Ross Douthat wrote an opinion piece for Easter in the New York Times titled: God and Men and Jordan Peterson. Douthat is concerned that young men are turning away from Christianity, and that men like Jordan Peterson are filling the void. Douthat wonders why this could be the case, even though he inadvertently answers this question in the opening of his piece:
The men fled; the women stayed.
That’s the story of Easter weekend in the New Testament. Most of Jesus’ male disciples vanished when the trouble started, leaving his mother and Mary Magdalene and other women to watch by the cross, prepare his body for his burial, and then (with the men still basically in hiding) find the empty tomb.
Male absence and female energy has also been the story, albeit less starkly and dramatically, of Christian practice in many times and places since.
There are two glaring problems with this opening. The first and most serious is Douthat succumbing to the temptation of our age, and trying to find a way to make Christ’s death and resurrection a story of female supremacy, if not feminist triumph. The second problem is that his characterization contradicts the Gospels. In John 19:38-42 we learn that it was two men who took Christ’s body off the cross, prepared it for burial, and placed it in the tomb (NIV):
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
In Mark 15:43 we learn that Joseph of Arimathea boldly asked for Jesus’ body (NIV):
43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
In two of the accounts of Christ’s burial (Mat 27:61 & Mark 15:47) we learn that two women witnessed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus burying Christ’s body. But this isn’t what Douthat claims. Douthat claims that the men disappeared, leaving the work of the burial to women.
But perhaps Douthat is referring to the third day, when Jesus was resurrected. Luke 24:1-8 tells us that on the third day a group of women brought more spices to prepare Christ’s body, but when they arrived His body was gone (NIV):
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
I want to reiterate that our posture here shouldn’t be to see which sex was the “winner” with respect to caring for Christ’s body. This is Douthat’s gravest error. But since in the process he contradicted the Gospel accounts, it is important to correct the record. It isn’t clear why the women were bringing yet more spices on the third day. Perhaps in the confusion they weren’t aware of all that the men had already done. Perhaps they simply wanted to honor their Lord by bringing more. But either way, note that they are given a mild rebuke from the angels for seeking Christ’s body in the tomb on the third day. Showing up on the third day expecting to see Jesus’ body wasn’t an act of superior faith. It was a demonstration of the very lack of faith all of Christ’s disciples appear to have demonstrated at that moment.
But to Douthat this is a moment to spike the feminist football, and by implication ask why other men are so inferior to him. More importantly, Douthat isn’t alone in this regard. Nearly all Christian leaders follow this same pattern. It is this miserliness of respect for other men that has created the void that Peterson is filling. Note that Peterson isn’t telling young men they are great as they are, just let it all hang out. Peterson is telling young men they need to man up. But Peterson’s man up message is fundamentally different than the modern Christian man up message. Peterson’s message doesn’t celebrate the feminist triumph that is afflicting young men. Peterson offers both love and the possibility of respect for men who work to improve themselves. This is profoundly different than the modern Christian message, the very message that Douthat chose to stress as the message of Christ’s resurrection. If Douthat can’t bring himself to respect the legendary boldness of Joseph of Arimathea and the generosity of Nicodemus, he surely can’t be bothered to acknowledge when a young man starts Peterson’s process by cleaning his room, or even respect a young man who mans up and marries despite a legal system and culture fully hostile to married fathers.