Tom Hanks, in the movie, A League of Their Own, said what men coaching teams of young boys and girls have said far too many times. “There’s no crying in baseball!” The line in the script was not referring to an understanding found in a book of rules memorized by coaches and umpires. This line was intended to draw laughs and connections with our own sense of what it means to be masculine. Real men don’t cry.

In a recent interview, Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, shared that society is “teaching men that the only way to have dignity is not be a woman.” Anand adds that to be a man is to “not be weak, not be gay, always hit first and never present yourself as vulnerable or in need.” 2

Masculinity is alive and toxic in our nation and in our community. Harmful views on what it means to be masculine were exposed in dying color during the pandemic. Amy Morin, in her article defines “toxic masculinity” as “cultural pressures for men to behave in a certain way” that is harmful for themselves and others. 2

Alisha Haridasani Gupta, in her article, made reference to comments made by the Fox News host Tomi Lahren regarding a Twitter video of candidate Biden wearing a mask. Lahren commented that Joe Biden should “carry a purse with that.” 3

Research conducted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other studies showed men to be less likely than women to adopt behaviors that could prevent the spread of diseases like COVID. Men were less likely than women to wash their hands, observe social distancing, and wear masks. This makes society’s idea of masculinity sound suspiciously like stupidity.

Perhaps crying belongs in baseball, just as taking precautions that help prevent the spread of deadly diseases is a sign of strength and intelligence.

Annabelle Bernard Fournier, in her article, “What Does Gender Nonconforming Mean?” writes that “Gender roles, despite existing wherever humans live together, can be oppressive and even harmful.” Gender roles are societal norms or expectations. 4

In support of her assertion, Annabelle argues that “Gender roles limit what any person can do and reduce a person’s life to what they “should” do. It forces people to perform what is expected of them, rather than live authentically as who they feel they are.”

In her article, Annabelle argues that even the idea of referring to a person’s decision to not follow societal norms as “non-conformity” is problematic. Conformity suggests that it is better to be consistent with societal expectations than to not conform.

On the topic of coming out for persons claiming a different gender than the norm, Annabelle writes that “When someone breaks out of the box, they are met with ridicule, disdain, and violence, with the ultimate goal of forcing them to conform.”

Our new series, Coming out, is not just about non-conformity. Although non-conformity is a big part of following the teachings of Jesus, our conversations include our struggles to simply do what we want to do. Part one of our series focuses on the church’s response to non-conformity in regards to gender identity.

J. J. Warren, in his book, Reclaiming Church, addresses his own struggles as a gay man to claim his identity. He chose to come out despite the negative ramifications of his decision on his future role in the church. While J. J. discovered that he was not alone, he also found out that his experiences growing up differed significantly from the experiences of most others sharing his struggle. 1

At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness
Genesis 3:7

His book is an invitation for any who has felt rejected by the church to reclaim the very church that rejected you. In particular, J. J.’s focus is on persons rejected as a result of gender non-conformity. But the first step in reclaiming the church is to first reclaim our perceptions of God. And our view of God’s will determines our view of God.

Scripture wrestles with humanity’s struggle with God’s will from the very beginning. And J. J. describes this struggle as dancing with God. The creation story includes a scene where the first humans discover their nakedness and hide from God because they were ashamed.

How often do we feel ashamed when we face our true identity?

Welcome to episode one of our 2-part series, Coming out. In this series, we focus on claiming our true identity while reclaiming a perception of God based on the truth of scripture. We learn that God sides with the oppressed, marginalized, and rejected.

We have a new button on the homepage of our websiteClick here to watch. This button takes you to a viewer to allow you to join live or watch later in the week. We’re also live on Facebook and our newly launched YouTube channel. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy

1 Most of the content for our series comes from: Warren, J. J. Reclaiming church: a call to action for religious rejects. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020

2 Amy Morin, LCSW.  Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD. “What Is Toxic Masculinity?,” © VeryWellMind, November 26, 2020

3 Alisha Haridasani Gupta. “How an Aversion to Masks Stems From ‘Toxic Masculinity’,” © NY Times, Oct. 22, 2020

4 Annabelle Bernard Fournier.  Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD. “What Does Gender Nonconforming Mean?” © VeryWellMind.com, November 23, 2020