The Reductionist Warrior Heart and the Jesus Femininst

*My friend has written this book called Jesus Feminist. I suppose this is my little plug for it.

Jesus FeministI’ve been watching this sermon on the “warrior heart,” by a southwestern pastor who’s written a book for men on the virtues of fighting spiritual battles. I don’t often use this space for sermon critique, but after thirty-some-odd years of hearing these kinds of rousing “stand up and fight like a man,” sermons, I’m ready to confess it–I’ve had my fill.

The sermon is, as should be expected, an un-nuanced first person shooter of a thing, a sermon wherein the pastor sets up all the problems plaguing men (fatherhood, porn, addiction) and takes them down with the rail gun of stereotype. Men are simple, he says. They cannot load the dishwasher, and delight in being told that their wives are hotter than they deserve.  Men are uncomplicated. They only need a battle, a war worth fighting. See, e.g., Nehemiah. 

As a preliminary matter, I wish I were an uncomplicated Conan with a thigh tat and a penchant for small arms (guns, not biceps, that is). I wish I were simple enough to delight only in being told that I “out-kicked my coverage” because my wife is so “totally smoke’n, bro.” But I’m not.

I also wish that life were as simple as finding something to fight for, that finding some cause to beat the crap out of (like poverty, or porn, or liquor) would magically elevate me to the status of Christ-indwelled. But it won’t.

I wonder whether relegating the Nehemiah passage to the province of the “warrior heart,” is a myopic interpretation, whether it strips the passage of meaning for the women in our local congregations. Can’t our women heed the call of God? Can’t they build walls, too? I wonder whether there are any women warriors out there. I reckon I know one or two.

And though I generally agree with the pastor’s comments regarding most men’s ability to properly load a dishwasher, I wonder whether a church will soon emerge that revels in a more holistic interpretation. But when I say interpretation, I’m not speaking of scripture–not really. Instead, I wonder whether the church will rise to the challenge of offering a more holistic interpretation of the human condition, of the warrior nature of women’s hearts and the complexity of men’s.

Reductionist theology is destructionist theology.

Hi, my name is Seth. I reckon I’m a Jesus Feminist.

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  • Rachel Meisel

    I’ve been meaning to read Kathy Keller’s new book on gender roles, but I still think the chapter in Nancy Pearcey’s TOTAL TRUTH on women and feminism can’t be beat. It’s chapter 12 I think.

    • sethhaines

      I must must must look that up. I shall.

      And, btw, the new site looks fantastic (you that of which I speak, yes?)!

  • tonia

    Thank you. I’m so ready to talk about how the disservice done to men lately in the church, of reducing them to cavemen led about by appetite and the need to squash something. Gah. I thank the Lord for the intelligent, sensitive, contradictory, thoughtful, strong and tender men in my life.

    • sethhaines

      I’m so glad you’re ready to talk about it! I’m ready to hear YOU talk about it!

  • Sarah Bessey

    Yes and yes. Glad to be on the path with you, Brother Seth.

    • sethhaines

      Ah, praying sister: I’m glad to be on the path with you,too.

  • Becky Castle Miller

    As a woman with a warrior heart, I agree.

    • sethhaines

      Keep the fight.. and the faith… and… you know… all of that.

  • Austin Morrison

    Here, here my man! I would totally chest bump you right now…only kidding…it’s good to have better language now to articulate things that have been stirring for a while. I can say that I’m a Jesus Feminist, too. As always, love your writing.

    • sethhaines

      Thanks. And if you’d bring your family this way for 10 minutes, I’d give you a chest bump, your lady a hug (side-hug ministry style, of course), and your boys some knuckles. I’d probably yell “BOOM!” when I did it, too, because that’s what boys do.

  • pastordt

    Well, hallelujah, and amen. bro. “Reductionist theology is destructionist theology.” That’ll tweet! (And preach)

    • sethhaines

      It actually did tweet! It came from a conversation I had with a friend the night before. :)

  • Megan Fryer

    Well said! :)

    • sethhaines

      Thanks Megan!

  • Rachel Franklin

    I have had Jesus Feminist pre-ordered for some time now. I cannot wait to read it. I know “Jesus Feminist” has created some controversy, but aiming to be wholly right (impossible) is far less effective than kindness and *the search* for *truth*. And Sarah’s ink on page is the color of Philippians 4:8. Also, thank you for sharing a man’s perspective.

    • sethhaines

      Let us know what you think!

      And thank you Rachel. I really appreciate it.

  • Luke Harms

    My earliest memories of the evangelical masculinity marketplace are going to Promise Keepers rallies with my dad and getting a book called “Tender Warrior” by Stu Weber. It was all prettty much downhill from there. I survived (barely). I’m really glad that the conversation about who we are as human beings is happening all over the place. It’s life-giving to people who are doomed to failure by falling on the margins of those familiar stereotypes.

    • sethhaines

      Promise Keepers?!? I went to one o those.

      I appreciate your voice for those in the margins.

  • Josh Freeman

    I hope with you whole-heartedly that the church will move toward offering a more holistic interpretation of the human condition. In thinking toward that end, I’ve noticed a couple of things and have questions.

    I. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and are often useful (the common error is in not realizing when you shouldn’t be referencing them). Pastor Craig’s stereotype of men may be reductionist, but he didn’t become the head pastor of the largest congregational organization in the United States by telling stories nobody could relate to. It seems apparent that while you may not be an uncomplicated Conan, many men are – or, at least, don’t terribly resent being characterized as such. It really takes a particular, and not statistically common, mindset to find interest or meaning in words or phrases like “reductionist theology,” “tension,” “nuance,” and “holistic interpretation.” How should we preach to the rest? The fullness of Christ can’t be restricted to thoughtful, well-educated introspectives, can it?

    II. As a storyteller, you’re well aware that the warrior archetype is a real and powerful thing, even if it’s not the *only* thing. I don’t think Pastor Craig was entirely wrong in invoking it, but he sure missed this: A person convinced to fight for “worthwhile things” will still go astray if they’re misinformed about the shape of the battle. Which, I think, is why so many hear “stand up for Jesus” as a mustering call for the culture wars, and wind up struggling to hold Partisan Hill rather than seeking to walk beneath Christ’s banner. So how do we acknowledge the warrior archetype (in both men and women, for sure), and model/teach it as a part of the whole, in a way that doesn’t over-simplify or douse the Holy Spirit in a rush of adrenaline?

    I don’t know whether I’m a Jesus feminist, but I guess I am a bit of a knee-jerk skeptic, in a friendly sort of way. Peace to you and all here.

    • sethhaines

      I’ve shared my comments with you in another forum, but let me say that this is well-warranted push-back. I hear what you are saying, and don’t necessarily disagree.

      That being said, if we allow our men to remain in archetypal story, I wonder whether we’re doing a disservice to discipleship.

  • sethhaines

    Thank you for sharing your voice, here. I really appreciate it. I hope you keep sharing.

  • Preston Yancey

    This is good, Haines.

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