Thursday, 13 September 2012

Why I Am Uncomfortable With The Bloke Jesus Christ

There is something that makes me feel uncomfortable that I have seen a couple of times recently- the referring to Jesus as a bloke.

This isn't something that happens in the New Testament. I hope you don't think I'm being picky, but let me outline my concern.

Years ago I was in an online group for Christian men into weight-training, and there was a discussion about what Jesus's physique would have been like. Surely He would have been big and muscly, so that people would sit up and take notice? Yet in the Bible people take notice because He teaches with authority.

Muscly Jesus isn't found in the Bible- and even appealing to the idea that He was a carpenter doesn't convince me. Yes, He might have been. But the Bible is silent on His physique. It wasn't bulging biceps, washboard stomach and chiselled pecs that enabled Him to endure the Cross- it was His love for His people.

Muscly Jesus seems at first sight to be a logical inference, almost Biblical, but then when you look at this more you see that muscly Jesus is a Jesus in man's image.

I am not saying that we should strive to have a fattier-than-thou attitude. But using muscly Jesus as an argument for why men should keep fit is wrong.

And my concern about muscly Jesus extends to blokey Jesus.

A man is an adult male made in God's image.

A bloke is a late 20th/early 21st British concept. It carries with it the connotations of loving sport (especially football), liking fast cars, liking going to the pub for a drink, liking the great outdoors... And it is a subset of man which I am not part of.

I have noticed in the modern Christian men's movement a recent development where "bloke" becomes the default term for Christian men. And it carries the connotation that to be proper Christian men we need to be into blokey things.

I have gone to watch a football match, but don't like the game much. I remember a radio advert which began with a church service. "We will now sing hymn number..." and the congregation launch into the Match of the Day theme. And then the tag line "If football is your religion..." as it tried to flog you some magaxine.

Precisely. It seems that a quintessential part of "blokeishness" is having football as your religion. You hear the arguments and rows- one man has a god named Arsenal, another's god is called Manchester United. Boys are indoctrinated into their dad's religion.

I know the obvious reply- that football brings "blokes" together. Yes, but against a common opponent, against those who are "the other"- either locally (followers of a different religion) or nationally (people from another country).

Sadly, the modern Christian men's movement doesn't challenge the idolatry in football. It's "blokey", blokeiness is next to godliness, so it's just embraced and baptised.

Fast cars? I was at a Christian men's event recently where there was what was, apparently, an impressive car. But what message do we send out? What does striving for a status symbol car say? Tenth Commandment anyone?

The message that you are what you own is that of the world. Not of the church.

Are you going to be a better, more spiritual, more Christlike man if you own a status symbol car and wow your friends and neigbbours? Will you be able to drive it through the Pearly Gates?

Going to pub? I have enough of a Methodist background (in the sense of once working for Methodist Homes for the Aged, and worshipping at an Anglican-Methodist church for a few years) to be teetotal (there is also the factor of the tablets I have to take, but even without that, I would be teetotal). I go to pubs with mates and drink soft drinks. I don't judge. But surely, we need to develop a Christian response to alcohol.

This brings me back to my concern. To push blokieness as the only way for a Christian man to be is one thing- it excludes those of us who are not blokey- but to emphasise that Jesus was "a bloke" is another thing.

Blokey Jesus is like muscly Jesus- a Jesus created in man's image. And the Jesus who exists in the mind is the one we aspire to be like.

If you want to place an emphasis on Jesus being "a bloke" and insist on Christian men being "blokey", then stop and ask yourself what message you are sending:

  • to the blokey Christian, and what you are subtly telling him about his non-blokey brothers in Christ
  • to the non-blokey Christian, who gets the subtle message that he is a second-tier Christian
  • to the non-blokey non-Christian, who is turned away by your message
  • Let me be the man God made me to be, rather than guilt trip me for not being the bloke He didn't make me to be.

    I want to be more Christlike, not blokier. There is a difference, which emphasising the bloke Jesus Christ obscures.

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