Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stereotypes and Status

As many of you know, Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been causing quite a stir among Christian writers, thinkers, bloggers, and church leaders. I thought I'd wade into these waters as a Christian research psychologist and offer up some thoughts on Mark Driscoll.

The aspect of Driscoll's ministry that I'd like to focus on is Driscoll's thesis regarding the place of masculinity within Christianity. This "Macho Man" emphasis is the most provocative and controversial aspect of Driscoll's ministry....

When you listen to Driscoll much of what he is talking about has more to do with traditional gender role interests than agenic personality. Changing the oil in my car, shooting guns, and loving NASCAR are, stereotypically, male gender role interests. And Driscoll has a point that none of this is intrinsically unChristian. The trouble comes when issues of gender role interest get confused with issues of agenic psychology. Loving Monster Truck rallies is a separate issue from psychological needs for power, control, and dominance.

Here's my point. People tend to confuse gender role interest and agenic personality motives. If "Joe Six Pack" shows up at church and gets the vibe that he "can't be a man" what, exactly, does this mean? That to be a Christian you can't drink beer or go to Ultimate Fighter matches? It seems to me that the feminine/child metaphors of Christianity are pushing back against agenic strivings rather then stereotypical gender interests. But this is not at all clear to many male believers. The two issues--gender role interests and agenic motives--are often conflated. This leads to a great deal of confusion about if "real guys" have a place at church....

A lot of the reaction to Driscoll isn't even about gender. We are actually talking about the little discussed fissure running through many churches: Education.

I see this everyday in my own church. The educated teach, preach, and have the public leadership roles. The uneducated are marginalized. Worse, if you are an uneducated male, you are force-fed those feminine metaphors. Educated males, being chickified, don't mind or even notice the feminine metaphors. But Joe Six Pack notices the metaphors. All this creates a disjoint in the church. Two groups of males who find each other alien and weird. So when Joe Six Pack wants to start a Wild at Heart study the chickified church leader just blinks uncomprehendingly. Or, if you are me, turns back to his knitting...

Let me offer up this little test for your reflection and experimentation:

If you hear a man trash Wild at Heart or Promise Keepers that person very often has a graduate degree. {full post}
[via Experimental Theology, HT: Notes From Off-Center]

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