via the General
Just when you thought that the traditionalist conservatism of the American right couldn't get any more hyper-masculinized, some loud-mouthed jackass with the right connections comes along to up the ante
The strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape.
Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man -- one profanity at a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches Stine, 46.
A moment later he adds a fervent: "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!"
It's an apt anthem for a contrarian movement gaining momentum on the fringes of Christianity. In daybreak fraternity meetings and weekend paintball wars, in wilderness retreats and X-rated chats about lust, thousands of Christian men are reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith.
Wow. I don't know that I want to think about thousands of Christian men reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith during an X-rated chat.
Reactionary assertions of "traditional" hegemonic masculinities were once a side interest of mine in my former profession, and they still fascinate me in their increasingly bizarre methods of attempting to re-establish and re-legitimate gendered relationships which rely upon the assertion of brute (masculine) force. This particular iteration contends that Jesus was pretty much a bad-ass motherfucker:
So what's with the standard portraits of Jesus: pale face, beatific smile, lapful of lambs?
"He's been domesticated," says Roland Martinson, a professor of ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. "He's portrayed now as gentle, loving, kind, rather than as a full-bodied person who kicked over tables in the temple, spent 40 days in the wilderness wrestling with his identity and with God, hung out with the guys in the street. The rough-hewn edges and courage ... got lopped off."
Leaving aside the obvious problems of identifying Jesus's biblical fortitude as inherently masculine and "wild", I think it's a fair critique to say that some mainstream churches present the Gospels in a manner which encourages an obsequiousness to power. The story of Jesus can easily be read as a narrative encouraging action against injustice, as a rallying cry to take the stand up on behalf of the oppressed.
We know, however, that that's not the message that is being taken from these non-wussy Christian retreats:
[S]ome men at the conference run into trouble when they debut their new attitudes at home. Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.
"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports. "She said, `I need your help around here.' "
Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the family."
Just so we're clear: Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness, fucked shit up in the Temple, and hung out with lepers and hos. This entitles Eric Miller to leave his wife and newborn child for two
weekends - one for his Christian he-man circle jerk, and one for his "weekend camping trip" (where I'm sure he'll be reaching for a more forceful, more rugged expression of his faith). Yeah, his wife says she needs his help, but by the grace of God - his awesome, awesome fucking God - he's the leader of this family and he's going to go camping anyways. That's the way Jesus would've wanted it, dude.
In-your-face aggression at first troubles Howard Stephenson, who paid $68 for a day at GodMen in hopes of forging friendships with other Christian men. When Stine, a born-again Christian, shouts that it's OK to cuss -- and then demonstrates with a defiant "bull ..." -- Stephenson shifts uneasily.
"This is so extreme for me," he says. A few weeks later, Stephenson, 43, is still not sold on profanity. But he has ditched the nice-guy reflex of always turning the other cheek. When he spots a Wal-Mart clerk writing "Happy Holidays" on a window, he boldly complains: It should say "Merry Christmas."
The clerk erases the offending greeting. Chalk one up for Christian testosterone.
"I wouldn't have done that before," Stephenson says proudly. "I am no longer a doormat."
Nope, you're no longer a doormat, having gone the real man route of telling a minimum-wage worker with no health insurance (probably a woman, probably a minority) that you'll have none of that godless liberalism at your
local low-wage, cheap-plastic emporium. It must feel good to fight back against such relentless persecution suffered at the hands of the Walton family.
The hostility that barely lies beneath the surface of this particular group creeps me out. And boy do I feel bad for the women who are unlucky enough to find themselves around guys who buy in to this horseshit.
Labels: gender, masculinity, religion, wingnuts