In a post yesterday, Eve Tushnet quotes a Christianity Today writer named Marlena Graves, who wonders “about all the godly men who may have other spiritual gifts—just not the ones traditionally considered ‘male’ spiritual gifts. For example, what about men who have the gift of mercy or hospitality or service or encouragement, and who are full of the fruits of the Spirit?” Leadership is the “male” gift she’s thinking about.
Her point about the odd criteria some young Evangelical women apply to future husbands is a good one, and one broadly applicable to everyone else, male and female — and on all sorts of matters besides marriage — but that “traditionally considered” brought me up short. Traditionally considered by whom?
How is hospitality not a gift traditionally recognized as one men exercise? (The addition of “spiritual” to “gift” doesn’t make a difference here.) We have a cultural image of the expansive and generous male host, for one thing, thowing open the front door to invite the guests into his house and pressing a drink into their hand.
Service not a male gift? What about all those men’s service organizations and, as I write, all those men still volunteering to repair the damage Sandy caused? When he hears the word “volunteer,” isn’t the average person as likely, if not more likely, to think of a man as of a woman? The same would be true for mercy and encouragement.
In other words, these gifts are just as traditionally “male” as leadership. The generalization doesn’t work. Perhaps it makes sense in the small world of American Evangelicalism, but to call that understanding of men and women “traditional” overstates the case.