Real Men Love The Least Among Us

Responding to a number of recent debates about what it means to be a modern man, James Poulos asserts that “we do have a positive model for postpatriarchial masculinity—Jesus!”:

I don’t mean the Jesus who was turned into a convenient symbol of intolerance and hypocrisy by the buff-jesus1militant atheist crowd, or the twisted version worshipped by the Westboro Baptist crowd. No, today is a boom time in the making for the real Jesus: the one who told men that the single-minded pursuit of wealth or honor or even “family values” is sure to leave the soul barren; the one who told men that they should never be shocked when they feel despair or feel despised, because there is no rest or repose for us in this mortal world; the one who told men what he told the paralyzed guy in Mark 2:9—and this is why I have that verse permanently inked on my skin—take up thy mat and walk.

He continues:

We are created in a divine image and can choose to forgive one another and ourselves for being losers and failures—for malfunctioning, for going wrong, for defeating ourselves, for “deserving” disgust and disrespect by the standards of the world. The lesson of Jesus is a message about what it means to be human that’s so radical, it makes our petty squabbles about what it means to be a “real man” seem hopelessly animalistic and juvenile.

This analysis of the Gospel of Matthew seems dead-on to me:

Jesus radically challenges the leading male value of the ancient world – “honor”. He speaks of honor throughout the sermon on the mount, and “call[s] off the typical games whereby males pursued honor and physical, sexual, and verbal aggression …, and he demanded that his disciples on select occasions vacate the playing field where honor is claimed and awarded.” Thus “Jesus discredits conventional honor-gaining and honor-maintaining behavior. In this regard he challenges much of the prevailing male gender stereotype.”

During Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem, Neyrey finds Jesus teaching “a new code of honor and shame,” one in which honor comes from taking up the cross and shame from lack of faith; honor comes from being like a child, while discipleship might require the shameful loss of a limb; honor comes from forgiveness of wrongs rather than engeance; honor comes from loss of wealth and power, and from renunciation of sexual aggression.

In short, Jesus is for Matthew the perfect public male figure, but at the same time a figure that radically undercuts the basis for ancient conceptions of masculinity.

Image: Meme generator.