Raising an army of LARPers.

Think of the movies we like to watch. We want the fight. We want our lives to matter. We want to lay it down. We love Saving Private Ryan, everybody getting shot up on the beach. We want to run up on that beach with them. It’s in us.

Brothers, you’ve been called to this. Anything less than this is outside of design and purpose.

–Pastor Matt Chandler

One of the defining characteristics of the man up/step up program is an over the top cartoonish appeal to the virtues of courage and valor.  This comes across as cringeworthy not only because it is so childish and over the top, but because the point of the program is to avoid doing what is difficult and terrifying.  It is false bravado used to mask paralyzing fear.

As the creators of the program know, most of the men in attendance are there either because their wife gave them permission or their wife ordered them to attend.  When the creators of the program are speaking to the wives, they are beseeching the head of the household to send their husband in so they can “fix” him the way she wants.  The men for their part know the drill, as they’ve experienced it countless times before.  Each man knows the leaders in the program are going to tear him down to nothing, and then build him back up into a real man, a knight fit to serve his lady.

But it isn’t just the participants who are encouraged to see themselves as knights in a LARPing chivalrous army.  Pastors are encouraged to see the events as providing them with their own private army, as Dennis Rainey and Kenny Luck explain:

Kenny: Well, I think of the local pastor, first of all—especially, most churches are under 300 people. I got a note just the other day from a local pastor. He has a congregation of 175 people. Nine men, because they had adopted the Sleeping Giant process and pathway, were baptized this last Sunday. It’s almost like he was crying through the email. Here he has help on the way. “The Calvary is coming!” He has a process to get them healthy. He has a strategy to move them into leadership. In most churches that are that small, the pastor needs men forming ranks around him, with his DNA—

Dennis: Yes, he does. Yes, he does.

Kenny: —and so, when they don’t have that, then, we end up hiring disciples versus making disciples and adding staff, which is, for many, prohibitive. So, when the local church—local churches that I see, early adopters to the Sleeping Giant model, the pastors are writing me and going, “I never knew this could be. I didn’t know that I could be the main beneficiary of a solid outreach to men, where we not only develop the man but we develop the leader;” and they form ranks around that—that senior pastor. That’s really where I feel there is going to be a large Kingdom advance of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, locally, worldwide.

Bob: I’m imagining the pastor who is thinking, “You know, I’d love to see guys energized and mobilized as long as they’re energized and mobilized for what I think they ought to be doing. I’m concerned they’re going to get energized and mobilized and go head in their own direction and have their own agenda…

Posted in Cartoonish Chivalry, Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife, Pastor Matt Chandler | 247 Comments

The first commandment with a promise.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

–Exodus 20:12, ESV

Posted in Beautiful truth, Mother's Day | 26 Comments

Step up, so they don’t have to (part 2).

As I explained in part one, men stepping up is a well loved refrain with complementarians and other conservative Christians.  It is a brilliantly deceptive term, because the objective is to appear to be fighting our feminist culture while taking great care not to do anything which would upset the feminist status quo.  This is accomplished by pretending that feminists aren’t in the final mopping up stage of the culture wars, and instead complaining about a sudden and mysterious change in men.

The danger of course to exhorting men to man up is that they might actually do so.  This would defeat the whole purpose.  For this reason Christian leaders who go beyond the steps described in part 1 need to clearly communicate that their program is not a threat to women in feminist rebellion.

Dennis Rainey is the President, CEO and Co-founder of FamilyLife.  Rainey is also a Board of Reference member of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).  Rainey is all about men stepping up.  In fact, he has even trademarked the term Stepping Up®, as it is the title of the video series and accompanying book FamilyLife sells:

Calling Men to Courageous Manhood

Today, more than ever, the world needs godly men. Men who will step up and courageously lead at home, at church, at work, and in their communities. That’s the message of Stepping Up. In a world where too many men are shrinking back, Stepping Up gives men vision and tools to live godly, courageous lives.

In August of 2013 I did a post on one of the youtube videos FamilyLife used to advertise Stepping Up®.  As I noted at the time, the advertisement was brilliantly crafted to seem traditional while reinforcing the feminist status quo:

…the video features a thoroughly broken husband being harangued by his ballbusting wife.  For a moment he weakly pushes back, but then she threatens to move out and he submits to her authority.  Those who support traditional marriage are no doubt encouraged by this exchange and the larger message of the video, assuming this video series is secretly about returning to the biblical instruction on headship and submission.  If their wife gives the ok, they can’t wait to attend the sessions!

This message is so ridiculous many of my readers understandably will struggle to believe that is is the case, especially since the video I was describing has since been removed from YouTube.  Fortunately, while the video has been memory holed, another promotion for Stepping Up® is still available on the web.  In January of 2013 Rainey did a segment in his radio program titled Encouraging Our Guys (audio, transcript).  The introduction to the segment makes it sound like it will be promoting the biblical view, just like the blurb on the page selling the video:

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 8th . Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about men being men and about how women can help them be the men God wants them to be.

Stay tuned.

After the break, Bob explains that churches around the country will be screening Stepping Up® the Saturday before Super-bowl Sunday.  This creates a dilemma for the head of the household;  how should she manage her husband’s day?  Should she send him to Stepping Up®, or should she occupy his time with chores around the house?

Bob: So, I‟m thinking of a wife who is planning for that weekend. She’s got the option of either her husband, on Saturday, doing all the projects around the house so that he can watch the game on Sunday; or she can send him to the Stepping Up® Super Saturday event, down at the church, that’s happening in their community. We’ve got hundreds of churches that are participating in this; but she’s not going to get any “Honey, do” lists done that day. What would your counsel to her be, Dennis?

Dennis: Give up the “Honey, do” list for a day.

Rainey explains that a wife should see this as an investment.  If she sends her husband to Stepping Up® it will pay dividends for her in the future, as it will very likely make her husband more like she wants him to be:

I‟m actually encouraging you, as a wife, to look beyond the “Honey, do” list and beyond to making an investment in your husband‟s life—to encourage him, not discourage him— but encourage him to become the man God made him to be. If you send him down to the Stepping Up Super Saturday event—I can‟t guarantee this because he’s got a choice—he’s got a real choice, and some guys don’t make it; but a lot will.

Next Rainey introduces their guest for the segment, Kenny Luck:

Kenny Luck joins us. He’s the Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church. He‟s
written a book called Sleeping Giant. He’s all over the issue of men stepping up.

Luck of course reinforces the importance of the head of the household sending her husband to the Stepping Up® event, because Stepping Up® and similar programs are designed to make her husband do what she nags him to do:

Kenny: I was just saying—the hall pass—“Ladies, here’s the deal. When you do give permission for a desired activity—but more importantly, when you encourage your man to take ownership of his life—spiritually, relationally, maritally— in the context of other men, that’s when you get a solid result versus hinting, hoping, nagging. It’s just something where he feels that he needs to make that decision on his own—in consideration of you—but in the presence of other men, as an individual man. It‟s that ownership-thing, where it is: „This is my decision, and I want to own it—apart from being in your presence—even though I love you—and apart from being connected to you as a husband and father, who has many shortcomings—I want to make this decision myself.‟”


Posted in Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Crossdressing Theology, Dennis Rainey, Disrespecting Respectability, FamilyLife, Marriage, Nagging, Rebellion, Servant Leader, Stepping Up®, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up, You can't make this stuff up | 107 Comments

Reassurance to husbands, reassurance to wives.

Reader YS shared a video advertising the FamilyLife Weekend To Remember “marriage getaway”.  The video starts with reassurance to husbands, who instinctively know what these kinds of events are like:

The look on your face says it all.  Your spouse just invited you to the FamilyLife Weekend To Remember marriage getaway.  You’re thinking:

What did I do wrong?

Relax, this is a good thing.  So put away the fancy china and listen up.  You aren’t eating crow tonight!

I’ve never been to one of these events, but Sheila Gregoire is one of the “experts” the video mentions, and she describes what they are like on her own blog:

My husband and I speak at FamilyLife marriage conferences around the country…

One of the interesting things about giving the wife talk is that, as I start to talk about what a woman can do to make marriage great, I see many in the audience looking distinctly uncomfortable and shifting in their seats. So, just like clockwork, about seven minutes in, I stop my talk, and say:

I know you women are uncomfortable with me saying all these things that you should do. But let me reassure you that right now my husband has all of your husbands in another room, and he is blasting them and telling them what they need to do, too, in no uncertain terms. So don’t worry.

Posted in Attacking headship, Book of Oprah, Disrespecting Respectability, FamilyLife, Sheila Gregoire | 76 Comments

Step up, so they don’t have to (part 1).

There is a well loved refrain, especially among complementarians, that men need to “step up”.  This is a deceptive phrase, because in reality the objective is to allow men to avoid what is difficult and uncomfortable.  It is false bravado used to mask paralyzing fear.  What is being avoided is addressing the feminist elephant in the middle of the room.


For example, over the past decades we have witnessed an explosion in out of wedlock births.  Feminists have been entirely open about their desire to make single motherhood an attractive option for women, and after decades of social and legal “progress” 40% of all children are now born out of wedlock in the US.

For feminist Christians this isn’t a problem, as they can simply celebrate their victory while pushing for even more “progress”.  But for complementarians and other conservative Christians, this poses a huge challenge.  How can they appear to take biblical morality (and the welfare of innocent children) seriously while avoiding upsetting women in our thoroughly feminized culture?  There is only one answer, no matter how absurd it is.  The answer is to pretend that feminists aren’t really in the final mopping up stages in the culture war, and assert instead that what we are experiencing is a sudden and mysterious change in men.  Here is how Glenn Stanton, the Director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family (FotF), explains the incredible increase we are seeing in out of wedlock births*:

Women want to marry and have daddies for their babies.  But if they can’t find good men to commit themselves to, well…  Our most pressing social problem today is a man deficit.

The level of denial here is astonishing, and would be laughable if it weren’t entirely commonplace.  Even more astounding, often times the denial of feminism is expressed using feminist terminology, and even includes calls to join feminists in their push to re order our society**:

Whatever our views on specific economic policies, we must recognize that much economic hardship of women in our age is the result of men who abandon their commitments. We should eschew obnoxious “welfare queen” rhetoric and work with others of goodwill to seek economic and social measures to provide a safety net for single mothers and abused women in jeopardy. We should join with others, including secular feminists, in seeking legal protections against such manifestations of a rape culture as sexual harassment, prostitution, and sex slavery.

The quote above is from Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  As Moore himself explains, this makes him the head of:

the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination

Previously Moore was the Chairman of the Board for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

As astonishing as the above two examples are, they merely scratch the surface.  The pattern exists across complementarian/conservative Christian organizations, and across the full spectrum of issues where a Christian approach would offend feminists.  In response to women demanding to be allowed to join all units of our armed forces (just as they have demanded in the civilian world), conservative Christians deny the very open feminist rebellion, and pretend instead that cowardly men are forcing brave women to serve in their place.  Doug Phillips’ now defunct Vision Forum offers a perfect example with America the Barbarous: New Pentagon Policy Sanctions Women in Combat:

…our nation’s leaders — in the name of “empowering” women — are now self-consciously placing women in combat units to be shot at and killed as men.

…Does this “enlightened policy” represent the fullest expression of Woman, as feminists would have us believe?

Not hardly. It represents an abolition of womanhood and the perversion of God’s design. It represents a deeply-rooted rebellion against the natural roles and functions by which God has distinguished manhood from womanhood.

Women are to be cherished as the weaker sex, not exploited to fill the roster of an army. Combat is the province of men, and God calls on men to protect women and children. Men fight when their homes and communities are threatened by wicked regimes and lawless rogues who would despoil their loved ones. When necessary, men carry weapons into battle and give their lives to preserve the liberty and sanctity of those they hold dear.

It is barbarians who place their women in the midst of war’s brutalities to fight as men. This is what pagan tribes in Scotland did before they were Christianized and embraced the “Law of the Innocents,” written by the evangelist Adomnan, which forbade sending women into battle.

Though America possesses advanced weaponry and great military might, we have become a nation of barbarians.

It is high time that we as a people repent of our barbarism — that we cherish our women as women, and call on our men to act as men.

Bizarrely, the piece implicitly acknowledges that feminist women in rebellion against God’s role for them are the ones who have insisted on this change for decades.  Yet Vision Forum’s solution to women’s rebellion against God is not to confront the rebellion (something terrifying).  The closing call to action is for men to act as men and stop insisting that women fight in their place.  The idea that women aren’t insisting to join the military, but that cowardly men are forcing women to do so is absurd.  It is laughable to everyone who isn’t a complementarian Christian.  But in the complementarian Christian world this fantasy land approach to women’s overt rebellion is a closely held doctrine.

Women in combat should be the easiest part of feminism for conservative Christian leaders to oppose, and that even here conservative Christians are terrified of offending rebellious women is most telling.

While very few women in conservative Christian circles want to dress as men and serve in combat, nearly all of them have married or hope to marry.  Not surprisingly, the same ridiculous gymnastics are used to deny the much more proximate mass rebellion against the biblical instruction to wives.  If a wife is frigid and defrauds her husband, it is not a sin but a sign that God is angry with the husband (Pastor Dave Wilson, and Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.).  If a wife throws a tantrum in order to get her way, it is not rebellion but a form of submission called a Godly tantrum (Pastor Tim Keller, co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition).  If a wife is contentious, it is proof that her husband is not communicating enough (Dr. Clarke & FotF president Jim Daly) or loving her enough (Pastor Strauss).  If a wife fornicated before marriage, it is her husband’s fault (Dr. Russell Moore).

Pastor Chandler, President of the complementarian Acts 29 Network of churches, takes it a step further and offers a blanket statement on all possible areas a wife might be tempted into feminist rebellion.  If a wife ever feels the temptation of feminist rebellion, it means her husband is oppressing her:

Really, men, here is a great way to gauge how you’re serving, loving, and practicing your headship. If the most secularized feminist in the world showed up in your home and began to kind of coach your wife toward freedom and liberation from your tyranny, our wives should be so well cared for, so nourished, so sowed into and loved, they would say, “What you’re describing is actually tyranny. I love where I am. I am honored. I am encouraged. My man sacrifices so that I might grow in my gifts. He will oftentimes lay down his own desires in order to serve me more. My husband goes to bed tired at night. He pours in to our children. He encourages me. All that comes out of his mouth, sans a couple of little times here and there, is him building me up in love.”

Men, here is a good opportunity. If you’re like, “Well, gosh, I don’t think she would say that at all,” then, men, I think on the way home, you should probably repent and confess before the Lord to your wife.

See also:  Step up, so they don’t have to (part 2).

*Glenn Stanton, Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity
**HT Darwinian Arminian

Posted in Acts 29, Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Dave and Ann Wilson, Denial, Disrespecting Respectability, Dr. David Clarke, Dr. Richard L. Strauss, Dr. Russell Moore, Focus on the Family, Frigidity, Glenn Stanton, Legitimacy, Manliness, Marriage, Military, Pastor Matt Chandler, Rape Culture, Rebellion, Servant Leader, Social Justice Warriors, The Gospel Coalition, The only real man in the room, The Real Feminists, Tim and Kathy Keller, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up | 150 Comments