The “Feminized” Jesus
Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin, now with the Family Research Council, wants to be like the Jesus who was a “man’s man,” who had “big, bulging biceps” and “smelled bad.” Nothing is stopping him, but he’s nevertheless concerned with the “feminized” way Jesus often gets portrayed. You know, without massive muscles. Not a tough guy. “But we feminize Jesus in the church,” he complains, “and men can’t identify with him anymore, not the kind of men I want to hang out with. They can’t identify with this effeminate Jesus that we’ve tried to portray.”
You’ll notice that, for Boykin, the key to identifying with Jesus is the Son of God’s masculinity. Or rather Boykin’s idea of masculinity. My wife, an artist, has worked with wood and stone; her labor, sweat, and muscles don’t make her masculine. These aren’t defining characteristics of gender.
You’ll also notice that Boykin is only interested here in men and their relationship with Jesus. He’s letting everyone know that he doesn’t like the “effeminate Jesus” because its harmful to men. Or so he opines. Whether or not people who are not his “kind of men” can better relate to Jesus by way of feminine symbols, or masculine symbols that don’t meet his approval, is irrelevant to him. Identifying with the real Jesus is about being a real man.
I might call this defensive gender ideology as Christianity. It’s not about Jesus or about God or about identifying with symbols of the divine. It’s about discomfort with changing gender norms. Boykin has a very narrow (and false) sense of what qualifies as masculine, and he doesn’t like that Jesus has been portrayed in the church outside of his idea of masculinity. The Jesus of the church isn’t a man he wants to hang out with. Too effeminate. Too feminized.
In Christian theology, God incarnated as a man, but God is neither man nor woman. The Scriptures speak of God in both masculine and feminine terms. Mostly masculine, true, but consider the social context in which the texts were written. These terms are starting points, not the end all be all of God, whose infinite inscrutability makes all these terms somewhat nonsensical anyway. If Boykin wants to grow closer to God, I’d recommend that he expand his symbolism and understanding of gender rather than restrict these to his comfort zone. The encounter with God really shouldn’t be comfortable. And not wanting to hang out with men who identify with the feminine doesn’t speak well to one’s moral character.