Effeminacy: when the church denies a sin is a sin...

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Do not be deceived; neither ...adulterers nor effeminate ...will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10)

A family member pointed me to this post by Doug Wilson, saying it encouraged him. The post is excellent. I hope you'll read it. Doug's post got me thinking...

The example Doug mentions of people being scandalized by what he's written is a reference he made in the past to "lumberjack dykes." Six or so weeks ago I used the expression "bull dykes" and got similar pushback from readers. Then yesterday, a pastor I respect told me he didn't think a man I'd posted a picture of was "vain" in his appearance. My post was wrong, he thought...

We had a good conversation about it, so now I'm going to double down on my warning about vanity in men. What do all three of the objections to Doug's and my posts have in common?

Each of them was a warning against sexual identities that are contrary to the man or woman God made us. The "lumberjack dyke" or "bull dyke" is manly in rebellion against the sex God made her. The preening peacock walking down the street is womanly in rebellion against the sex God made him.

Why does it anger Christians for a pastor to point out such basic sins today?

Well, there's always the simple matter of politeness. In the sort of desperate insecurity which marks each of us today after living our lives among flatterers, being incapable of self-awareness or self-criticism, we are left gasping for air when someone else criticizes us. We are left panting for air when someone criticizes someone else because, "Whew! He might have said that about me and how would I have felt?" Fawning is what we expect from people, so when someone is critical of someone else, our stomachs churn and we feel sick, fearing the gig is up and we might be next.

We don't have room for principles today. The personal has expanded to take up all the space principle might have occupied.

But beyond our personal insecurity and the love of flattery that produced it, we are particularly sensitive to what we tellingly refer to as expressions of "gender identity." So comments about a man's vanity being effeminate or a woman's cultivated ugliness being bull dykish are the most offensive criticisms anyone can give today. If we don't believe personal criticisms are ever right, we really really don't believe personal criticisms of someone's expression of their gender identity are ever ever ever right.

Yes, because it's a very personal thing and personal things are to be left alone. But also because this very personal thing is very personal. How someone chooses to express their gender identity is about as personal as a thing can get, so criticizing that expression and the person making it are a violation of basic rules of social engagement everyone knows and Christians are particularly careful to observe.

Now you see why Doug illustrates the pushback he gets for saying "no" by speaking of the pushback he got for saying "lumberjack dyke." Christians think gender identity is a personal thing no one should speak about publicly, let alone criticize.

You also see why I got pushback for saying the man's public peacock preening was effeminate. Christians think gender identity is a personal thing that no one should criticize.

The hidden premise here is that gender identity is morally neutral. It's merely a matter of style. Or maybe it's so subjective no one can know what anyone else is saying with these sunglasses, that hat, those socks, that brand of jeans, this scarf and the way it's coiffed, those eyeglass frames, such a haircut spiked in such a way, which sweater buttons are buttoned and which aren't, whether the sleeves and pants legs are rolled up, whether the shoes have an AC/DC wing tip/workboot thang goin on, and so on.

Give it up. Everyone knows precisely what's going on. Otherwise, what's the point of all that money and all the places you had to go to find that stuff and all the time you had to spend assembling yourself for getting your flame on strutting down the sidewalk? No one would spend that kind of money and time unless they were certain it would communicate precisely what he wanted to communicate through it. And sure enough: a cultural anthropologist saw him walking down the street, understood what he was saying, asked if he could take his pic and publish it, inquired as to the specifics of his feathers and their sourcing, and it was the high point of the preening peacock's life.

So no, the problem isn't that vanity in hairstyle, eyeglasses, clothing, facial hair, shoes, etc. is so very personal that no one can know or say what it all means. We all know precisely what it all means. Otherwise, what's the point?

The real problem is that we're all super-sensitive today to expressions of sexual identity and there's no crime more anti-social—or even misanthropic—than pointing out and shaming a man for his failure to be manly in his clothing, posture, speech patterns, hairstyle, eyeglasses, and carriage. We know full well the man is a preening and strutting peacock, but what right does anyone have to shame him for that effeminacy? The guy we shame for his public vanity may be a weightlifter and then how does the guy who criticizes him feel having trashed his manhood? Having criticized him for his appearance and the way he moves his neck, his forearms, wrists, and hands?

"Neck, forearms, wrists, and hands," you exclaim! "Now what on earth are you talking about? You have some way a guy moves his neck that you say is effeminate? Are you serious?"

Well, I was channeling the primary sources of the ancient world when I wrote that. They shamed unmanly men for their carefully cultivated unmanly appearance—for their effeminacy—and one aspect of their shaming had to do with the particular way these softies moved their necks. They had no trouble knowing precisely what these men were communicating with the way they moved their necks and wrists and forearms, so why do we deny the significance of these movements today?

In basketball, every aspect of the movement of body parts is parsed minutely by coaches and color commentators. At the Inauguration, every aspect of the clothing and movement was parsed minutely by the television announcers as each entourage walked down the stairs and across the platform. When you're sitting in church, every aspect of the clothing and movement of the husband, wife, and children sitting directly in front of you is parsed minutely by you, your wife, and children. Come on, admit it.

Body language is key to counselling, right? If a counselor can't read body language, he's lousy.

Appendage movement is key to sports. Hairstyle is key to acceptance in the Tacoma Rock-Crawling Club. Size of ear gauges. Tats peeking out of short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts. Also collars. Honestly, there's no end to the precise communication we accomplish with the way we dress, the way we move, the way we talk, the way we walk; why even the way we cross our legs! Did you know men with short hair notice how guys cross their legs? Ask them.

So all this precise communication being done and understood everywhere and always around us, but nowhere and never does a Christian man sin by communicating effeminacy to those watching? Really? Nowhere and never does a Christian woman sin by publicly confessing her butchness? Seriously?

You get my point. The culture we live in has gone insane in its rebellion against God's command of manhood and womanhood, so Christians are joining in that rebellion by themselves being effeminate or butch, and by themselves having hissy-fits when someone shames them for being effeminate or butch. "What's wrong with being effeminate or butch?" "What gives you the right to say what's effeminate or butch?" "Who do you think you are, telling anyone that his way of dressing isn't manly or her way of dressing isn't womanly?"

So we have endless ways of shaming and silencing those few men and women who still provide such Biblical rebukes. We absolutely reject any claim that carriage, posture, hairstyle, clothing, and ways of speaking are sinful when done by one sex, and not sinful when done by the other.

In other words, we refuse to obey God's command that woman not wear man's clothing and man not wear woman's clothing. We refuse to heed God's warning that effeminate men (and by synecdoche, butch women) will not inherit the kingdom of God. To us, sexual identity is a very personal thing—so very personal that it can't ever be right or wrong, good or evil. It's merely a lifestyle choice.

Brothers and sisters, your sex was assigned by God at the moment of your conception. As Jesus said, "from the beginning He made them male and female." Thus it is your duty to obey God by loving and living the sex He made you in all its particularity. You don't want people to look at you and say, "he's such a pretty peacock" or "she's so ripped" because, whether cultivated by Christians or pagans, effeminacy and butchness are rebellion against God.

So now, if you know the sin exists and the Greeks and Romans of the ancient world shamed it across the ancient world and our Christian fathers and mothers shamed it the past 2,000 years, tell us where you see it today? If the sin exists, it must be staring you in the face, right? It must be in yourself and others. It must be in the church.

Will you confess your Christian faith by repenting of it? By rebuking it?

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!