THE CHURCH AND EFFEMINACY
Jarred, Jay and Poker Boyd
Many of us are familiar with the books, blogs, articles and conferences addressing the issue of what it means to be a man. From John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, to movies like “Courageous”, as well as messages like Mark Driscoll’s infamous “Marriage & Men” Sermon– most of us have heard the bell sounding for men to rise up. Even the popular Christian rap group, featuring Lecrae – 116 Clique – recently released an album and tour called “Man Up”. The general consensus for defining biblical manhood seems to be unanimous – taking responsibility and exemplifying leadership. “As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership (Mohler, Marks of Manhood).”
No argument there. After all, the bible has made it plain that men should be working towards or taking many responsibilities and leadership duties ranging from family, occupation, church, community, etc. This is obviously a much needed challenge from authors, artists, pastors, and moviemakers. However, I would like to address an issue that tends to be avoided and even downplayed in the subject of biblical manhood. There seems to be a growing number of effeminate men within our Christian culture. This article is intended as a discussion starter and nudge to action concerning the problem of effeminacy within the church as well as a biblical response through discipleship.
Definition: ef·fem·i·nate/iˈfemənit/ Adjective: derogatory. (of a man) Having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly. (Oxford Dictionary)
A Sad Reality
One young youth leader recently shared with me that he grew up in an average youth group. Yet during his seven years there he observed no less than three guys who were regular attendees, yet accepted for who they were – effeminate teenage guys. They displayed all of the common characteristics of effeminate men that we listed above. Even the girls accepted them as having more in common with them than the guys did – allowing them to be part of the girl talk and inner-circle joking that would have been out of bounds for any other guy. Though heckled a bit at school, these guys found a safe haven once they escaped to the youth group and church activities. The ladies inadvertently enabled this feminine behavior by looking past their feminine-like displays and seeing them as some sort of soft and safe alternative. Although the guys put much effort into accepting them, they naturally ended up avoiding them many times because of their feelings of discomfort. Predictably, they sometimes wondered if they were unaccepting and too judgmental. Sure, everyone knew this behavior was odd, but if anyone dare brought the matter up in conversation, the guilt banner would be waved. As a result, many young men have been taught to simply realize that some guys are gentler and just don’t enjoy the typical guy stuff. Less than two years into college, all three of these individuals ended up coming out of the closet to choose homosexuality. One of them even became president of the homosexual club of his college.
The Factors of Instigation
It’s sad to know that these individuals were never intentionally discipled and shown true masculinity and taught biblical manhood. One of the great dangers at stake here is the reality that, far too often, genuinely effeminate boys begin to believe they are homosexual simply because of their feminine tendencies. According to Dr. Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute, there are four influences that (can lead to) homosexual desires – homosexual experience, family abnormality, unusual sexual experience (particularly in childhood), and cultural influences. Culture has certainly teamed up with the postmodern movement to “do what makes you feel happy.” And for the minority of effeminate males in our culture – this means often wrongly concluding that they were born homosexual because of their feminine tendencies. We want to encourage church leadership to address biblical masculinity so as to assist young men towards biblical masculinity and away from the choice of the effeminate and potential progression towards a homosexual lifestyle.
The Heterosexual Secret
There is a phrase known by many as “The heterosexual secret”. This is the term given to that uncomfortable feeling most every heterosexual male experiences at least to some degree while in the presence of effeminate men. The reason most men feel uncomfortable around effeminate guys is because it is unnatural and as such SHOULD make us uncomfortable. It isn’t innocent or trendy. It’s inappropriate and from a leadership standpoint, it sets a terrible example of biblical masculinity to the boys and teenagers within our churches – much less the lost world observing us. Still, some might consider this to be the concern of a homophobe, with the idea of real masculinity being completely regional, cultural, and/or subjective.
A growing number of biblically conservative young leaders are faced with the reality of serving on staff alongside those affected and even embracing the effeminate movement. In cases such as this, there is often little concern for sexual orientation due to the fact that they are married with families and seem well liked. Those who know these ministers agree that they seem to fit the definition provided above by Dr. Mohler for “Biblical manhood” because they take responsibility and roles of leadership within their homes and the church. Indeed, many are said to display true godliness and Christ-centered lifestyles. The issue lies in the example they provide for impressionable young people who are laboring over gender issues and in need of examples of masculine leadership. The thought of these effeminate leaders preaching and teaching young men who are struggling with gender issues, is quite honestly concerning. This scenario could promote the wrong assumption within these young men that it is acceptable and even lauded to be a Christian and display womanly characteristics. This would only further intensify the young men’s struggles with gender confusions.
Biblical Evidence for Masculinity
Still, one could argue that any feeling of discomfort is completely subjective. After all, who authored the code of masculinity? There’s nothing in the bible that states the specifics or standards of how men must walk, talk, and act in order to be considered masculine. One could use the phrase, “To each his own”. However, I think the concept of biblical masculinity is worth a closer look.
There aren’t any indications throughout the Bible of Godly figures being effeminate. We have every reason to believe that God consistently used men who displayed true masculinity. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing exactly how biblical characters walked, talked and expressed mannerisms. However, our LORD God is King, exercising absolute authority – “The universe is subject to Christ (Ephesians 1:22), Christ is subject to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28), the Church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24), Christians are subject to God (James 4:7), and wives are subject to husbands (Colossians 3:18) – (Weber, Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, p. 76).” We serve a masculine God who practices headship. Not a submissive, irresponsible, weenie unable to command all things. Men should likewise be authoritative, responsible, resilient and tough-minded – able to take command. God is also described in the Bible as a Warrior. Now, let’s just pause for a second… when you hear that word “warrior”, do you picture a girly-man on the frontlines of a battle or William Wallace? Wallace, of course! King Jesus is a warrior, as described in Revelation 19:11-16
My point is that we must confront the issue of effeminacy in our churches and expect men to display a masculinity that is God-given. I believe the issue of effeminacy is a learned behavior and the fact that so many men are being raised fatherless is certainly part of the problem. Consider how the secular government authorities in Malaysia are dealing with the issue. A certain headline reads: “Malaysia sends 66 boys to boot camp.” Officials identified and sent 66 boys who displayed feminine characteristics to a boot camp in which they were taught masculinity. (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/malaysia-sends-effeminate-boys-to-boot-camp/149825-19.html). While I disagree with the extreme singling out of certain individuals on such a corporate and governmental level, at least someone has identified the fact that it is unnatural and a problem that can lead down an unwanted path. Wouldn’t these boys be much better off if the corrections were made as a part of the discipleship process rather than a secular boot camp? Discipleship should be taking place in our churches from older men to younger men. Every Timothy needs a Paul. Effeminate boys should be discipled rather than avoided because they make us feel “uncomfortable” or because we’re scared to address it as an issue. Men must come alongside these individuals and teach them what masculinity looks like and help families and fathers confront the issue rather than waiting until it’s too late. This undoubtedly means that church leaders need to exemplify masculinity if they are to help set the example. For example, one youth pastor I know had a college leader helping out within his youth group who displayed feminine tendencies (especially when he was up front). After noticing the potential problem it could create, the youth pastor took this individual out to lunch to address the matter in a loving, yet shepherding manner. The deal was made that he’d still be able to lead and contribute in a behind the scenes role, but until the effeminate tendencies were corrected, he wouldn’t be allowed to be up front. Although there was initial lash back, the young man, within a few months was allowed back into his naturally gifted area of leading up front. Now, over the course of a couple years, that young man has almost completely erased his feminine tendencies displaying masculinity.
Another youth pastor I’ve heard about noticed a growing number of effeminate boys within his youth group. The youth pastor implemented an annual winter guys retreat, in which the boys are taught biblical manhood and are shown true masculinity. He emphasized activities that were predominately masculine, such as camping in the woods, chopping fire-wood, building shelters and fires, and many other activities. Through one-on-one sessions, leaders are able to confront these effeminate issues and encourage the importance of masculinity and specific steps to making adjustments. This is what it means to disciple and come along side these feminine individuals without singling them out and embarrassing them. It should always be loving, compassionate, and biblical.
I fear that churches who employ effeminate pastors and/or elevate effeminate leaders without pause are on a slippery slope towards compromising innate, God-given characteristics that make up the very essence of masculinity. Therefore, to summarize, I believe that the two overarching issues at hand with effeminacy among Christian men, are: One, the fact that it has the potential for leading young men to incorrectly believe themselves to be born as homosexual, and secondly, it erroneously displays within a church leadership context a misrepresentation of manhood and masculinity. Because of these issues, I believe the biblical resolution is to come alongside effeminate men in love and usher them into masculinity through discipleship and exemplifying masculinity to them.