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“Boys should act like boys”

Gender is a big issue people sometimes have with The Shack, so I think it’s worth talking about in this forum. Something I’ve been thinking about in that vein:

Boys are often taught to behave in masculine ways, and girls taught to behave feminine ways. But does this cultural practice fit with Trinitarian theology?  I have read and much appreciated Garry Deddo‘s work regarding Trinitarian relations as they relate to human genderedness.  The argument I hear him making (and someone please tell me if I’m misunderstanding) is that the Father gives, the Son receives, and the Holy Spirit mediates and harmonizes this relationship. And that this is what finds expression in our in-God’s-image humanity as men behaving masculinely and women behaving femininely, and the Holy Spirit harmonizing the relation between the two.  Deddo writes:

“If there is a defect in masculinity it is not that it needs to have an inner balance with a feminine side or vice versa. The healing of a wounded masculinity calls for becoming more masculine as God intends, not become something other than it is, feminine. The same would be true for women.”

I understand Gary to be saying that ultimately, boys should act like boys and girls should act like girls.  But does Papa only give (masculine)?  Does the Son only receive (feminine)?  Do they restrict themselves to just one mode of relating to each other?  Do they come even close to that?  Are they even “mostly” one or the other?

My thoughts are still in-process here, but my intuition right now is that a proper Trinitarian theology will lead us to dispense with the cultural belief that “Boys should act this way, and girls should act that way.”

What do you think?


11 Responses

  1. We are all both masculine and feminine; as, of course, God must be. Where do they both come from, if not from God’s own character? Culture has too long defined us. Let’s move forward in a more Godly, open, direction.

    • Hi lifewalkblog, nice to meet you! I think that the author I quoted would basically agree with what you say; his paper is really quite wonderful. The bit I quoted just seemed to not fit with the rest of it. It just doesn’t make sense to me that I ought to change my personality based on what I find between my legs.

  2. Being called into and trained toward the life of a man/woman by the older men and women in our lives is a call into discovering our true self–not a “call to change my personality.” My take is just as the Father speaks the Word and breathes the Spirit, we too become more fully ourselves in authentic relationship with others. We may have a hard time becoming our truest selves when there is no one around who knows us deeply, speaks the truth of God to us, and thus calls us to be fully ourselves. We see an example of this in the baptism. Jesus had some sort of Spirit-filled yet fully human way of knowing he was the Messiah, but it was deemed necessary for him to hear it from the Father in real-world speech: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And only then did he start his ministry. He was the Messiah before and after this relational moment, but as one who was also fully human, he “needed” that relational contact that calls us out to be abundantly human persons. Or so it seems to me…

    • Ben, I like your way of bringing relations back into it; I’ve been thinking mainly in individualistic terms. What could it mean if my genderedness was something contained not just inside my skin, but in the relations between me and others? Between me and those who call me out into my truer self? (BTW, have you read Deddo’s paper above? I think you’d like it).

  3. In other words, just as Luke needed Obi Wan to tell him who was… just like Harry needed Dumbledore… just like Frodo needed Gandalf… We all need wiser folks to call us to become what we should be, our true selves. These are all male examples but the wiser women in our lives call that forth as well. Now as far as what is gender? I think it involves a little more than what’s between the legs 🙂

    • Part of what provoked me to think harder is having a son who is, like me, gentle and quiet and nurturing. I have felt the urge to shame him for that, the same way I was shamed when I was young. I always felt like it was not okay for me to dislike aggressive sports, for example. As I learn now to tell my son he is fine just as he is, I find myself experiencing some healing as well. Healing for wounds from people who meant to call me out into my true self, but ended up just telling me to be ashamed of my personality.

      • Yes! Luke needed to listen to Obi Wan and NOT Vader or the Emperor. It is hard to know who to listen to and who to believe, but that is also part of this crazy thing called life and growth. I don’t trust everything everybody says about me, but a few people get my attention and I listen. Sometimes I’ve believed the wrong people too. And it sucks worse when it’s a parent :/

  4. Ben, I know what you are saying, I think, but I’m having trouble with the wording, “someone telling you who you are.” I don’t think Obi Wan, Dumbledore, or Gandalf told them who they were at all. They guided, supported, nurtured….but they did no telling. The journey of each of these characters was where they learned who they are. Yes, Gandalf knew hobbits were noble beings when everyone else thought they were just silly little people. But Frodo had the joy and pain of discovering that strength in himself. He himself decided to take the ring; no one else could make that decision for him. Harry had to decide to die and Dumbledore knew that. Obi Wan and Yoda knew that Luke needed to see the dark in himself in order to understand. The best teachers are the ones that see something in us and help us get there, but they do not TELL. For telling someone who they are doesn’t work. In fact, the reason perhaps that I am cautious of the idea is that religious leaders seem to want to tell us who we are. And so many are quick to believe. Certainly it is easier being told than having to go through the difficult journey of finding out for ourselves. So many of us crave that, understandably. But it ends in us trying to live up to something that isn’t really us after all. As if finding our identity wasn’t hard enough already! Thankfully, though the journey is long and we do not know the way, there is so much beauty in it to behold.

    • I get what laughterforsleep is saying. If some jackass presumed to tell me who I was, I would retaliate by going off and being someone else. That said, I do think there are times when others see us more clearly than we can see ourselves, and if they are a friend, they will suggest to me that I might not be being true to myself. If might listen to such a person IF I had really good reason to trust them more than I trust myself. There are not many people in that category, but there are some.

  5. I’m not an educated theologian and look to qualified theologians to guide my understanding of God’s relationship with me and others. The Shack was an important read for me, leading me from my relationship with rules to a relationship with unconditional love.

    I’m having difficulty putting Father, Son in the boxes of giving, receiving and mediating. From my perspective of the NT, I see Father and Son both giving and receiving of each other. And while I may have misunderstood what is meant by mediating, do Father and Son really need a mediator? With Father, Son and Holy Spirit having a oneness that it is difficult for us humans to get our mind round, surely they are giving and receiving relationship with each other and not in need of a mediator.

    In my marriage there are times when my wife and myself are giving to each other and other times when we are receiving, and on the odd occasion of a difficulty we have resolved the situation ourselves rather look to a mediator.

  6. Hey Stuart, great to meet you! Yes, those boxes just don’t seem right to me either. It’s quite possible I’m not understanding Dr Deddo properly (He is a fantastic theologian), but the persons of the Trinity seem to be very fluid in their interactions, not box-able. The Holy Spirit seem extra tricky when we try to box him in. The “mediation” idea sounds good to me, though I understand your reaction against it, since it sounds like it’s implying that someone stands in between Father and Son. Bc that certainly doesn’t feel right. I’m going to be thinking harder about this, and I welcome your input! Maybe we’ll figure it out one of these days. 🙂

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