It is not uncommon to hear Evangelicals say that Jesus was a “real” man; that Jesus understood while on the earth, and in Heaven today, what it means to be a “real” man. Evangelical churches and parachurch groups frequently have services and conferences where the manly Jesus is worshiped. In this world, Jesus scratched his balls, farted and laughed, watched football, hunted deer, fished, and loved MMA. You know, all the things “real,” red-blooded, bark-at-the-moon-crazy American Evangelical men do. Feminists and unsubmissive, bossy wives are blamed for turning Evangelical men into pansies — limp-wristed men who cower in fear. Feminists live disobedient lives, choosing careers over marriage and family. Complementarianism is God’s standard, “real” men say. “Time for Evangelical women to return to their homes and start cleaning, cooking, spreading their legs on demand, and having lots of babies.” “Let “real” men do all the hard thinking and lifting.” Let “real” men run things.” “We’re here to love and protect you, ladies.”
For “real” men, macho masculinity is the gold standard. Dare to deviate from this standard as a man and your masculinity will be called into question. Worse, behind your back these “real” men will wonder if you are gay — the unpardonable sin. The cure for effeminate behavior, macho men say, is for light-in-the-loafers men to follow after Jesus — a “real” man. Makes sense, right? If there was ever a “real” man, it was Jesus. Or so Evangelicals believe, anyway.
Think for a moment about the life of Jesus. Ask yourself, “was Jesus a “real” man — as defined by modern Evangelical ball-scratching finger sniffers”? Consider:
- Jesus had long hair — effeminate, sinful hair according to the social standards of many Evangelical sects
- Jesus wore women’s clothing — women wore long dresses, men wore shorter dresses, a violation of the Law of God
- Jesus spent three years traveling the countryside with a group of mostly single men. (Do that today and your heterosexual manliness will be called into question.)
- Jesus spent three years sleeping with men
- Jesus never had a girlfriend
- Jesus never masturbated
- Jesus never had sex
- Jesus never had a boner
- Jesus never romantically kissed a woman
- Jesus never attended a sporting event
Shall I go on? You see, Jesus was nothing like the “real” Evangelical men of today. We don’t even know for sure if Jesus ever urinated or defecated. The Bible, in fact, tells us very little about Jesus’ humanity. We know Jesus had a mother, father, siblings, and likely grew up in a poor home. We also know Jesus drank wine. We know Jesus’ father was a carpenter, but we don’t know if Jesus had any physical skills. The Bible records all sorts of miraculous things Jesus purportedly did, yet after three years he had less than 200 followers. His own family didn’t follow him, and even went so far as to ask him to take his magic show away from their town. “Jesus, you are embarrassing Mom and Dad,” his brother James allegedly said. “Please go to somewhere else and heal the sick!”
I am sure that “real” men will be incensed upon reading this post. How dare I besmirch the “manliness” of the Son of God. “Look at all that Jesus suffered on the cross,” “real” men say. “Look at his pain and suffering!” I dealt with this violent porn fantasy in a post titled I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend:
The narrative [Kirsten] Ryken [a writer for the Fundamentalist website The Gospel Coalition] spins is one often heard when Evangelicals try to explain pain and suffering: my suffering is next to nothing compared to the pain and agony Jesus suffered on the cross. In the minds of Christians such as Ryken, there’s no human suffering that can be compared to what Jesus faced on Calvary. This worn-out, tiresome trope gets repeated over and again by Evangelicals who never THINK about what they are actually saying. Jesus is the bad-ass suffering servant, Evangelicals would have us believe; but in fact Jesus’ suffering was minuscule compared to what countless people face every day.
Yes, Jesus was beaten and his beard was plucked from face. Yes, he was nailed to a Roman cross and suffered great indignity (that is, assuming the gospel narratives are true). But how long did Jesus actually suffer? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Nope. How about less than a day? Then he died, descended to hell and hung out with its inhabitants, and then he resurrected from the dead good as new save the nail prints in his hands and feet. Pray tell, based on what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Jesus’ suffering, how was his pain in any way worse than that which any human has ever experienced? By all means, compare Christ’s suffering to what children face when having radiation and chemotherapy treatments to eradicate cancer from their bodies. Go ahead, compare his suffering to that of people in burn units with third degree burns over most their bodies. Jesus may have faced intense levels of pain for a short amount of time, but how does his suffering compare to the pain of people who suffer with debilitating, chronic illnesses for years?
Jesus knew that his time of suffering would be short and sweet, and then he would die. Imagine a body wracked with pain day in and day out, years on end, with no relief in sight. I suspect such people might be willing to suffer what Jesus did if they knew afterward their bodies would be free from pain. I know I would. I would trade places in a heartbeat with the “suffering” Son of God if it meant come Sunday morning my body was no longer wracked with pain. And I suspect I am not alone in my blasphemy.
I don’t think for a moment that my short post will change Christian thinking on this subject. Ryken desperately needs a suffering Jesus to make sense of her own pain. Without Jesus, she is left with what? Shit happens? And to that I say “yes.” None of us is guaranteed a pain-free life. Genetics, environmental factors, personal choices, and yet-unknown factors go into what diseases we contract and what pain we suffer. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said in his book Mortality, ” . . . To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not? . . .” Why me, indeed.
According to the man standard set by “real” Evangelical men, Jesus was not a “real” man. In fact, one could argue that Jesus might have been gay. Can you imagine what would happen to the heads of “real” men if Jesus was, indeed, queer? Why, they would explode like those of the Martians in Mars Attacks! You see, “real” men have molded and shaped Jesus into their own images. And it’s not just “real” men Evangelicals. All followers of the Son of God follow a Jesus that looks, thinks, and acts just like them. This is why there are millions and millions of Jesuses (and Christianities). Throw in buffet-style readings and interpretations of the Bible, and what we end up with are Jesuses that seem an awful lot like us. Jesus is the ultimate chameleon, able to fit every sect, church, and Christian’s view of the world. This is why many Christians believe God hates LGBTQ people, Muslims, and liberals, yet other Christians believe Jesus loves LGBT people, Muslims, and liberals. And between these two worldviews are countless points of difference. Jesus, then, is like a paint-by-number portrait where each painter chooses what color corresponds with each number. “Jesus was white!” Megyn Kelly famously said. For her paint-by-number portrait of Jesus, she changed the brown/olive Mediterranean skin color to European white.
Theology and social conditioning force “real” Evangelical men to paint a mental and physical picture a certain way. Too bad there weren’t digital cameras back in 30 CE. Too bad a contemporary didn’t sketch Jesus or describe him. Too bad Jesus — who was likely illiterate — didn’t leave behind any writings. All we have are the gospels, none of which were written by Jesus, none of which were written during his lifetime. That’s why modern Christians are forced to make a Jesus in their own image, according to their own beliefs and experiences. And that’s fine, by the way. Thousands and thousands of people “know” Bruce Gerencser. They read this blog, and having never met me, they develop a mental picture of who and what I am. The same goes for the readers of this blog. I have met a few of you face to face, but I will go to the cremation furnace without ever truly “knowing” 99.9 percent of you. I interact with a small number of readers in the comments, on social media, and through text messages. I have made judgements about who and what you are. Now, these impressions of mine might bear a resemblance to the “real” you, but then again, maybe not. The only sure way I can know you (and you me) is for us to meet face to face and for us to spend significant time with each other. And even then, can we really totally and completely know someone?
“Real” men nonsense actually causes great psychological and societal harm. Instead of letting men be themselves, with unique wants, needs, and desires, Evangelical “real” men force other men to play according to their rules. Countless men endure sports because “real” men demand they do so. Countless men are married to women because “real” men love breasts and vaginas. And on and on it goes. And the worst part about all of this is that males who don’t fit the Evangelical “real” man standard suffer in silence, unable to say publicly they wept at the end of The Notebook or love Project Runway.
Life is too short to live in ways that deny who and what we really are. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to have different wants, needs, and desires. Love monster trucks? Super! Love quiet walks in the woods and sunsets? That’s fine too. There’s no need for any of us to conform to a religious or cultural norm. Love others and be true to self. Dare we ask any more of anyone?
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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I think by the standards of the time Jesus was manly. He strongly supported the worship of Yahweh. He taught the apocalypse was coming soon that would restore the Kingdom of God. He urged an understanding of the law that leaned toward mercy. He preached up and down the country thinking he was helping people by helping them worship Yahweh , preparing them for the coming Kingdom of God healing them via faith healings and dealing with mental illness via exorcism.
He rejected marriage as pointless as the Kingdom was coming soon and there would be no marriage in the kingdom.
His family thought he was nutty but note after his death James took over. Guess he at least changed his mind sometime down the road.
I think trying to be humane is a manly trait along with truly caring for the sick. Certainly by the standard of the time his strong support for Yahweh worship would be manly.
Jesus comes off as a well meaning guy in my book. On the deluded side but well meaning.
Too bad the Evangelicals just embrace the deluded side of him but reject the well meaning aspect of him.
You assume Jesus’ motive for healing people was that he was a nice guy who loved people. Countless sick people gathered at the Pool of Bethesda, hoping to be healed. On the day that Jesus healed a blind man there were other sick people he could have healed, yet he did nothing. Jesus had the power to heal everyone, yet he chose just to heal a handful of people. Much like today, right? Plane crashes, 100 on board, everyone dies save one. Jesus gets all sorts of praise for saving one, when he should be roundly condemned for not saving the others. With great power comes great responsibility.
Jesus was even an animal abuser. Take the story of the maniac of Gadara. Jesus casts demons out of the man and sends them into a herd of pigs, who then run off a cliff, into the sea, and die. Surely, he could have done things differently.
My point is this: people see what they want to see in the life of Jesus. You see a great man who cared for the masses, but there are other ways to paint/interpret his life too.
Of course, this is just an intellectual exercise for me. Jesus was a man, not a deity, so the miracles ascribed to him didn’t happen. Great stories, but fictions nonetheless.
I just see a first century faith healer who preached the coming of the Kingdom of God whose story was embellished by his followers after his death. That is why he engaged in faith healing; it was a sign of the coming Kingdom of God. He comes off to me as well meaning, just deluded.
Jesus is whomever you want him to be, and that’s my point. I’m fine with people having personal versions of Jesus. It is only when people use their made up Jesus as some sort of moral/ethical/cultural standard that I have a problem. And that’s exactly what countless Evangelicals and other Christians do.
I get religious believers make Jesus whatever they want him to be but I am not a religious believer. As I do not find the arguments for mytherism to be remotely convincing I am stuck with a historical Jesus. Using the historical method the man who comes through was as I described, a faith healing preacher who believed that the Kingdom of Yawheh was coming soon.
All the “historical” method gives you is what unknown authors, writing decades after the death of Jesus, believed about the man. Peel away the supernatural bullshit, the best any historian can say is that a man named Jesus lived and died in Palestine 2,000 years ago. I’m no mythicist, so please do not paint me as one. You want to “believe” in a certain version of Jesus, that’s fine. I might even agree with you. But, any suggestion that we can reliably know who and what Jesus was goes far beyond extant evidence. And that’s why we have so many Jesuses.
I am not sure why you put historical method in quotation marks. I never said you were a myther, seeing I read your article titled Why I Hate Jesus it clearly indicates you accept the existence of a historical Jesus. I also found out about you from Tim O’Neill’s blog arguing against mytherism.
Looking at what these authors believed about Jesus simply gives us an apocalyptic preacher, which is pretty much the consensus of non Christian scholars. We also have the letters of Paul which clearly shows he thought Jesus would return in his lifetime.
I don’t “believe” this. I think the conclusions are well founded as they fit the historical evidence.
I wish the evidence was more but in the end I don’t feel this need to minimize what we do have. The evidence for ancient figures, especially minor ones tends to be minimal.
This will be my last comment on this issue.
Believers and unbelievers looks at the “history” found in the Bible and comes to conclusions about who/what Jesus was/is. If this history is unambiguous and clear, then it would lead everyone to similar conclusions. That there are so many “Jesuses” (and Christianities) tells me that the “history” found in the Biblical text is open to varied, contradictory interpretations. Thus, there is no single Jesus.
What you say about being yourself is absolutely spot on, Bruce. (I’m in the process of writing a post saying much the same thing.)
Religious faith denies people that right.
“Love monster trucks? Super!”
You go toooo far, sir!”
Jesus really could have been gay, the bible even tells us which disciple he loved. And it was probably hereditary, because he was the descendent of David, whose love for Jonathan exceeded that of women.
And that’s ok. Everyone is ok. That is probably what he meant when he said to love your neighbor as yourself and might help to explain his unpopularity with the pharisees and other traditionalists.
When you look at the 4 canonized gospels, add to that what Paul who never met Jesus thought about him, plus the other gospels that weren’t canonized, it looks like a bunch of fan fiction from a variety of writers who wanted to depict their own particular version of Jesus.
I can’t get past the image of buff Jesus on the cross, LOL (breaking it, BTW)! Way better than wing-nut Jesus in the first illustration.
Jesus and God (god or gods) are whomever you see fit. Isn’t that why evangelists call him a personal God?
The Doobie Brothers did a song called, Jesus is Just Alright with Me. (Somebody else wrote it.)
I don’t care what they may know
I don’t care where they may go
I don’t care what they may know
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus, he’s my friend; Jesus, he’s my friend
He took me by the hand; Led me far from this land
Jesus, he’s my friend
Kinda says it all. You were lonely, lost and now you are found and somehow Jesus did it so now he is your real fantasy friend because you feel better and your life has ‘meaning’… Aw shucks, that’s fine but do you have to abuse others with fire and brimstone? Do you have to call [eople names and tell little kids they are going to hell?
People find this great big garbage can called extremist religion to put their pain in but the garbage can insists they spread the news! Once you get on the Kool-Aid, it is hard to come back to the water of natural life. You don’t care what others do or know. It just does not matter with the Kool-Aid. Jesus is a lie. He is as James, above in the comments, says… Just because you quote scripture, you think it is something else but its the Kool-Aid.