I love men’s ministry. I do. Men’s events, be they campouts, retreats, monthly breakfasts, you name it- are important to the life of a church. Many men don’t feel at home in the formal atmosphere of many church buildings, and so find it hard to relax and be real. A men’s event often puts guys together in a more relaxed and natural setting, which help bring down the walls that we put up. Men’s events promote camaraderie and true friendship, something many men lack.
On the other hand, men’s ministry has its drawbacks. Women bring many talents to the human mix, and one of them is that they tend to be a mitigating factor against some of the worst behavior of men. Our bad behaviors are well known: arrogance, bravado, posturing, feeling the need to prove our manhood and outperform the other guy. Unleashed and unchecked, our quest for manly honor among our peers can venture into the darkness.
As I’ve already noted, guys like John Piper define manhood by their degree of authority and leadership over women.
Putting that kind of poison in a room with men trying to “man up” on one another is a recipe for ugliness. The easiest way in the world to score some “man points” with a lot of other men is to engage in some patriarchal bravado. Sadly, this is all too common at men’s events.
And the degree to which the errors of hierarchical complementarian theology has permeated our church is a good indicator of how badly men will behave in reference to women at times when women aren’t present.
So I was extremely proud of my pastor at the last men’s retreat in his choice of inspirational video. He always picks several clips for the retreat to fire up the men, to encourage us to not be complacent, to go deeper in God, to fight the good fight of faith for our families and others around us. Often they are clips from action movies. And that first night, his pick was this:
Leon knew he spoke up to the wrong guy, and at this point wanted out of the conversation. So we moved on for the time being. But that conversation opened the door for us to discuss it more fully after the retreat. And we did.
Full disclosure: I was ready for what came from Leon. I didn’t know who would be the bearer of the patriarchal spew on that retreat, but I knew it would come from somebody. It always does. So I made it a point of prayer before the retreat– that God would arm me and equip me to spot the patriarchal nonsense when I saw it, and give me the voice and the words to call it out effectively.
Because here is the deal, guys: Left unchallenged, things like that enforce the patriarchal darkness left to us by the fall.
Would Leon leave the retreat feeling his misogyny confirmed? Or rather would he leave feeling it challenged? The answer to that question was up to me.
In the past we may have been content to let our sisters fend for themselves in matters like these. We’ve been thinking it’s not our fight. And that is why the church is still mired in patriarchal teaching 2000 years after Christ. Because if all our conversations are clean and pure whenever the sisters are around, there is nothing for them to discuss or oppose. If all the patriarchal speech is out of the sights and ears of the women, patriarchy continues to spread. And so it will be unless the men stand up for our sisters. And this is what we’ve got to do.
A complementarian friend of mine once prefaced a speech in a men’s breakfast, “I can’t say this everywhere but I can say it here in front of you guys,” before he spouted some misogynistic drivel. I let him get away with it that day, but never again. This is what we cannot allow to happen. Because this fight isn’t solely for our sisters to fight. It is ours to fight with them.
As Tauriel said,
It is our fight. “It will not end here. With every victory, this evil will grow! If your father has his way, we will do nothing. We will hide with in our walls, live our lives without light and let darkness descend. Are we not part of this world? Tell me, Mellon, when did we allow evil to become stronger than us?”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:21