Why the Bible Doesn’t Care about Masculinity: A Response Article to DesiringGod.Org

You’ve seen the latest Gillette commercial that has the Evangelical world in a tizzy, right? If not, go watch it. You’ve seen all the response articles and Facebook posts from your great uncle concerning the commercial, correct? Well, here’s one more. But this response is not directed to the actual commercial, but one particular Evangelical critique of the commercial from an article on desiringgod.org. It’s called, “Grooming the Next Generation: Did Gillette Miss a Spot?” if you want to read it. (Shout out to my friend Rachel for knowing what fires me up!)

The crux of the article is that effeminate men will go to hell, and that the Gillette commercial is encouraging men to be effeminate. There are, I think, a few ways to tackle this argument, but I’m going to hit on several points the author used to show why desiringod.org’s definition of masculine is arbitrary. More than arbitrary, it’s sometimes contrary to Scripture. 

The author cites a few verses from 1 Corinthians which could be interpreted as instructing men to “act like men.” The author agrees with Paul’s instructions, saying, “Too often we swing from decrying chauvinism and abuse to producing a society of plastic forks, nonfat lattes, and men who don’t mind going to church because of the free babysiting.”… Nonfat lattes? Really? I could cheaply use this sentence alone to point out the sheer ludicrousness of his whole argument, but I’ll try to keep above that.

He then goes on to describe the horror he and his wife experienced upon going to Disney World and witnessing a plethora of effeminate men whom he categorizes as such because of their “lispy sentences, soft mannerisms, and light gestures,” just to name some of his criteria. Again, “light gestures?” Could you be a little more vague and meaningless, please? What is considered a heavy gesture? Throwing out one’s arms so wide while telling a story that you whack unsuspecting passersby in the face with the back of your palm? But I digress. 

He credits these behaviors to a type of sexual immorality called “soft men” by Paul, although when I read several different versions of the verse he cited, (1 Corinthians 6:9,) I don’t see the word “soft” anywhere, but okay. The author goes on to provide different examples of godly men from Scripture who are, in his opinion, neither violent nor effeminate. Let’s go through the list, shall we?

Godly men are like Moses, not Pharaoh.” Pharaoh most certainly abused his power in ways Moses did not, but it’s foolish to forget that Moses was, like every human today, a person. Moses did not initially act with strength and courage as Paul commanded us to do in 1 Corinthians 16:13. Moses seemed to think he wasn’t man enough for the job: “I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Moses’ first response to the call of God was to make an excuse on why he wasn’t able, which, according to the author’s standards, is a pretty effeminate thing to do. However, because God makes us strong when we are weak, (2 Corinthians 12:11,) Moses overcame his fear enough to lead. 

“They are like David, Not Saul” Again, King Saul was certainly a toxic power monger. But if you want to talk about seemingly effeminate yet godly men, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a better target than King David. David, the poet whose contents of his poems talk about weeping, sleepless nights, and joyful songs would probably fit the modern day bill of an effeminate worship pastor. He played the harp, for crying out loud and danced with a tambourine! I wonder if this author would count these behaviors as heinously feminine as consuming  nonfat lattes. Yet, David is called a man after God’s own heart. Clearly, these behaviors weren’t distancing him from the Lord. 

The author concludes by essentially saying that the modern-day long-haired, soft-handed Jesus often portrayed is a gross misrepresentation when we know that He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

I agree. He is the Lion and the Lamb, and I said a few posts ago, he came “not to bring peace, but a sword.” Yet,

Jesus washed feet.

Jesus wept a lot.

Jesus held people.

Jesus didn’t flaunt his authority, but diverted attempts to trap him with responses of parables.

Jesus did not count his equality with God a thing to be grasped (Phillipians 2:6).

I could go on and on, and I’m sure anyone who has read the Bible has thought of even more examples while reading this. The point though is not to get caught up in whether behaviors fall under masculine or feminine because, as we can see, that’s a very difficult line to define. Some godly men write poetry late into the night and make music for the Lord. Others are warriors of great physical strength. Others are wifeless apostles with feet dirty from travelling. Criticizing a commercial is pointless, but I think we all ought to criticize our own culturally-influenced concepts of femininity and masculinity. Scripture does not care about our definition of masculinity. The Bible was not written today nor was it written by westerners. The more we subconsciously or consciously insert our personal understanding of roles and behavior into the Holy Word, the more we will forever miss the point.

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  1. NA
    January 29, 2019 / 5:05 am

    I love how the majority of people who actually support the Gillette commercial are women. Women who literally, by definition and experience, have no idea what it means to be masculine.

    The remainder are actual effeminate men who probably struggle to lift even 15lbs.

    • karolineott
      January 29, 2019 / 8:47 pm

      I’d be curious to see what quantifiable source leads you to believe that the majority of those who support the commercial are women. Also, the point of this article is to do the OPPOSITE of defining masculinity. As far as your last sentence goes, again, how do you know? I think it’s safe to say that you don’t.

    • Gage Kell
      January 29, 2019 / 9:38 pm

      Not usually one to comment on things like this but I think this warranted a response. First thing I have to say is how easy it must be for you to degrade men and women under an anonymous banner. Second, why would you comment such a hateful thing under the banner of Christ (I assume due to the nature of the article that you do, if not then most of the next comment won’t apply to you). How much good do you think that will do? How dare you bear the name of Jesus and say things about our brothers and sisters. Finally, if physical strength is what you use to gauge manhood (indicated by your final comment) then you must be sorely mistaken and misread on what is important in life.

  2. Parker Christian Ott
    January 29, 2019 / 6:07 pm

    I think its a little harsh to hit people with a tree, let alone the backside of it – eesh – harsh — I like this a lot – keep it up!

    • karolineott
      January 29, 2019 / 8:48 pm

      Thank you for reading! It especially means a lot when a member of the male audience resonates with this sort of post.

  3. Julia Curtis
    January 29, 2019 / 11:56 pm

    I can’t wait to see you tonight and encourage the HECK out of you for this post. I love you and am so proud of you. This post is relevant and well spoken. Never give up.

  4. Karie
    February 2, 2019 / 4:09 am

    Talking with others about the commercial, hearing the “backlash”, and reading articles like this one make it clear how differently we all take in and process information. I personally see the commercial as an encouragement for men to be men; showing at first ways that men can be jerks and then ways that men can stand up and take action for what is morally right. I did not notice one man portrayed as effeminate in this commercial. Also, there was not criticism, in “Grooming the Next Generation”, of the commercial for what it said, but for what it may have omitted. While the authors examples and descriptions may not be perfect, the point he tried to make is accurate. Today’s society is making men soft! I am not just talking about those of LGBTQ community (and I am NOT a hater). I think back to my Grandfathers, my Father and my Uncles; all had strong moral compasses and the willingness, fortitude, and compassion to act on their beliefs. The fast paced, money driven, ludicrous lifestyle of today has broken family structure, stretched the fabric of morality thin and thus trapped our children in a dizzying, vacuum of misinformation driven by greed or hunger. This problem affects boys and girls, however, the cycle perpetuates when a boy does not have proper training in how to handle his part in society. There really is a difference between men and women and the role of a man needs to be of the strong moral character willing to teach, discipline, comfort and protect the family and the community that he can reach. While you may say women can have these qualities as well…true…the woman can truly be a woman with a good man at her side. She can be the soft, nurturing teacher and counselor; the two will be a complement. Instead we have a struggle between men and women, competing for dominance; both in the home and the workplace. Sadly I don’t think society will change, especially since a good word is always misconstrued in minds that rarely hear it and media bends it into something indistinguishable. I think you all should take another look at the documents in question and think with your heart instead of a new-age critical eye.

    • karolineott
      February 2, 2019 / 2:50 pm

      I think it’s a totally fair argument to say that men are becoming soft! I see that as well. However, the point I attempted to make is that we cannot judge a man’s softness based on arbitrary hobbies or behaviors he indulges in such as drinking non fat lattes, having a lisp, etc. Personally, I don’t fully know what it means to be masculine or feminine, but I think that, as you suggested, it is to do with ones character rather than their preferences. I think we all know men who seem to prefer all the masculine activities of this world that we have deemed as such whose hearts are extremely lacking in all the things god called men to. It’s definitely a heart issue: “man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” Great comment! Thank you for reading and sharing.

      • Karie
        February 6, 2019 / 4:02 am

        Glad you agree but I should be more clear as well. I am tired of commentary that takes a token item [of an action, article, comment, commercial, blog, etc] and uses that token as fodder to misdirect the overall intention of the whole. The Whole BIG Picture must be what is viewed! Instead far too many people grasp onto the small portion that their narrow, flitting minds want to see and blow that point out of proportion. It is these mini-commentaries (think mainstream media here also!) that the mass majority of people hear due to busy lifestyles and the propensity to not think for themselves. Meanwhile good intentions, positive change, and powerful messages are lost! The big picture in the case of the commercial and the DesiringGod.org article is not about judgement. They are about steering boys and men in the direction of morality; the article took a stronger Christian stance than the commercial, but both were of the same seed. The article simply (or complexly if you will) made a statement that companies should not water down the truth for monetary gain. Please people—view The Whole Big Picture before spewing filth and therefore skewing the truth—Think for yourselves when you hear the small points, and do research, to see for yourself if what you hear is the truth! This is a much bigger problem than just this blog…but I think you have potential to be great; so don’t fall prey to spatting stupidly.

        • karolineott
          February 6, 2019 / 4:19 am

          Karie, thank you for always actively engaging with these posts; I hope for every reader to be as passionate as you! I understand your frustration, and I thank you for voicing it. I personally don’t feel that I needlessly misdirected the argument of the article in question, although it is certainly fair to say that I took a certain error within it without addressing its every objective. I agree that everyone should do their research; I’m certainly doing my own all day every day. My constant objective is to discover what the Bible does and doesn’t say on these controversial issues, and since I am not more wise than anybody else, I chose to address part of a problem that personally struck a chord with me. I think we gained differing insights from the article and my findings, and that is truly wonderful. With all of that being said, I’m saddened that you think I am or am in danger of falling prey to spatting stupidly. I will continue to write my future posts with much thought and research to avoid this impression. Again, thank you for reading.

  5. Karie
    February 6, 2019 / 4:41 am

    Thank you for this generous reply to my rant! I may have been just a wee bit to harsh on you :/…however i think there are a lot of media creators out there that deserve it! I confess to being in panic over the state of affairs in our nation and the world and my comments previously state what I feel is one thing fueling the madness. Please do continue to write your thoughtful, Christ filled posts…I hope that you will instill flames of passion for the Lord in many who do not know him. Please take what is useful of my comments to fuel your own and ignore the rest. God Bless you Miss Karoline!

  6. Karie
    February 6, 2019 / 5:07 am

    Also…by generous reply…i mean that it shows maturity, intelligence, grace and a good character! Just thought I should say that as a person of older years; strangely these comments feel as though I could be talking with my own daughter, however, she knows me and perhaps would not be surprised by my ire. I am sorry to have “spat” the last sentence of my rant out so brashly as well. Thanks again for the back and forth here.

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