Rebuilding the wall's gaps: effeminacy and those who mock and slander

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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I was just saying to another pastor this morning that even those who will acknowledge effeminacy as a sin are unwilling to give a single description of that sin. This pastor pointed out that the world is, in general, still willing to mock effeminate men, even using that word to do so. The crazy idealists that we see in the media are actually few and far between, even among liberals. The place where they are most common is in those who claim or used to claim the name of Christ. As in, “the half-Christian gone mad.”

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I think people in certain areas of life don’t want to look too macho, too backward. They want to be ‘with the times.’ Trend-setters and all. People don’t want to be associated with those uneducated backwoods Trump-supporters and what-not.

This is probably nowhere worse than in acedemia/higher-education. The liberal thinking intellectual type. At the same time, most of the major evangelical leaders are part of that wold, at least peripherally. (Our seminaries mimic their system.) And those that aren’t, many of them are intimately connected through their past education, the conference-circuit, with the books they read and affirm, who they quote in their sermons.

So you end up with people that won’t describe a sin or preach about it, even if they accept it exists.

This is a sin I spent most of my life given to (and not even realizing it was a sin! - I carried an ESV in my back pocket in college, read it cover to cover multiple times)… Not outwardly but inwardly. Not wanting to do the hard things, the manly things. To lead, to fight.

To quote one of my favorite songs my freshman year:
“I thought I was smart, I thought I was right
I thought it better not to fight, I thought there was a virtue in always being cool” (Flaming Lips - Fight Test). And even that song later bears witness to my folly.

I thank y’all for your work bringing this truth to bear. I speak about it with my brother’s at church (most of whom think I’m crazy). Keep it up and thanks for reminders such as these.

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I want to approach this from a couple of standpoints - first, how I had been fooled by the collapse of μαλακοὶ into ἀρσενοκοῖται into thinking that this made Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 6:9 stronger, rather than less clear; and second, to lend an account of how this work of “rebuilding the wall’s gaps” is not fruitless.

Playing Baseball
The first time I heard this passage preached that I can remember - and certainly the first time I heard it preached as a Christian, was my freshman year in college. My university, a state school, played host to “the largest bible study in the country,” every Tuesday night throughout each semester. What really took place amounted to what would be indistinguishable from a regular church service at a megachurch now - complete with a professional worship band with its own record deal and a full-fledged sermon - but that is of little importance. I only explain so much so that, if one is curious, I believe I have left enough details to identify the parachurch ministry in question and possibly find the sermon itself, as the messages preached seemed to go in about a two year cycle.

The speaker explained that μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται, two words I had never heard, referred to the “catcher” and “pitcher” engaged in homosexual sex (forgive the crassness, but I believe this was the language used). We were given a brief explanation of how μαλακοὶ meant “soft” and whereas it had been previously translated and taught as “effeminate,” what Paul “probably had in mind” here was male prostitutes, hence the translation as “men who have sex with men” in our NIVs rather than transliterations of each word, as we might find in the KJV or NASB (the ESV was brand new and not yet de rigueur in evangelicalism).

I blithely accepted this. It did not seem or sound like a weakening of the force of Paul’s message. Homosexuality - sodomy - was the sin here, and if both Greek terms were meant to refer to the complete act, then clarifying seemed like the prudent thing to do for any modern Bible translator.

What I did not realize, though, was that this redefinition fit neatly into my own self-conception. I came of age in the early-to-mid-00s, when “emo” was the fashion. Although I had been an athlete in high school, I arrived at college with long hair, tight pants, and a wholly-un-self-aware self-conception that leaned heavily into effeminacy. This led to a host of sins that I have had to fight with over a decade later, now as a husband and a father. But the fight - this reconstruction, to keep borrowing from the metaphor - is winnable.

Rebuilding the Wall
There is a bit of a catch-22 that I will identify here but, not having an easy answer to it, do not intend to further address. Godly men should get married and father children, but it is marriage and fatherhood that makes men godly; and, godliness is next to manliness. What I mean here is that, what helped pull me out of effeminacy more than anything else - any good word preached or any intervention or intercession from friends and brothers - was getting married.

Yet with blindness, still, to my own shortcomings: that men and women were different and were to fulfill different roles within a marriage had still managed to take root in my heart. My wife and I knew from before marriage that we wanted to be fruitful and, once we began having children, my wife would keep the home with them and I would work outside of it. Nailing down those objectives from the get-go was key.

I was foolish and studied English and Philosophy at a public university ostensibly oriented toward engineering and agriculture. I began school with the goal of going to law school, which morphed into seminary, which morphed into becoming a teacher - you can see that the trajectory of my ambitions, at least financially, had taken a nosedive off a high cliff. So I graduated with the debt attendant to a college graduate at the turn of the last decade and a degree barely worth the paper, ink, and embossing used to make it.

It was grace that by the time my wife and I were married, I was making what was good money for the place we lived. She was pregnant soon and finished her work before “retiring” with the birth of our son. We should have lived off of my salary in that time while she was working and used her money to pay off at least some of our student loan debts. We did not. We lived like a couple that made more than enough money and had no care for the future, largely because the work of being frugal was work I did not care to lead us into.

When we had our first child, she quit working, and the excess money left the household. We briefly lived within our new means, but the inner sinfulness and effeminacy occupying my heart screamed at the unfairness of not being able to get what I want, when I wanted it. We took out credit cards. We bought another car. We moved away from our church home so that I could take a job in a place where neither of us knew anyone all for more money.

When we had our second child, we were in credit card and car note debt on top of our student loan debt. We had no friends. We were lonely, isolated, and drowning.

To cut out the full testimony, we are slowly, painfully undoing the damage into which I have led us. It was when we were on the precipice of discussing bankruptcy that my wife finally challenged me to quit being scared and to do the hard thing, to pay off the debts we had accrued, to suck it up and not spend beyond our now nearly non-existent means, and to lead our family.

What made this a harder pill to swallow than it otherwise would have been was that I was doing a lot of things that I know to be good - disciplining and catechizing our children, leading family worship, making sure we were serving in church. And while it was not all a sham, it was certainly a bargain I had made with my sinful flesh to go so far in the way of leading my family and no farther; I would do the things I liked and not the things I did not.

Certainly, there was more sin involved in my failures than just effeminacy, but I have come to understand that effeminacy was at the root of it all. Fundamentally, effeminacy is a refusal by a man to occupy the place and role he should in a given relationship. I stepped back when I could, only did difficult things when my unwillingness to do so would have made plain what I sought to keep hidden about myself. I complained loudly of work at home because I had the sense to keep such complaints out of my friend groups, church family, and workplace.

I am confident that God could have saved (and be saving) me from this in some way some other than how He did - “such were some of you,; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” - but I cannot think of a better one. Do not mistake what I am saying - it is not my intention to lay upon the sisters the burden of making men out of the brothers, as that is certainly a job for fathers and pastors and the church - but I am saying that the same exhortation we give to the man who says he is a homosexual, that is, “Be a man! Marry and be fruitful,” is what holds within it the key to pulling a man out of effeminacy.

A man who is exhorted to be a man, as Paul does in closing the same letter to the Corinthians in question, can, by God’s good grace, be made to know what that entails for him. It is another trap or evildoer waiting at the door for a man who is not made to understand that effeminacy is sinful. The loss of that distinction in popular discourse and Bible translations is a detriment to many well-meaning men and to our sons.

Thank you for sound this clarion call, Pastor Tim.

Note: I apologize for the length of this post.

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Wow. What a wonderful first post. Welcome, and thanks for the encouragement, as well as the exhortation.

This is so key. The lazy man doesn’t necessarily fail to work hard. He fails to work hard at the work he finds unpleasant. This is my problem.

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@krk88 Apology not accepted! Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a wonderfully encouraging post.

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Dear brother, so very good. May I please make a slight edit and publish it, with or without your name? Love,

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Pastor Tim,

You may publish it, edited as needed. If you’d like to include my name, please use . If you need any additional information from me, I’ll be glad to help.

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A stray thought about the word ‘effeminacy’.

Years ago, I got to meet a man who was quite, as we would say, “camp”. Somewhat limp-wristed, high-pitched voice … you get the drift. I thought, “Hmm, this guy must bat for the other side”.

Then I met his wife and two children, which was one more wife and two more children than I had … I was more than a little embarrassed, I must say!

Here’s my point. In much if not most popular discourse, the word “effeminacy” generally means “campy”. Now, many gay men are not camp, and (as this story reminds me) some camp men are not gay. So - I’m wondering if a good rendering of malakos, in many a context, might well be, “unmanly”?

(Please, I am not trying to disagree with the force of this post …)

It seems like you are at least slightly confused about what we’ve been driving at. Our whole point is that effeminacy is a separate sin from homosexuality. Yes, they are related, but they are separate.

The problem with “unmanly” is it is basically the same as using the word in its definition. “Unmanly” is fine as far as a definition goes, but then you’ve got to define what manly means. “Gay” or “campy” both communicate effeminacy just fine. So does “soft” if used in the right context and manner.

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Ross, I agree with your observations about campyness and what it sometimes incorrectly signals, as well as correctly.

I know a fellow whose manner is pretty campy. He related to me one time how a gay man was hitting on him. I’m convinced he had no idea that the gay man was misreading my friend in exactly the same way that other straight men might have been reading him! Yet, he was married with four sons! And a rancher to boot.

Your suggestion would have more merit except for:

  • A long-established linkage between the term malakoi and the English translation effeminate;
  • An equally settled association of the term effeminate and campyness; and,
  • An aggressive promotion of the just-mentioned association by the “gay community,” who though their number include a great many non-campy men nevertheless confess a kind of ownership of the style.

If one wishes a term other than effeminate that accurately captures the ethos of malakoi, I’d opt for “soft men.”

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Perhaps “feminized” would be a useful description. I’ve noticed that many professional-class men of the Millennial generation who are working for corporations or the government come off as effeminate, but not in a homosexual or campy way. Instead, it is as if they have undergone years of indoctrination that trained them to act according to feminine norms.

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I agree with your assessment of the modern male.

I’ve also been thinking lately about the different mechanisms used by our culture to feminize men and masculinize women.

Women are strongly encouraged to adopt male behaviors and invade male spaces: “you go, grrl!” It’s largely OK for women to adopt feminine roles and behaviors, but the women who get celebrated are celebrated for mannish behavior.

Men, on the other hand, are largely shamed away from masculinity, rather than celebrated for adopting effeminate roles and behaviors. Men get “toxic masculinity,” not scholarships to nursing school or affirmative action for preschool teaching.

I don’t know what that all means, but it seems interesting to me.

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To Fr Bill, Joel Norris,
cc. John M

Yes, your terms of “feminized” or “soft men” are much closer to what I was aiming at, and possibly more likely to be understood by the wider populace than using the term “effeminate” to mean the same thing? Thanks.

Thanks so much. I’ll get it up today. It will be helpful to us all. Love,

This is so good and was used to rebuke me. Thanks for sharing, KR. I can see many of my sins more clearly as I reflect on this paragraph and can see myself ‘bargaining’ in my flesh that I’m ‘leading my family’ because I’m doing similar things to what you mentioned, but at the same time I am failing to lead as a man in areas that I don’t want to lead. Thank you again for your post.

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Thank you, Pastor Tim.

I hope the post helps - both pastors who think the cause is lost and for men such as myself who either don’t know or don’t care that they have embraced effeminacy. The depths of my sin of effeminacy reached further than I divulged in that post - I gave an overview of the in- and outbound trajectories but glossed over the trough of it. I expect that I will have more to say on my personal experience with effeminacy on other occasions.

What I hope readers glean is first that not properly translating and preaching on 1 Cor. 6:9 has tangible consequences and second that effeminacy is not camp - it leads to it, but only after a capitulation. Camp, or effeminate affectation, is put on to signal the role you occupy in a relationship (romantic or otherwise). A man has not avoided effeminacy if he is physically strong, bearded, or ostensibly positioned as the patriarch of his own family; effeminacy must be battled at its root.

The root of effeminacy is a man’s refusal to take on the mantle (read: his responsibilities) of his sex. It is, to reference a famous woman of fiction, a desire to be unsexed: probably not (usually) consciously, given its prevalence, but I would argue that my generation’s widespread decline in marriage rates, in fertility rates, in its precipitous drop-off in net worth (i.e.; not owning a home, especially) is because men have abdicated their responsibility to be men. I did.

What’s more is that our society’s egalitarian mandate has preached the negative consequences of men ceding their manhood - that is, men need to give up rights for the sake of women’s equality - but men seem to only o along with it since intuiting that if we don’t have those rights, we needn’t shoulder the attendant responsibilities that grant them! All of the feminist head-scratching about how a woman might “have it all,” and it seems to have dawned on few that this was the tradeoff. Rights are bought with responsibilities. The effeminate man is glad to see his rights go if only you’ll take some responsibility with you.

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This may be true for the individual case of @krk88, but I would strongly argue that the principal cause of the decline in net worth is not effeminacy but rather deliberate policy choice. Preceding generations – and especially the Baby Boomers – have decided not to pay forward the material and social wealth they inherited from prior generations. Fifty years ago when the Baby Boomers came of age, states subsidized college to keep tuition cheap, companies trained their own workers, jobs paid better, and a lot of housing was built. Recent generations have faced high college tuition, companies that expect workers to pay for their own training, jobs with lousy pay, and expensive housing due to zoning restrictions. Previous generations – and especially the Baby Boomers – have also run up a gigantic national debt so they can enjoy more now and leave the bill for later generations to pay.

Deliberate policy choice also plays a role in lack of family formation – being in a worse economic situation than preceding generations discourages marriage and childbearing. For example, the house I am currently renting was built sixty years ago and owned by a working class man with a state-at-home wife and six children. Now the same house is affordable only for a dual-income professional couple – is that a situation which is going to encourage marriage and childbearing?

I am not absolving effeminate men in the younger generation from the need to repent of their effeminacy, but I think we need to acknowledge that they are receiving a trashed inheritance.

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Agreed.

I saw somewhere a statistic which showed that compared with sixty years ago, real wages for the upper quintile of the workforce had increased by 70 percent; but for the fifth quintile, no more than 20 percent, and very little since the 1980s. This is from all sorts of things; globalisation, a drying-up in the number of unskilled jobs, especially in manufacturing; and the shift in economic structure from manufacturing to services. This has particularly affected the men in the fourth and fifth quintiles of the income structure, so it is not necessarily the case that more women in the workforce has crowded the men out of better-paying jobs. It may not be deliberate policy choice as much as the law of unintended conseqences.

Your point about the Baby Boomers is a challenging one - (I’m at the top end of Generation X) - but has been made elsewhere.

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I have a couple thoughts:

  1. I think it’s appropriate to look to the Boomers as a factor when asking where all these Millennial problems came from, but the next logical question is: Why did the Boomers suddenly lose the moral vision of paying wealth forward? In other words, where this analysis falls short (not yours specifically @Joel, but where others often take it) is that the choices of Millennials are attributed to the result of systemic forces created by Boomers, but the Boomer’s choices were entirely spontaneous and individual.
    Now, ultimately we can draw a straight line back to Adam and his sin which caused all these problems, which is theologically air-tight, but not especially useful for analysis. I’m not arguing that we always need to regress all the way back, only that we recognize that the Boomers themselves came from somewhere, and likely didn’t pay things forward because something went wrong before that. I imagine the emotional and spiritual scars their fathers brought home from the War had something to do with it.
  1. I agree with what you’re saying about policy choices causing many of these things. A couple things I would add is income and payroll taxes.
  • Income taxes are not (at present) too high in my estimation, but the legal environment and reporting requirements they create make it difficult to pass down whole assets from generation to generation. It’s not hard for those who can afford the attorney and accountant’s fees (most middle-class folks are fine here), but forget about doing a cash-only side-hustle without being in constant fear of the IRS. In my estimation, a lot of folks do the cash-only thing because they’re snakes who want to cheat their way out of taxes. But others are just simple people trying to get by. They have an idea to make some money, but if they can’t comply with the reporting requirements, they have to keep it underground.
  • Payroll taxes are where things get crazy. In 1970, payroll tax rates were 4.8% on both employer and employee, for 9.6% total. Self-employed persons were actually treated more favorably, only paying 6.9% total. But this was only on the first $7800 of earnings (about $51,500 in 2019 dollars). Today payroll taxes are 7.65% from employee and employer (15.3% total), 15.3% for the self-employed, and the wage base is $132,900 – more than double what it was 50 years ago after adjusting for inflation. Oh, and by the way, if you’re self-employed, there is no limit, so you pay 15.3% tax on all your earnings, in addition to whatever your normal income tax rate is.
  1. Though I agree with the structural and policy issues you cited, I think the argument could be made that these policy decisions were implemented by effeminate men because they were effeminate. Or at least because the men in leadership were not leading righteously.
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