For the Sake of the Church, and the Sake of the Children image

For the Sake of the Church, and the Sake of the Children

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While I was away in holiday I tried to stay offline as much as possible – but I did continue to keep tabs on the unfolding Planned Parenthood saga.

While much of the mainstream media (certainly in the UK) is still not running with the story, every fresh revelation about the callousness of the abortion industry revealed by the videos creates further revulsion. (If you have missed any of the videos, links to them all can be found here.) It also appears to be having the intended effect of making some pro-choice people rethink their position. One example of this is Daily Beast columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Navarrette describes how deliberately he has avoided writing about abortion over 25 years as a columnist, and why he has held a pro-choice position,

I arrived there for a simple reason: Because I’m a man. Many will say that this is not a very good reason, but it is my reason. Lacking the ability to get pregnant, and thus spared what has been for women friends of mine the anguishing decision of whether to stay pregnant, I’ve remained on the sidelines and deferred to the other half of the population.

This is a fascinating confession, and as much as it says about abortion, it reveals a lot about the way in which men have over recent decades felt the need to defer to women. Men have always deferred to women of course, but often that has been the deference of courtesy – of door opening, and ladies first, and the Birkenhead Drill. What makes Navarrette’s confession truly fascinating however is the manner in which his (pro-life) wife effectively accuses him of cowardice,

These are babies that are being killed. Millions of them. And you need to use your voice to protect them. That’s what a man does. He protects children—his own children, and other children. That’s what it means to be a man.

“That’s what it means to be a man.” I think many men have concluded that in the current zeitgeist they are not allowed to be men like that – that to be so, and declare so, is to identify with the oppressive patriarchy. Which is why so many – and not just on the issue of abortion – have “remained on the sidelines and deferred to the other half of the population.”

One video I held off watching while on holiday but have seen this week is the interview by Brian Houston of Mark & Grace Driscoll.

Houston got into a lot of hot water when he invited Driscoll to speak at a Hillsong conference. The compromise was that the invite was rescinded, but this interview was made.

I’m still not sure about the wisdom of that decision. Certainly, this is a very different Driscoll from the one we used to know. There is no fight, no aggression, no self-justification, but a lot of contrition and tears – even a public apology to Joel Osteen. I wonder though if it would be better for Mark to still keep his head down, rather than going public like this; and I feel a little queasy about Driscoll reanimating his ‘Pastor Mark’ website – especially when at the moment he isn’t pastoring anyone. Perhaps a quiet and anonymous retreat into the Arizona sun would be more appropriate.

Whatever.

One of the things Houston picks Driscoll up on is a sermon in which Driscoll was in a particular rage. (The sequence begins at 4:58 on the second video.) Houston is concerned – rightly – about the level of anger on display. Driscoll doesn’t try to defend himself at all about this, but does seek to explain that the anger was directed at men who abuse women. Later, in explaining his motives, he comments, “No one would say that in the western world young men are highly impressive and we’re all encouraged.”

It was the challenge Driscoll presented to young men that was one of the things that drew many of us to him in the first place. He was saying things that few other people dared to say in urging men to step up, take responsibility, get jobs, marry faithfully, and do what man are meant to do – to be the kind of men that Ruben Navarrette’s wife seems to be urging him to be. The great sadness was that this positive message got drowned by the anger that surrounded it.

Video is powerful. Watching the Planned Parenthood videos is far more impacting than having a vague notion of what goes on in abortion clinics. In it’s way, the Driscoll video is powerful too – I guess that those of us who are naturally sympathetic towards Mark will feel the power of his repentance; while those who are naturally hostile to him will doubtless find more fuel to throw on their fires.

A video of a fallen pastor and videos about the sale of aborted fetuses might not seem to have much connection, but both raise questions of what it means to be a man. There is no doubt that men should use their voices (and at times their muscles) to defend children, the vulnerable, and – yes – women. There is something distinctively ‘manly’ about that. It is a challenge men need to hear and rise to. Yet how easy it is to step over the line of manly protection to abusive bullying.

Perhaps, both what has happened to Driscoll, and what is being revealed about Planned Parenthood, will help more men to tread that line more exactly. For the sake of the church, and for the sake of the children, I hope so.

 

 

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