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Macho Jesus

Macho Jesus

Andrew Sullivan reports on the “macho Jesus” movement.

Stephen Sawyer describes his drawings of Jesus, part of a growing movement to

“defeminize” the man’s image:

No more cissy Kumbaya stuff. In this testosterone-fuelled theology, the Saviour finally has the rippling biceps he would have developed as a carpenter from a working-class home in Nazareth. The macho Jesus movement has been bolstered by books like No More Mr Christian Nice Guy and The Church Impotent – the Feminisation of Christianity. But it’s artist Stephen Sawyer, whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model.

More from The Guardian:

As the Rev Eric Delve, vicar of St Luke’s, Maidstone, Kent points out: “Men are looking for action figures. That’s why they follow footballers.” With the Messiah looking like a midfielder, David Beckham could be in for some competition.


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it's margaret

I like the idea of belching the Creed, Gregory. It would go right along with arm-pit farting the Kyrie or something like that!

I found the article dismally sad –and the image to be rather hysterical… the guys I know who would agree to that kind of tattoo are certainly not the type of buff dude they are thinking it might attract…. just sayin’!

–meg matters –but it’s margaret is fine now.

Gregory Orloff

How do you get men to go to church?

Good question. But distorting Jesus into a “lad,” a “dude” or a “bruiser” ain’t the answer.

Why not? Because it’s not true to the Jesus of the Gospels. And when your “target market” finds that out, they’re not likely to stick around. Promise children cake and then try to serve them vegetables — you can expect them to run away or pitch a fit, no matter how healthy it is for them. Your advertising didn’t match the product.

There are plenty of men at the Episcopal church I attend — I’d say the crowd is pretty much even-steven. The church offers plenty of ways to engage and involve men: things like choir, Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, Stiefel Men’s Group, Habitat for Humanity (not that the first or the last is gender-specific), etc. They come, they stay, they get active, even though Jesus isn’t presented as a tattooed rebel astride a heavenly Harley.

And in the Orthodox churches I grew up in, there was no thinning out of the crowd on the right side of the aisle, back in those “old school” days when men stood on the right, women and children on the left. They came, they stuck around, they got involved — single, married and widowed. What made them do so? Faith? Family? Tradition? Culture? Roots? Conscience? Realization of their mortality? Probably some or all of the above. But they were there.

It seems we’re missing the mark in contemporary America (and elsewhere?), where a whole bunch of shoddy and shallow “Jesuses” (Jesi?) hold sway in the popular imagination. And so we have:

Jesus the Hip-Hop Producer: “Thank you, Lord, for the platinum CDs and all this bling!”

Jesus the Cosmic ATM: “Thank you, Lord, for the Mercedes Benz and that thriving 401K!”

Jesus the Jock Coach: “Thank you, Lord, for this buff body, the great throwing arm and the NFL contract!”

Why, today Philippians 4:13 has been twisted into a mantra of self-affirmation for anything we do — no matter how banal, how self-centered or how unrelated (or even inimical!) to Jesus’ gospel vision of life, its purpose and its goal. No recognition of Jesus as the one who overcame the alienation of sin and mortality, so we can too, or the Jesus who said “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself…” (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). But plenty of hype about the “Jesus” who doles out power, affluence and personal success at the drop of a hat, in accord with our egos, our desires and appetites, despite what his Gospel actually says about such things! “Jesus,” confirmation and enabler of our suburban, consumerist American dream! How very convenient! No need to change our values or priorities! Just keep on doing what we want, as we want, now with the security of religious sanction, to boot!

But what men, women and the world really need to hear from the Church is what Jesus called for: “metanoia.” It’s the New Testament Greek word usually rendered “repentance” (another unpopular notion today), but literally means “change of mind.” Change of mind, change of heart, change of outlook, change of attitude. A different way of seeing, and thus approaching and acting toward, things. “Metanoeite!” Jesus cries in Matthew 4:17 as he starts his public preaching. “Change your minds!” Might that change of mind and heart involve changing the way we see being meek, patient and kind as “sissy” and being rude, crude and lewd as “manly”? To deem “virtue” as “womanly” is self-defeating anti-male sexism, when you think about it. (How many even realize today that “virtue” and “virile” share the same root: Latin “vir,” “man, male”!) If humility, charity and nonviolence were good enough for Jesus, Nicholas of Myra, Martin of Tours (an ex-soldier!), Ambrose of Milan (an ex-cop!), Boris and Gleb of Kiev (princes who laid down their swords!), Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther King Jr., they’re good enough for me. No shame in those things for a real man at all…

But what do I know? Perhaps pandering to male stereotypes to boost churchgoing is the way to go. How about a cigar social on Ash Wednesday? A kegger and cage fighting at Christmas? Belching the Creed during the Eucharist? Abolition of all services on Superbowl Sunday? “DUDE, WAY TO GO!” (HIGH FIVE!)

tobias haller

Have we forgotten the Muscular Christianity movement and Teddy Roosevelt?

People need to find something in Christ that resonates with them. Fortunately, Christ is capable of absorbing all of our aspirations, all of our projections, and remaining Jesus, truly God and truly Human. Our categories and attributes cannot limit him, but his wealth can enrich us all…

Chris H.

Of course they aren’t the only ones remaking Jesus in their own image. If you can have female or gay “Christ” on the cross, why not “Biker Christ”? They’re all used for the same purpose, just for different groups of people. Matthew’s point is certainly valid around here. How do you get men to go to church?

Chris Harwood

Matthew Buterbaugh+

While I find this picture endlessly silly, it does speak to a larger issue. The Church does not appeal to men, and nobody asks why. I look around the pews on Sunday morning and the women outnumber men 3 to 1, and I know my parish isn’t alone. If that’s not troubling to you, then start thinking about the implications of this. How can children be influenced by only one parent showing up? How can the church survive long-term without both female and male leadership? Maybe something like this (but less absurdly corny) is what we need more of.

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