Why Biblical Masculinities

Posted on May 8, 2012

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Gender informs our context. Certainly, it is not the only thing that does; we are complex beings. We understand our world through many different lenses—religion, race, economics, family, the media—and these lenses are more or less impossible to separate from one another. Because each person comes from such a unique context it makes sense that the way they read books or articles, interact online, or understand movies and TV shows will also be unique. Being one of these lenses through which people in our world construct their identity, gender has also become an important point of discussion in the public realm. Furthermore, as a piece of public discourse, perhaps more so in Christian communities, the Bible is a point where these conversations surrounding gender take place. Indeed, our own identities play a role in the way Christians understand sacred texts.

Given all of these realities, I want to engage issues of “masculinity” in conversation with readings of biblical texts. If part of my identity is a sort of masculinity, then that masculinity will influence my understanding of scripture. Thus, as an introduction to this blog, I will break down what I see as a critical question to the issues that will be engaged: “Why biblical masculinities?”

Why Biblical Masculinities?

“Masculinity” is not a monolithic thing. That is, men and women do not possess a certain amount of a property known as “masculinity.” Instead, I will be blogging under the notion that our gender identity is something that is always in process and changing. In other words, gender is not solid, but is acted out by us and interpreted by others. You cannot measure masculinity, but you can perform it in public or in private. This means that in any given moment, one’s “masculinity” is different from the last moment and, therefore, is different from person to person as well. For this reason, I will often use the term “masculinities.”

Throughout the Bible, in stories, letters, and prophetic books, different masculinities are on display: they look different because of historical contexts; they look different from book-to-book; they look different even from character to character within the same story. Furthermore, each of these masculinities serve different purposes not just for the authors, but also for the readers!

Why Biblical Masculinities?

The Bible is considered a “fundamental” text by many Christians across the world. And, while many others (myself included) do not see it quite so simply, every Christian still must engage the Bible and its effects because of its centrality to the church. However, those texts within the covers of the “Good Book” need not constrain us! As I stated above, identity is always under negotiation, always changing, and by (re)engaging with the Bible with new lenses in view, such as masculinities, new possibilities from these texts can also emerge!

Indeed, I hope to raise new opportunities for opening up biblical texts for the purpose of the faith, life, and imagination of the Christian community. And, just as issues such as race, economics, or art have excited the imaginations of believers throughout the world, so too  can masculinities raise up new readings and opportunities of scripture.

Why Biblical Masculinities?

Those in our society who have been known to “have” that thing called “masculinity” in ample amounts occupy a strange location in public discourse. Indeed, by ascribing the identity of “(straight, white, upper-middle class) man” to a person, they are given perhaps the greatest public interest group in Western society, giving them economic benefits and political representation, etc. Certainly, the “man” appears so powerful!

On the other hand, questions still persist. Who is this man? Who speaks for him? Or, rather, how does he speak? As this blog will explore, the “man,” be he “manly” or more “effeminate,” does not speak with one voice, but rather men speak with many voices. Furthermore, the way they speak and the person who speaks will affect the way in which they are heard. These questions, asked in conjunction with biblical texts and current events, can help us develop some more unique voices beyond that of the “man.”

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Posted in: An Introduction