Yesterday on Scot McKnight’s blog over at Patheos, an essay by Rebecca Kotz (click for the original article) was hosted which extols the virtues of a “radical Christian feminism”. I posted a response to Ms. Kotz’s article at Scot’s site, and have also included it below. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback.
Though I write with a grieved and troubled heart, I wish to first acknowledge this contribution by Rebecca Kotz, and to thank her for her expression and for her voice. Ms. Kotz calls our attention to ongoing, and at many times systemic, abuses of power in the hands of the powerful. These abuses at various times in Western society have affected, and continue to affect, females as well as men and women of various races. I wish to congratulate Kotz as she continues to advocate against such abuses, and to call all of our attention towards ongoing disparities in treatment and opportunity between these genders and races. I appreciate this contribution in that respect.
And yet, as a “cisgendered” Caucasian and Christian male, even one whom may be considered “progressive” in certain circles, I must express my sorrow and concern at the tone and content of this article. While I am perhaps progressive, I also take seriously the mystery of gender which I believe God has endowed upon humanity – to state it differently, I have come to see that my own masculinity is quite distinct from one which is “female.” It has taken me many years along my spiritual/Christian journey to realize the potency and holiness of being “male,” which has in turn led me to a wondrous realization of the potency and holiness of being “female.”
Thus, I cannot but take partial exception to Kotz’s words: “A Christian feminist knows that God designed men with all of the humanity, compassion, integrity, strength, and tenderness that he designed women with.” While I agree with this list as it stands, God has also uniquely empowered men with the capacity to be aggressive. To be loud, to even be violent. These capacities are not taught; their misuse most certainly is. One may also be taught, as I have been, to harness, acknowledge, and use such capacities for God’s glory – to defend the innocent, to give voice to the voiceless, to honour those who perhaps have less power in our culture as it stands and to lift them up in station.
If we insist on teaching Christian males to repress their masculinity, we succeed mainly in imparting shame towards something which is innate and God-given. This, I believe, is a tragic error, and will not bring us closer to the vision of equality and mutual service among genders. Vague terms such as “patriarchy”, “rape culture”, and “privilege” are not helpful, and often create barriers to conversation as men (such as myself) legitimately attempt to support our female friends in their career aspirations, in academia, and elsewhere.
One may honour and acknowledge the uniqueness of the male psyche while simultaneously elevating the power and station of females and those in our society who have been oppressed due to any number of prejudices such as their race or sexual preference. Indeed, it is one of our most powerful tools.
I fear that the largely accusatory spirit of Kotz’s article, rather than encouraging this embrace of “maleness” in support of a larger objective, has instead only continued the vilification of men in general, and a Christian man in particular. I also fear, based on my many years in the church and in various ministries as well as Christian academia, that my own voice and the voices of so many other males within the Church who desire to use their masculinity in service, will be shouted over or disregarded as “only those of cisgender white males”.