Pope Francis said this past week that it’s terrible for schools to tell children that they can choose their gender. The choosing of gender is the logical development of separating gender from sex. In universities across America, young adults are taught that gender is a social construct; whereas sex is biological.
Like so many other extreme beliefs, there is an element of truth in separating gender from biology. We all do it when we define our roles as men and women in society. Being a man is biological. Whereas as being a man in society is a social construct. During the twentieth century the role of Christian men in our society underwent at least two major changes.
The years 1911 and 1990 marked the beginnings of two gender role movements among Christian men. The latter of these two movements you’ve probably heard of—The Promise Keepers. It was started by a football coach, a manly man, who encouraged men to keep their promises. Being in the 1990s, an era of getting in touch with your sensitive side, thousands of men filled football stadiums chanting, “I love Jesus and I love you.” The faithful sensitive male was the social construct of The Promise Keepers.
This differed from the social construct of The Men and Religion Forward Movement. This movement started in 1911 by Fred Smith, a businessman. After a national survey of church attendance showed that men were not going to church, Smith concluded it was because religion had become too feminized. He organized religious gathers all across America according to the business model to show men that church could be run like a business. The successful businessman was the social construct of The Men and Religion Forward Movement.
These things affect us. When do you think pastors stopped wearing clergy collars and started wearing business suits? And when did elders become a board of directors? These changes started after The Men and Religion Forward Movement and reflect the male role of a successful businessman.
We all create gender roles to relate to society. Nevertheless, Jesus made clear that the essence of maleness and femaleness was created by God. Jesus said, “Have you not read, that he who made them in the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).
However we define the role of a man or a woman in society, the essence of maleness and femaleness is created by God. There is a male and there is a female by design of creation. This transcends culture and is defined by the scripture.
Jesus, himself, changed the gender roles of men and women in society while he affirmed the unchanging design of creation as male and female. As Christians, we recognize that the roles of men and women in society may change while we hold to an unchanging design of creation as male and female.
Dr. Michael Peters is the lead pastor of Christ the King: TheCellChurch.com. He is married to Linda, and they have two children and seven grandchildren. Dr. Peters graduated from Covenant Seminary with an MA and obtained a PhD in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He has written several books. His most recent is titled Cell Vision. It’s about organic discipleship and how to develop supporters into disciple makers. He taught critical thinking and Biblical worldview at Missouri Baptist University. His favorite course textbook was Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. His favorite philosopher is Nietzsche because postmodern people are just catching up with premodern Nietzsche. And his favorite Christian writer is G.K. Chesterton because he understood the difference between a poet and theologian. “The poet,” he wrote, “only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the theologian who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”