Southern Seminary's "Godly" Man
When everyone, wife/mother and children, agrees that there is but one will in the household, a clarity in life ensues. The operative word is not “one” or “will” but “agrees.” Those three words form into Lisa Weaver Swartz’s description of “Godly Manhood.” “Wives may exercise agency within marriage… but they are ultimately accountable to their husbands’ vision.” In Godly Manhood and marriage, the wife is an enabler, a word used by one the men Weaver Swartz interviewed.
We are looking at Lisa Weaver Swartz, in Stained Glass Ceilings: How Evangelicals Do Gender and Practice Power.
Three components of a Godly Man: a churchman, a family man, and a manly man.
What stands out in these descriptions of Southern seminary is both the clarity of vision and the pervasiveness of the formation at the seminary. These men are pumped out of Louisville with an education and gendered formation that is reshaping the SBC.
It seems rather mundane to see seminarians as churchmen, but it’s true and central to Southern. As such, these men embody, or are formed to embody, the Conservative Resurgence. As such, too, one meets the rise of pastoral authority, which also helps explain in part the widespread abuse of women in the SBC. Chapel at Southern embodies the SBC churchman.
One of the funnies, if that’s the right choice of words, of this chapter comes from a man who preached in chapel:
It’s a joy to pastor a church called ‘Buck Run,” he said in a soft southern drawl. “It is the manliest church name in the state of Kentucky. And at Buck Run … we put conceal and carry permits in the new members packets. … I can pretty well promise he will not get out alive. Our big concern is crossfire.
The words, Weaver Swartz observes, “were spoken tongue in cheek.” The ideal churchman is Al Mohler, and the proper pedigree includes a hefty ESV and seminary-educated and good preaching skills.
Headship pertains over wives and children. Mohler, again, is the paradigm in his marriage relationship. She has good descriptions of the activism of her on campus, with student and faculty wives.
She discovered the male students ventured in headship conversations easily and quickly. They marry younger than the national average; singleness is a burden. Financial provision provides an opportunity for explanation: how can the wife be the major bread winner and the man be the head? Their explanations, while not explicitly mentioned, are about the temporary nature, but also because she continues to support her husband as her primary relationship. SBC instructs husbands not to be authoritarian but to serve one’s wife, and to “provide attentive, relational care.” In that male headship framework this dimension of marriage will be challenged.
I found this one most interesting, and again Mohler is the paradigm. She brings to the surface through her sociological study no less than eight elements of the manly man at Southern:
(1) the seriousness about theology and pastoring and all male headship;
(2) personal grooming, which includes beards and bow ties and coats and ties and shoes as symbols of the pastor;
(3) Edgar’s is a store on campus that provides the ideal image of the Southern man, including a fountain pen;
(4) not all men go for the coat and tie look; some venture into John Eldredge’s images;
(5) they eat meat;
(6) gender differentiation that can be explained as well as gender polarization, which includes dressing in a way that never evokes the feminine;
(7) the battle against hypermasculinity and the importance of loving relationship with one’s wife;
and (8) there is a sense of nostalgia in the Southern image of a manly man. At Edgar’s one can buy knives, which becomes symbolic of a bygone era where there was “an orderly binary.”
I’m not alone in seeing these symbolic features as a faux masculinity because it is measured by beards, knives, or suit coats with bow ties or tennis shoes with a more leisure manly appearance. Yes, the raw edges may be modified in a healthier direction, as seen at times in some of these elements, but the power dynamic becomes asymmetrical, which itself is fertile ground for abuse. Powermongering men in their character will be attracted to the headship theme, and powermongering eventually gets toxic.
The Godly Man is “Designed for Dominion.” Next the Godly Woman who is “Created to Follow.”
This image is from an official Southern publication called Towers.