempis called "the imitation of Christ." And it's hardly coincidental that so many of the people involved in the Civil Rights movement were committed Christians. They knew they were taking huge risks - that they might be faced with their own deaths, and the deaths of those they loved, by simply walking across a bridge (knowing that police were poised to attack them when they got to the other side), by sitting at "whites only" lunch counters, by using public restrooms and drinking fountains - and all the rest.

Completely agreed.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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Nezpop - I fail to see the ties between opposition to alcohol and any notion of feminization. Abstaining from alcohol fits your thesis only if you presume the issue of feminization goes back to the early church.

I wasn't make that tie in modern day times. And you're right, I wouldn't make the claim except for once in a while it being a relic of the old women's temperance leagues that we can talk more about later. The only thing I was doing on that was distinguishing myself a little from only being in the white, middle class, evangelical culture - my friends outside that culture are often the friends I meet in bars.

A-ha. I understand now. Thanks for the clarification! :)

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: . . . committing to memory the songs of poets . . .

Eh? Which passage is this?

Just a way of saying that he knew the Psalms inside and out.

Edited by Overstreet

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Thank you. If I write the book, and it's really that bad, I can always go cry about it later. Afterwards, I'll just go to the local Barbershop, um Hair Cutterie, I mean Hair Style Salon (where they even offer men's facials) and get the emotional support I need from my relationship with the barber, well I mean the ... oh, never mind.

Wow. Just... wow.

I don't know how to continue this conversation in the face of that. I'm not sure what person or social group you're attacking with that outburst. So some men are into fashion, and others aren't. It would be easy to read this and conclude that you're stereotyping and judging with a broad brush.

So ... I finally allowed myself my first joke in the thread. And apparently the joke's on me, because no one could tell that it wasn't serious and instead looked at it as an "attack." I've been resisting a number of jokes coming to mind for a while now because I was surprised to discover that this subject seemed to be so sensitive to people. But I gave in to temptation, and now look where it's got me. So I didn't mean it as a personal attack on anyone - I didn't mean to insult anyone (I feel like I'm repeating this a lot lately). And, I was referring to the trend some of my friends told me they noticed, and that is the trend of the disappearing regular ol' barbershops (being systematically replaced by Cuttery's and Salon's and whatnot).

My $0.02.

Thanks. I'm honestly considering this discussion a learning experience.

FWIW, I got the joke. It didn't feel like an attack at all.

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So ... I finally allowed myself my first joke in the thread. And apparently the joke's on me, because no one could tell that it wasn't serious and instead looked at it as an "attack."

I saw it as an attempt at humor. I didn't see it as successfully funny, at least not in the intentional ways. Because...

What I'm trying to do is discourage guys from acting in a certain way.

I'm sure you'd agree that humor is often a force of social control, a means of enforcing social norms. For those of us who find the prescribed ideas of what it means to be masculine or feminine don't always neatly align with our interests, behavior, etc, we've heard it all before. There's nothing fresh about this type of humor. It's unfunny, but it's not even offensive, exactly. It's just embarassing, and makes you look less intelligent than you clearly are, like Hans&Frans mocking "girly men" on SNL.

I apologize for the presumptuousness of armchair psychology, but the behavior you're displaying and the ideas you're expressing seem to suggest a pretty classic textbook case of masculine overcompensation. If you're not familiar with that term, it's a particular brand of what Freud called "reaction formation", where strident opposition masks a deep insecurity. Indeed, everything you've told us about your experience growing up coupled with your military background would suggest a set of circumstances where this kind of reaction formation would develop and be positively reinforced. Here's a pretty decent paper that explains the theory.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Overstreet wrote:

: Just a way of saying that he knew the Psalms inside and out.

Well, that would be scripture, not poetry per se. Jews, like Christians, sang psalms in the Temple and the synagogue as part of their regular worship. Whether Jesus knew the Psalms "inside and out" or knew only some of them really, really well, I couldn't say -- I don't think the gospels indicate one way or the other -- but this isn't quite the same thing as saying that he was a sensitive artiste, as it were.

On a quasi-related note, with regard to that thread I linked to earlier, I note that I already quoted in there some thoughts that have been recurring to me during this thread, courtesy of Frederica Mathewes-Green:

Western and Eastern Christianity have so much overtly in common that the underlying differences in approach are easy to miss. To use archetypal terms, the eastern interest in challenge and rigor could be described as masculine. . . .

Western Christianity, I find, has a comparatively feminine flavor. The emphasis is on nurturing and comfort; reunion with God occurs as he heals our inner wounds. In the West, we want God to console and reassure us; in the East, we want God to help us grow up and stop acting like jerks. . . .

Author Leon Podles traces this situation all the way back to the thirteenth century and the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard's mysticism was based on imagining oneself the Bride of Christ, which made it immensely popular with women though less accessible to men. As this emotional, individualized, and self-focused spirituality spread, there arose in reaction the dry and deliberate Scholastic theology epitomized by St. Thomas Aquinas. The outcome was an enduring and unfortunate split in the West between heart and head. In annoying confirmation of stereotypes, women generally preferred and patronized heart-based spirituality, while men went for the head. . . .

It's not religion that's feminine, but specifically western Christianity of recent centuries. Islam and Judaism, rigorous and demanding faiths, are balanced the other way, with more active men than women. Eastern Orthodoxy, likewise, is strongly attractive to men, and church attendance is more gender balanced. As Podles points out, among Christians only the Orthodox write basso profundo church music. . . .

Make of that what y'all will, but I like Mathewes-Green's use of "archetype" as opposed to the more polemical "stereotype".

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So ... I finally allowed myself my first joke in the thread. And apparently the joke's on me, because no one could tell that it wasn't serious and instead looked at it as an "attack."

I saw it as an attempt at humor. I didn't see it as successfully funny, at least not in the intentional ways. Because...

What I'm trying to do is discourage guys from acting in a certain way.

I'm sure you'd agree that humor is often a force of social control, a means of enforcing social norms. For those of us who find the prescribed ideas of what it means to be masculine or feminine don't always neatly align with our interests, behavior, etc, we've heard it all before. There's nothing fresh about this type of humor. It's unfunny, but it's not even offensive, exactly. It's just embarassing, and makes you look less intelligent than you clearly are, like Hans&Frans mocking "girly men" on SNL.

I apologize for the presumptuousness of armchair psychology, but the behavior you're displaying and the ideas you're expressing seem to suggest a pretty classic textbook case of masculine overcompensation. If you're not familiar with that term, it's a particular brand of what Freud called "reaction formation", where strident opposition masks a deep insecurity. Indeed, everything you've told us about your experience growing up coupled with your military background would suggest a set of circumstances where this kind of reaction formation would develop and be positively reinforced. Here's a pretty decent paper that explains the theory.

Now this is really not funny. I've always been bothered when people will say things like "I am so sorry for attacking your character but I'm going to do it anyway because I have something to say and...oh yeah...I am really not sorry." Perisflage is too nice to speak so I feel compelled to respond. Up to this point, he has kept the conversation free from personal attacks. Who cares though, right? Let's just label him as "unfunny", "a textbook case of masculine overcompensation", and the forever enjoyable "embarrasing." I'm glad we can keep this civil. Should I add an empty apology to the beginning of this paragraph to make it go down easier?

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:blink:

I'm certainly not attacking anyone's character. I'm trying to make plain the reasons that people wouldn't respond positively to that kind of humor. If explaining to someone why a joke was in poor taste and made us all wince and suggesting some resources for further study qualifies as an "attack", well...I guess some people just need to feel persecuted.

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:blink:

I'm certainly not attacking anyone's character. I'm trying to make plain the reasons that people wouldn't respond positively to that kind of humor. If explaining to someone why a joke was in poor taste and made us all wince and suggesting some resources for further study qualifies as an "attack", well...I guess some people just need to feel persecuted.

The joke didn't "make us all wince." No one here feels the need to be persecuted - why even make that statement unless you are trying to get people on the defensive? I didn't feel the joke was in poor taste. After reading pages of spirited discussion I thought the joke was useful in lightening the mood. I'm sorry everyone didn't feel that way...get it? I'm sorry...That was probably in poor taste as well.

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There is some skewed reasoning involved (imo, at least), and I don't yet see convincing arguments for what Persiflage is saying about the supposed "feminization" of men, or about "effeminate" men, let alone women being hell-bent on making sure men aren't allowed to have fun. (cf. the link to the Prohibition/temperance movement post, which sort of skims the surface of *part* of the question, and which makes women look like harridans, generally speaking.)

So after further comments, does it make sense yet, when I say that I’m not claiming that women are necessarily actively trying to feminize the culture? Sure, maybe some feminists still are, but I’m not blaming the political feminist movement for what’s happened. Generally speaking, women should be a force for feminine values in our culture - that’s actually a good thing. What is not healthy is for boys to be taught by school and parents to subjugate their natural masculine traits in order to adopt feminine ones, and then once they grow into men the rest of the culture still reinforces this. This actually does harm society (and it is on this that I’m blaming the number of boys currently failing in school, the number of guys not going to or making it in college, and the number of men who abandon their roles as fathers, etc.) Again, all these problems have always been around because of sin, but something has happened to drastically increase the percentage of modern day guys now having these problems. Percentage-wise, this is actually a historical event.

Sports - By the way, the problems in sports that you note are real problems that need to be addressed. But they aren’t reasons for guys not to watch or play sports. My concern is a modern sports world where the news coverage is focused less on actual sports and more on the dramatic, less on strategy and more on hunting down players for doing horrible things, spanking them, and then demanding public apologies (like for using steroids), less on humiliating opposing teams and more on humiliating boys’ heroes like Roger Clemmons or Barry Bonds (and calling Congressional Committees to make things even more emotional for everyone).

What happens when drama replaces action & strategy? You get guys like Ocho Cinco breaking into tears when the NFL commissioner tells him he can’t play and Twitter at the same time. Or guys like Greg Anderson sitting in a prison cell separated from his wife and children, because he holds to a code that isn’t going to allow him to assist the media & government in trying to publically humiliate his friend. Yes, drama and emotion are a huge part of sports for guys - but the drama is supposed to be in the game play, not on who Derek Jeter is going to date next. Save Tiger Woods and those sorts of stories for People Magazine, not Sports Illustrated. We all need to create popular demand in sports for the sorts of things the Apostle Paul liked about it, not the sorts things ESPN focuses on now.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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This reminds me of Stu's genius Facebook "note" on Driscoll's quote:

Matt,

Glad to finally get to some of your comments. Regarding Stu’s "note" on Driscoll -

The one caveat here would be the difference between a God who might let you beat him up (once, when He’s decided to die on the cross for your sins and for the sins of the world), and a God who is a passive, effeminate, meek, womanly character who happens to have a beard. In spite of all the Christian art out there, I’ve never had a problem worrying about Christ’s masculinity myself. The womanly Christ is just the one that comes to mind whenever we’re singing worship songs about holding his hand or laying in his arms. But, since He was a carpenter, and since he regularly hung out with the, shall we say, poor, blue-collar, more rough/uncouth section of society - it’s not hard to deduce that He was the type of man on earth that inspired other rough men to follow Him and view Him as their Master. It was only by being their Lord, Creator, Savior and King that He was able to instruct them, and us, about things like mercy, forgiveness, kindness, caring for the less fortunate, protection of the weak, and absolute self-sacrifice.

So, really, none of us believe in a Jesus we could beat up - because the God of the Bible is not mocked, He is terrible, holy, righteous, powerful, awe-inspiring. It is Christ and only Christ that leads me to deny myself, think of others, realize how sinful my heart really is, and grow in the desire to share the gospel. I have so much more to learn from Him, and when I realize other guys (some believers, some nonbelievers) have a false image of Him because of what the culture and modern church popularly portrays, well ... it makes me want to speak up.

Draper,

There are changes afoot true, I think more study and observation is warranted.

Agreed.

What concerns me when the talk turns to "feminization" is that it sounds like bad things are happening.

That’s what I’ve come to believe.

I understand the concern. If you can take on this topic and avoid wallowing, I say bring it on.

Sounds like a deal, I'll try not to wallow.

And nope, I haven’t read Shopcraft as Soulcraft, I’ll look into it - but the "unwinds into an abyss of male self pity" sort of thing doesn’t seem like a very hot recommendation.

If there are observable changes taking place, they warrant careful consideration. Are we willing to embrace this change if it turns out to be positive?

So what I’m suggesting is that men avoiding attending church, church prioritizing the feminine over the masculine, fathers abandoning their families, young boys being drugged out of their personalities in elementary school (by the school administration and their parents), boys doing worse in school than they have ever before in American history, and guys attending college less before than ever before in American history, and guys taking on feminine traits instead of masculine traits - that all this is not positive.

M Leary,

Would this be a candidate for your book?

It's something I’ve certainly never thought of before. I read the article and am not sure what to make of it yet. But yes, it does sound like it ties into this topic somehow. I’ll think more about it. Thanks for the idea.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

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e2c wrote:

: He made Peter put his sword away and healed the man whom Peter had attacked.

: He told his followers that those who live by the sword die by the sword.

And he told his followers to carry swords to protect themselves when he was gone. Etc., etc., etc.

Like Persiflage has been saying, there is a need for balance here.

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Like Persiflage has been saying, there is a need for balance here.

Oh, I certainly agree.

What I don't agree with is that the evidence for feminisation, especially in the Church, is undeniable. I grew up in church, being forced at boy's events to do "manly" things, such as working with tools in a very "Home Improvement" kind of manner, or dipping into car engines. Both things that I don't have much interest in, but were considered important to ensure the masculinity of the kids. I'm not particularly handy, or into cars, but I don't think that means I'm particularly effeminate. I grew up in a house with 4 men, and only my mother as a representative woman. I like sports, but I also like cooking, film, and using Facebook.

The evidence just doesn't look so dire from where I am. So, I suppose the question is what does balance look like?

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Anders is correct. While there may be areas of culture where masculine overcompensation is on the decline, (1) this is largely a positive step, not a negative step. (2) This should not be a reason to conclude that masculinity itself is on the decline. Gender roles are, to some significant extent, innate. Masculinity is a renewable resource. It's not going to go away. Dudes are always going to be dudes. But confident masculinity doesn't require policing others' masculinity.

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Anders is correct. While there may be areas of culture where masculine overcompensation is on the decline, (1) this is largely a positive step, not a negative step. (2) This should not be a reason to conclude that masculinity itself is on the decline. Gender roles are, to some significant extent, innate. Masculinity is a renewable resource. It's not going to go away. Dudes are always going to be dudes.

Well said. Hear hear. I'm hanging on to this. I think it will come in handy in other contexts.

Edited by Overstreet

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Holy Moly! wrote:

: But confident masculinity doesn't require policing others' masculinity.

Uh, who's saying anything about POLICING anything?

e2c wrote:

: Not to mention the fact that Jesus didn't hold "men's meetings" or "women's meetings"... ;)

Well, depending on what you make of those meetings with the all-male The Twelve. ;)

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I've always thought the nature of the Incarnation has certain implications for how we understand maleness and femaleness; if Jesus Christ is male, but is still able to serve as an appropriate intermediary and representative for both sexes ("tempted in every way, just as we are"), then we have to be careful in how we distinguish the two. Christ's experience as a human male cannot be so sharply distinct from the experience of a human female, or else we risk bringing into question his effectiveness as the perfect human representative.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Holy Moly! wrote:

: Well...

"Policing" <> "discouraging".

Ryan H. wrote:

: Christ's experience as a human male cannot be so sharply distinct from the experience of a human female, or else we risk bringing into question his effectiveness as the perfect human representative.

Perhaps not, but then, that's just one aspect of the scandal of particularity, or whatever the theologians call it: Jesus is Jewish, not Gentile, yet he represents both; he is male, not female, yet he represents both; he is a virgin, not married, yet he represents both; and so on and so on.

For what it's worth, though, traditional Christianity has always balanced the male-female spectrum to some degree through its veneration of Mary, who certainly isn't divine in the same sense that Jesus is, yet she has always been held up as someone who had to be unusually pure or sanctified or whatever, given that she carried God himself within her flesh.

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Just speculating here...

I sometimes wonder if Jesus was not born as a man in part because his ministry was to subvert our understanding of power. And at the time, since the culture was very patriarchal, he could - by being male - subvert the idea of the world's idea of the ideal man by then becoming a humble servant. "Wives submit to your husbands," we were subsequently told, and the men all nodded and said "Amen." But then we were told, "Husbands serve your wives as Christ served the church," and the authority-loving men went "Huh? You mean, like, humble ourselves and take on the forms of servants?"

Working miracles as he did, imagine the pressure he felt when John the Baptist was beheaded - the pressure to march in there like a man and make the guilty parties pay.

In that sense, he subverts our idea of the image of a man bearing a sword, for we are told that the "sword of the spirit" is the Word of God. (Thus the imagery in revelation of a sword coming out of his mouth: "A sharp sword comes out of his mouth to strike down the nations.") "I come not to bring peace but a sword," he says. And his teachings have divided families and nations ever since.

Yes, he becomes violent cleansing the Temple, but notice that he's not killing anybody. He's overturning tables and driving people out of God's house.

Otherwise, he subverts the very idea of the Roman-conquering revolutionary soldier that they wanted him to become. And instead of staying to prove his power in fistfights, he would slip away from the disgruntled mob. Which I suspect inspired cries of "Coward!"

And then there's his identity as "the second Adam." He had to provide an alternate Adam for the world, one tempted in all things as we are and yet without sin.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Christ's experience as a human male cannot be so sharply distinct from the experience of a human female, or else we risk bringing into question his effectiveness as the perfect human representative.

Perhaps not, but then, that's just one aspect of the scandal of particularity, or whatever the theologians call it: Jesus is Jewish, not Gentile, yet he represents both; he is male, not female, yet he represents both; he is a virgin, not married, yet he represents both; and so on and so on.

Of course.

I'm wondering, has anyone yet made mention of Jesus' use of the "mother hen" imagery to refer to himself? It's certainly an interesting moment in the Gospels, and certainly informs our understanding of Jesus in light of feminine/masculine.

To slightly switch gears, in all of this, one has to concede that ideas of "male" and "female" are deeply bound up in culture, and anthropological survey reveals that while certain constants seem to hold (largely ones that can be directly corrolated with distinct male/female physical and biological factors), there is some sharp variety as well. What Persiflage seems to hold as "masculine" versus "feminine" does not hold universally across cultural and historical lines, and it's not as though there is a clear Biblical definition of these qualities, either.

So the challenge to Persiflage, as I see it, is that he needs to provide an explanation/argument as to why his notion of masculinity is to be pursued over others, and there has to be an awareness of complicating questions, too. For example, it may be true that American men may be attending church less than American women, but isn't it possible that the problem is not with the American church but with American men?

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Ryan H. wrote:

: I'm wondering, has anyone yet made mention of Jesus' use of the "mother hen" imagery to refer to himself? It's certainly an interesting moment in the Gospels, and certainly informs our understanding of Jesus in light of feminine/masculine.

It's interesting, yes, but the primary point there is that the mother hen dies to protect her chicks, not that the mother hen is female.

: For example, it may be true that American men may be attending church less than American women, but isn't it possible that the problem is not with the American church but with American men?

Heck, we might even say that they BOTH have a problem. :)

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It's interesting, yes, but the primary point there is that the mother hen dies to protect her chicks, not that the mother hen is female.

And I wouldn't challenge that in the slightest. Nevertheless, it's interesting that Jesus would choose a metaphor that has the connotations of mother/child, even if the primary point is sacrifice, not sexual differentiation (and that Christianity would pick up on it and subsequently associate Christ with pelican mother/chicks imagery).

Edited by Ryan H.

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So, really, none of us believe in a Jesus we could beat up - because the God of the Bible is not mocked, He is terrible, holy, righteous, powerful, awe-inspiring - and grinds his enemies under his feet (while laughing). And He’s coming back with a huge flaming sword to set everything right again.

OT God is not a good male role model. Which creates a problem when we point to him as an example of divine manliness. Plus there is something objectionable about the immediate leap from 'power and domination' to 'maleness.'

What about the truism that God has no gender, and that he is both loving father and loving mother?

Edited by KShaw

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