Looking For Al[aska]

Welcome back to the blogging series on gender and the church and "what it means to be a man!" I apologize for the delays in posting and the time it's taken me to get stuff up - I've been so incredibly busy this last week!  

I am glad to have you all. Let's dive right in! Our dear friend Al writes this:


Moral maturity sufficient to lead as example of righteousness.


Stereotypical behavior on the part of young males is, in the main, marked by recklessness, irresponsibility and worse. As a boy grows into manhood, he must develop moral maturity as he aspires to righteousness, learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian and show others how to do the same. The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both precept and example.


Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move to the higher level of moral reasoning by which a young man learns how biblical principles are translated into godly living and how the moral challenges of his day must be met with the truths revealed in God's inerrant and infallible word.


Ignoring the proclamation of inerrant and infallible (not interchangeable, by the way – theology 101), I don’t see why this particular point applies just to men, or even especially to men. I would contend that the stereotypical behavior of most young people is reckless and irresponsible. Need I share stories of times I walked home from a neighboring college at two in the morning by myself? Or the times I decided (with a friend) that laying down in the middle of the street was a good idea? Or the multiple times I made equally stupid and reckless decisions that probably endangered the lives of myself and my friends – driving too fast in snowy weather, taking ill-advised trips up to Minneapolis in the middle of winter storms, wandering through central Rome at three in the morning to find a taxi?


Being irresponsible, reckless, and stupid is part of growing up. Making stupid reckless decisions is how you learn from your mistakes.


This does not apply solely to men or solely to women. We women are not some sort of innocent beings when it comes to reckless behavior. Indeed, I would contend that basing a “mark of manhood” off a stereotype of young men does a disservice to both young men and women.


Think about it this way: Is it just maybe possible that young men behave more recklessly because they live in a society that expects such behavior? That it exists as a stereotype because societal gender roles enhance the recklessness and sense of invincibility that already exists in the minds of young adults? Could it be that teenage boys drive faster not because of anything inherent in their biology, but because that’s what they think they should do because of the stereotype they’re pounded with every day of their formative years? That young men seek out multiple sexual partners not because of any evolutionary “spreading the seed” thing, but because it is what is expected of them by society (and the church) at large? That young men behave in a reckless fashion because that is what is modeled?


Rather than reinforce and accept the stereotype of young men (which, subsequently, characterizes women as meek and innocent angels – never a good thing), why don’t we, as a church, stand up and discuss how to make responsible moral decisions as people.


So that’s the first paragraph. Now let’s break apart the second: VAGUE VAGUE VAGUE VAGUE. What moral principles are we supposed to derive from Biblical study? Give us some indication – is it, contrary to what I’ve seen you propound, a more moral decision to accept your gay friend and love them without constantly reminding them that you “disagree” with their “lifestyle,” which only serves to deny them an identity? Or is it more moral to combine state and deity and do a “godly duty” in going off and killing brown people in a foreign land in an ill-named and poorly run “war on abstract nouns”? Is it a godly duty to insist that your wife, who may have ambitions and dreams of her own, stay home and raise kids while you spend time away “providing”? Is it, for example, a moral duty to sell your daughter to the highest bidder (that’s “biblical,” you know)?


Mohler here is throwing out buzz words and Christianese that means literally nothing when thought about critically (which is ironic, considering the supposed content). Ill-defined words combine with an almost impossible to diagram sentence and vague concepts leads me to wonder what in the world Mohler is getting at: Men should have moral reasoning, but they should submit to the higher authority of the Bible, which, in some ways, can be unreasonable (cf. Abraham and the [almost] sacrifice of Isaac), but still somehow be morally reasonable enough to explain why an unbelieving world should follow Biblical principles, many of which are counterintuitive to “the world” and its ways.*


This reads like a scene out of The West Wing:




See, “moral reasoning” is not so clear-cut. Mohler is really suffering from a vagueness syndrome, especially when it comes to explaining why it’s especially important that a man has moral reasoning and submission to Biblical authority, but a woman’s moral capacity is somehow ignored. I suppose she’s supposed to just follow along with the spiritual leader husband…which I guess just makes me a bad girlfriend/wife/significant other because any boy who tries to tell me he should be my 'moral guide' is going to be laughed at.


As he should be. Women and men are both capable of being reckless and of being moral. There is no exclusionary or special privilege for such capacity with any gender, and to think so is the mark of a true immature mind.


*I, for the record, hate the “us vs. them” language and use it reluctantly.