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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Want To Be a Power Lifter

Written by: on March 15, 2017

In God, Sex, and Gender Adrian Thatcher covers a number of topics under the enormous umbrella of God, Sex, and Gender.

He discusses “desire” in general and how it pertains to our sexuality and our desire for God. “You may have just agreed with me that desire has an object.” [1] Following Taylor and Luhrmann, can we consider God an “object” of desire when God is an invisible Spirit? Thatcher says, “God cannot be held, possessed, bought, or discarded.” [2] But determining HOW we are to love God with all our heart, soul… is the adventure of our lives.

He stirs up the controversy over same sex love. He states, “Only recently has a revisionary interpretation of biblical teaching ‘come out,’ and into the churches, where it is causing consternation.” [3] Revisionary is the operative word: as in revisionist history, which I distrust as academically suspect.

But because we have been trained to read key portions of books rather than the entirety of a book, I am choosing to focus my brief remarks in one application of gender and power.

Reflection about Gender and Power

A few years ago I had reason to ponder the question, “What is a man?” This arose regarding how my wife’s 7th grade boys treated one another. So what turned out to be a kind of “power” question did not consider relations between genders, but within one gender. (I was anticipating needing to mitigate cruelty between boys while on a field trip to Washington D. C.)

After some pondering I finally answered my own question with one word: “PROTECT.” (I later added the word “provide,” but including that word in this discussion would muddy the waters.)

What is the essence of being a man? It is (I concluded) to protect. My subjective inner processing of this possibility opened an awareness of how powerfully I “feel” this instinct within myself. During the Viet Nam war I considered registering as a conscientious objector, and in that process thought I needed to consider whether or not I was a pacifist. After lengthy interior deliberation I concluded I was not a pacifist because if anyone attempted to harm my mother (or one day a wife and daughter) I would do anything to stop that, even if it meant taking another life. Ergo my drive to protect overrules my desire to avoid violence.

“Protect” also incorporates the question of why (traditionally) men go to war. Four hundred thousand American men died to protect (or deliver) Europeans from Hitler. I conclude that whether it is one man protecting his home or quantities of men protecting nations, the principle is the same.

In God, Sex, and Gender Professor Thatcher challenges us to consider the use of power as “over” or “with.” Those who have power can use it to enable others or to dominate others. Power-with values mutuality. I think it is safe to say that Jesus exercised power-with.

Further, Thatcher writes, “‘Power-over’ in the gendered sense can protect women from predation…but protection comes at a very high price. It reinforces women’s vulnerability and their need for protection. Worse, this causal power has historically been used against women to deny them legal and moral rights, and to coerce them into submission, as in cases of domestic violence and rape.” [4]

These sentences challenge my “instinct” to protect. It forces me to wonder if my desire to protect is appropriate. Might the unintended consequence be to foster a greater vulnerability.

I conclude two things. First, as Thatcher admits, men are often physically stronger than women. Therefore I do not feel the need to apologize for a desire to physically protect my wife and daughter from predators. Also, laying aside gender relation issues, the same would hold true protecting children of any gender.

Second, given Thatcher’s legitimate concern that protection can inadvertently create a further kind of vulnerability in women, I want to use power to protect my wife’s and daughter’s right to voice and freedom of expression and equality in the workplace at in church. I hope I could figure out how to use “power-with” for equal rights in every area of life. So, if real men protect, that must include protecting rights and voice and freedom.

Soon after January 20, 2017,when there was a women’s protest in our state capital, I wish I had gone to it WITH my daughter and wife, to participate with them exercising their power of voice. I hope that would be an exercise of power-with.

Having said all of that, I am still compelled to admit that I do exercise “power-over” at times in my family. I make jokes about being a control freak, but if that results in my wife or adult children being repressed, then I need to learn how to scale that back considerably.

Finally, a reflection on Ephesians 5:23-25. There the Apostle writes, “ For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Without a full exegesis of this passage, I will simply say to my fellow males, “Men, power corrupts, and we must be aware that human nature is prone to misuse power.” If there is a power differential intended in this passage (which I know has been hotly debated), men need to remember that Jesus used His power to perform the most costly and self-sacrificial acts in history. Jesus used His “power-with” to set captives free and to equip for ministry. We men need to highlight and underline “just as” in verse 25. Men love to be the “head” as long as that means commanding. But we shy away from using power to enable us to serve and sacrifice. If we are to lead, it is “just as” Christ loves and leads His Bride.

1. Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 66.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid., 157.
4. Ibid., 26.

About the Author

mm

Marc Andresen

I have a B. A. in Music from San Diego State University and received an M. Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1977. July 1 2015 I retired after 38 years in pastoral ministry. The passion and calling that developed in the last 20 years is leadership training in cross-cultural contexts, as my wife and I have had many opportunities to teach in Eastern Europe and Africa. I have been married for 38 years and have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. My hobbies are photography and British sports cars.

11 responses to “I Want To Be a Power Lifter”

  1. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Marc,
    I see how you took another approach in your review of this book, but it’s a unique approach. You stated that “drive to protect overrules my desire to avoid violence.” This is something I always find fascinating when I tell people we have suppressed tendencies. I’m confident I’d never want to take someone’s life willingly, and while I desire to protect, that desire will not drive me to join the army. However, in protecting my family, the suppressed tendencies to protect would hard to ignore. The reality is that we don’t always react because we’re supposed to unless our convictions become threatened…even in Christianity. We’ll share or have a conversation with anyone, but if our faith is under fire, there’s an immediate desire to protect it.

    Garfield

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Garfield,

      Yes, I hate the thought of taking a life. Part of me thinks I couldn’t. BUT – I know how I react to threats, and I know that if my family was threatened I would react. I’m sure it’s debatable whether or not that’s good, but it is what I would do.

      Even this week as we are taking 7th graders around D. C. I am vigilant regarding who is around our kids. Twice today I saw a man near our kids, and I went immediately and made my physical presence felt, just to keep oddly-behaving men away from our kids.

      This doesn’t really address God, Sex, and Gender – except it’s how I understand my own “maleness.”

  2. Nice writing Marc. You bring up power and gender in the context of leadership. This reminds me of Jesus foot washing episode and how in the Vineyard we claim to follow this as “servant leaders.” However, I am finding in other parts of the world, Uganda for example, the culture is such that a strong “power over” leader is often times what people want and what “works.” Have you experienced that in Uganda? How does this affect your school and interaction with Eastern Europeans?

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Aaron,

      Yes, I have experienced that Ugandan culture is more of a “power-over” culture. For example, in class when students asked me a question and answered, “I don’t know” I found out that leaders are supposed to know. Also, pastors are treated with such deference, that their word carries more weight than for Americans. What I’ve seen in Eastern Europe is a time of transition away from the old Soviet model of top-down leadership. The younger generation is experiencing more of a democratic kind of environment.

      With my work with international students, I’m exploring this very thing. I’m working on finding out what kind of leadership works best in various cultures. This topic just might show up in my dissertation.

  3. Claire Appiah says:

    Marc,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on gender and power. In your leadership position at home and in the church, you have had to discern when to exercise “power over” as opposed to “power with.” I like your connection between power and sacrificial service to God as marks of true leadership, exemplified by Jesus. Especially for Christian men, being “macho” or real men really means to have God’s empowerment and love to “set the captives free,” in service to Him and sometimes at a great cost. What a valuable illustration to pass on to your young students in Corvallis as a power lifter.

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Claire,

      The dynamics of power with and over are very different at home and church. In the Presbyterian form of government, the buck stops with the elders, and the pastor actually has very little power. I was able to supervise staff and choose sermon texts. That is protected. But I was often frustrated because as the professional I often didn’t “get my way” with church decisions.

      You’d have to ask my family how that worked out at home. I was conscious to give my kids more voice as they matured. And having become more aware of my propensity to power-over I have tried to “suggest” more things.

      We males are frustrating to me when I see our lack of using power to exercise and model servanthood. Power should be used to set the tone for servanthood as the model. Again, Jesus certainly did that.

      • Claire Appiah says:

        Marc,
        Interesting about church government!
        I don’t think Christians have understood a correlation between power and servanthood since the period of the early church and to some extent during the patristic period. No wonder contemporary culture doesn’t get it in our secular age.

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Marc,
    I heard a pastor in Dallas describe the role of the husband as three P’s: Protector, Provider, Pastor. I’ve discovered that all three aspects do have a biblical foundation, and they have also been helpful in summarizing some concepts when working in marriage counseling. I wish the author spent more time developing a theology of headship. He seemed to equate headship with dictatorship and dismissed the whole concept altogether as sexist and offensive to women. I found that approach not to be very scholastic.
    Pablo

  5. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Pablo,

    I, too, wish there were more presentations regarding power, leadership, and servanthood. I wonder if we males need to be challenged more regarding being better “power-under” leaders. If we were more like Jesus, perhaps we’d find more willing followers. Perhaps our collaborative book could be entitled “Power Under.”

    To be balanced, we need women co-authors for this book.

  6. Marc,
    Great thoughts. I want to raise strong confident young ladies. However, I am like Pablo. I see my role as protector, provider and pastor over my family. That does not make me a dictator.

    I have always taught the Ephesians passage as being a mutual concept. We are to be love our wives (which is a commandment).
    As a seasoned pastor, what can you say to a younger pastor like me when teaching the concept found in Ephesians?
    Jason

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Jason,

      I’m sorry this is late: I’m in Washington DC with my wife’s 7th graders, and we have very long days…

      Answering your question will lead to yet another book.

      One key to Ephesians 5 is the lead in to the section with the “and be subject to one another…” This is in the context of the Body of Christ, so for a Christian family, the fundamental social unit, is the place to really live out that command. I believe the “one another” sets the context for what follows.

      Then, I do believe that the husband, as the head of the family, is to be the chief example and pace setter for the family. We are to set the tone. I think if we expect wives to follow we must lead well in this way. I think we are responsible for this, first. And, in the end, if a “tie-breaker” decision must be made – it’s on the husband to chose what’s best for the family.

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