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Rev. Benjamin Cremer

@Brcremer

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With all this talk of “men needing to be men,” just imagine how Jesus would be treated for washing feet, for weeping, for being single, for riding a donkey instead of a horse, for loving his enemies rather than fighting them, and for telling people to put their swords away. 🧵

Growing up in evangelical Christian culture, my masculinity and sexuality were constantly questioned.

I was a very emotionally sensitive little boy. I liked reading and music instead of sports. I loved playing outside in the dirt, and I played war with the other kids, but I hated hunting because I didn’t want to kill anything.

As I grew, my lack of self esteem and my gentleness were seen as weak and unmanly. I constantly heard phrases like, “You’ve got to toughen up,” and “This world is going to eat you alive.” I was called “effeminate,” “girly,” and “a sissy.”

I didn’t date until I was a senior in high school, and I was constantly fighting against rumors from others questioning, “Does he even like girls?”

These rumors followed me into college and even into the ministry. I found myself constantly trying to put on a tougher exterior and be more aggressive than I was ever comfortable with, never truly feeling like I was accepted as a man.

As I stepped into a senior pastor role, the perpetual comments and rumors about my dating life and questions about my leadership abilities as a single pastor became unbearable.

I was always told that Bible characters like King David and Samson were the model of “manhood” and leadership. Movies like Braveheart, The Patriot and anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger added layers of expectations on me, on what I needed to do to be a “man.”

Feeling like I could never fit these molds, and fielding constant rumors and comments, made me question who I was and who I was meant to be.

As I studied scripture along the way, I soon asked myself a pivotal question. Why wasn’t Jesus the model of Biblical manhood I was given? I think it is because Jesus wouldn’t have been considered a “man” according to the standards of masculinity I was being measured by, either.

Imagine how Jesus would be treated in this culture today for washing people’s feet, for weeping, for being single, for riding a donkey instead of a horse, forgiving his enemies rather than fighting them, and for telling people to turn the other cheek and to put their swords away.

Unfortunately, I believe in our culture today, Jesus would also be called “a sissy,” and he would have constantly fielded rumors about his masculinity and sexuality.

This is evident by our habit of imposing our perspectives of manhood onto Jesus to such an extent that we don’t allow him to actually inform and correct where our standards are harmful.

In our culture today, the conversation about gender and sexuality is at the forefront. Yet so much of the conversation focuses on “preserving biblical manhood or womanhood” in a culture that is accused of leaving these “values” behind.

As one who was raised in those evangelical standards and experienced the deep pain it caused me and others, I see a deep lack of self-awareness. Evangelicals tend to blame the culture for “abandoning” something that has been harming so many in the church for generations.

The reality is, evangelicalism does not promote “biblical manhood and womanhood,” it promotes gender legalism.

Whereby if someone, like me, does not fit the mold of Christian masculinity exactly, that man’s identity and personhood is relentlessly questioned and criticized until he either leaves, gets really good at wearing a mask, hastily jumps into a relationship to fit in, or worse.

We have a tremendous opportunity right now to soberly reflect on our standards of gender and sexuality as Christians and to see where we are resorting to the kind of legalism and harm that I and many others have experienced.

If we take this opportunity with faithful intentionality, I believe we will approach the conversation about gender and sexuality in our culture with much less suspicion and arrogance and a lot more humility and grace.

For we would come to realize how our gender legalism has contributed to the broader culture, and we can truly reevaluate what we are trying to “preserve.”

Rev. Benjamin Cremer

@Brcremer

Pastor. Wesleyan. Writer. BA in Religion. MA in Spiritual Formation. MA in Theological Studies. Chronic student. Idahoan. Join me here:

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