By Adam Griffin
It didn’t take me long as a child to form the primitive hypothesis that boys were better than girls. It was easy to prove since we were stronger, faster, funnier, and most importantly I was one of them and I loved being the best. Sure many of the girls beat me in the mile run but it was still a boy from our class that was the fastest and by the rule of vicarious victory (something full grown men still rely on) boys were obviously still better. Sure there were things that girls were the best at, like taking Math tests , crafting writing projects in English, and treating teachers with respect, but those were things we boys didn’t want to be the best at and therefore being worse at Math, English, and obedience actually still made us better than the girls.
As adults, the same flawed logic seeps its way into men’s thinking. Men are better than women because those things we admire are conveniently the same things we excel in. We are stronger physically and emotionally, we are more successful as a gender in business, we can fix and hunt and grill and act bravely, and most importantly because we are men and we love being the best we find ways to convince ourselves that we are. These are obviously not even quantifiable truths but because we can identify them in some “great” man somewhere, once again by rule of vicarious victory, our gender team comes out on top.
The sexist, erroneous idea that being male makes you superior to those who are female is called male chauvinism. To believe men are superior requires simultaneously that women are deficient in some way. Male chauvinism can only exist within a point of view where genders are “sides” or teams engaged in a competition, or more accurately a battle, in which the victor can claim an inherent, inarguable upper hand. In reality we are not on different ends of a battle field, men vs. women. Rather, we are fighting side by side in the same ancient battle against, ironically, selfishness.
Garbled Biblical Manhood
Unfortunately, all too many Christian men act or behave in a male chauvinistic fashion. Some would even go so far as to say that the bible speaks to the supremacy of the male gender. This, of course, requires scriptural ignorance or an intentional twisting of biblical manhood from a position of self-sacrificial authority into a mechanism for the diminishing of women and the magnification of men. Frankly, the Lord has not instituted a gender bias. Using scripture to justify a sense of male supremacy is exploiting or confusing position for power.
God has made clear in the scriptures that men are to have a position of spiritual authority with respect to women, but authority in role does not mean supremacy in comparison. Men’s authority is to be altruistic and entirely unselfish. It is to point to and represent the love of Christ himself. Christ-like self-sacrifice does not and could not stem from or lead to self-exaltation. A basic understanding of Christian theology reveals humanity’s insufficient condition and our Christ-like call to self-sacrifice. A point of view that makes much of men at the expense of women that is said to be based in scripture is preposterous.
The Roots of Male Chauvinism
Male chauvinism is fundamentally self-aggrandizing. It is ego-centric and derives from the impulse to make much of masculinity and/or simultaneously to diminish femininity. What could be further from the heart of God who asks us to have the same attitude of Christ in that we are to be humble? The scripture repeatedly warns against boasting and envy and repeatedly calls for humility and satisfaction in Christ, it calls us to self-control not self-indulgence, it asks men to lead not to oppress, and trust is said to be rightly placed in only one individual person and it is not in ourselves or other men, that is in Christ.
The desire for supremacy is often linked to a life saturated with insecurity. Men desperately want to be made much of who have a low sense of worth – conscious or unconscious. Men who don’t know why their life has worth seek a sense of value in making less of others. This can manifest as mocking, bullying, abusing, threatening, or intimidating all for the sake of manipulating circumstances to suit their personal interests. We have a tendency to believe importance brings value and we are only important if others are perceived as “below” us. If we can make someone else seem like “less” we can make ourselves feel like “more.”
It is an inherent part of being human to want to be valued by others and to seek glory for ourselves. Scripture tells us that our self-seeking disposition is part of our sin nature and it is to be warred against not surrendered to, to be starved not indulged. If we don’t want to fall prey to our natural desire to put “some” above “others,” in this case “men” above “women,” we will need the Lord to put to death in us those cravings for self-esteem. Our value does not stem from what others think of us or what we think of ourselves, the antivenin to the poison of vain conceit is the peaceful resting in the love of the Father. It is the way that he sees and loves us that gives our life value and meaning and that, unlike any other superficial substitute, is unshakable.
When our identity is firmly rooted in Christ no amount of being compared to the successes or failures, the weak or strong attributes of others, will lead to a lower or higher opinion of myself. Men who walk in a biblical fear of God, for whom God is in His proper place of ultimate authority, will find the idea of male supremacy to be unthinkable. A supreme love of Christ as Lord and a following after his example of self-sacrificial servant leadership uproots any and all desire for self-promotion and centers our life rightly on making much of Him, that he may increase and I may decrease.
Adam Griffin is the Spiritual Formation Pastor at the Village Church in Dallas Texas where he lives with his wife Chelsea Lane and their two sons Oscar and Gus. Follow him on twitter@AdamGriffin80 or read more of his posts at the Village blog.
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