Letter from the Editor: The Wonder of God’s Image Bearers

One of my favorite reads from the past year was The Power of Habit by New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg. It explores the science behind our patterns and routines—the habits we’ve practiced until they become our autopilot behavior. Although the book speaks primarily to our actions, I see the same sort of habits in my thinking. The things I think go down the same rutted pathways, unless I work hard to dislodge them and consider other ideas.

I wonder how much habitual thinking has tainted our ability to think about male/female relations with fresh thoughts. We think what we’ve always thought about men and women, same old pathways along well-worn ruts. We think men are always like this; women are never like that. When a particular person comes along and betrays our preconceived notions, our brains have a hard time making sense of new information. Sometimes we discard reality in favor of long-held positions.

The trouble is, men and women are mystery. Both were created in God’s image; both male and female creatures are necessary to represent God’s glory. Sadly, we often take this mysterious honor and try to make sense of it by fitting it neatly into our preconceived thought loops. What do we lose by this need to define and label and categorize?

This need for simplistic mental order causes us to presume much about the opposite sex and about God’s intention in creating us male and female. In this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, the articles speak to these presumptions and point to the mystery of God’s created order.

Allison Barron’s feature, “Lessons of the Emotionless,” peels back the presumption that only women are emotional and only men are stoic. Her analysis of several TV show characters reveals that both men and women struggle to engage emotionally, but when they do, they are modeling the very image of God:

“To love is to be vulnerable. You can’t be in a true relationship, you can’t really love, without opening yourself up to the option of getting hurt. Even God recognized that He was not exempt from this truth; He showed us exactly what being vulnerable meant by sending Jesus down to Earth to die the worst death possible. He led by example, letting down His defenses to be in a deep, meaningful relationship with us.”

This joint struggle and call to follow God’s lead and seek relationship is explored further in Aric Clark’s feature, “Gators and Puppies: What Geeks Are Learning About Gender.” Geek culture has long been male-dominated; many men in the fold are reticent to welcome women, thereby affirming our bent to close-off relationship when it goes against long-held habits:

“Wherever hobbies are gender-stereotyped you can be sure power dynamics are at work.”

One hobby that has evolved to include male and female participants is running. In “Male and Female He Created Them,” Ellen Mandeville details the groundbreaking act of Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Gibb’s participation wasn’t welcome and many refused to reroute their misguided thoughts about women running long distances. Mandeville then traces the Church’s thought patterns of male and female participation and place:

“Talents and responsibilities bequeathed by God to men and women are often at odds with cultural gender expectations.”

Our need to define people only by sex immediately puts men and women at odds with each other if people hold varying criteria for their labels. We need to see men and women as people—people made in the image of God, people who mysteriously reflect His image like no one else. From this basis, Ivan Strong Moore calls the church—especially singles—to get to know each other more deeply in “A Church Defined by Friendship”:

“Men and women in the church need to have more conversations and interactions if they are to lean on each other as friends.”

In addition to these features, the remaining articles gathered for the issue touch on dating, work, and calling. All touch on common areas where we have had some trouble relating to and working with those of the opposite sex.

Are Gospel-glorifying friendships and Gospel-advancing ministries between men and women possible? Is it possible to free men and women from our preconceived categories so they are free to reflect the mystery of God to the world? I think so. We are in this together, just as God meant it to be, mystery and all.

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.