Why is the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Targeting My Kids?

When Target was asked why it had a toy aisle with the signs “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” it did the sensible thing: it decided labeling toys as belonging solely to boys or girls was unnecessary.

Yet the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood does not agree this is at all sensible.  CBMW’s Executive Director Grant Castleberry wrote:

Over the weekend, Target became the next corporate power, after Amazon, to rid themselves of all gender designations and labels for children’s toys and bedding.

In the corporate rush to not be the company behind the ever-moving gender eight ball, all it seems to take is a few social-media punches from disgruntled, progressive customers, and companies are swift to jump on the winding, zigzag gender line.

The problem is, the line keeps moving and twisting, and in this case, disappearing.

I disagree.

The problem is not that there is a gender line that keeps moving and twisting, but that such a line has never existed in the first place. Or if it has, it is a social construct rather than based on a person’s sex. Mr. Castleberry, on the other hand, insists that these constructs are not cultural but Biblical:

The Bible teaches that men are wired by God to protect and to pursue, so it is not surprising that they naturally like toys that by-and-large involve fighting, building, and racing. Women, on the other hand, are wired by God to nurture and to be pursued, so it is also not surprising that they largely enjoy playing with American Girl Dolls, Barbies, and Disney princess dresses.

Where does the Bible teach that men are wired one way and women another? Mr. Castleberry never says. I think that’s because the Bible doesn’t actually teach this gender wiring.

But let’s put his assertion to the test. I have both a son and a daughter who are now young adults. Allow me to list alternating aspects of each of their experiences.

(a) This child flew to the other side of the world to serve in a developing nation while still a teen, going through all training and travel without either of us parents coming along.

(b) This child served in the nursery ministry at church and worked as a babysitter to earn extra money in High School.

(a) This child enjoyed running through the playground playing tag.

(b) This child enjoyed girls’ birthday parties for classmates from elementary school.

(a) This child was on the music team in college ministry.

(b) This child volunteered to work at Vacation Bible School.

(a) This child bravely decided to attend a university at the other end of California straight out of High School.

(b) This child took advanced placement calculus in High School.

(a) This child served at an inner city rescue mission in one of the roughest parts of San Francisco while still a teen.

(b) This child traveled with the church youth group to a small village in Mexico to play with children.

Now tell me, would you label experiences (a) as masculine or feminine? What about experiences (b)? It’s important to get the label right so you can then correctly identify which of my children is the one who did items labeled (a) and which did (b).

Got it yet?

Answer: my son and my daughter are each child (a) and (b) because everything listed comes from experiences both of them had, sometimes together but more often separately. Which goes to show that labeling a child’s or teen’s choice of activities as either masculine or feminine would not only be unhelpful, but would be a disservice to the child.

More than Masculine and Feminine

Contrary to CBMW’s position, we are not called to be masculine or feminine. These are notions that change with each society over not only time but also distance. After all, how many men do you see greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek as Paul repeatedly instructed them to do? (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26.) He’s not the only apostle to issue this instruction either:

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (1 Peter 5:14.)

It might be very common in some parts of the world still, but I imagine CBMW would consider it unmanly if starting this Sunday it were taken up in American churches as a regular greeting among the men. Yet if CBMW is going to promote behavior with clear Scriptural support it would be men kissing one another. (Some might even say men kissing men is mandated based on its apostolic pedigree.)

We don’t have to worry about that, though, because our call is to something much higher than merely trying to appear masculine or feminine:

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24.)

We are created to be like God. No amount of labeling in a toy aisle or at CBMW will change that.


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45 Responses to Why is the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Targeting My Kids?

  1. Lane Blessing says:

    Excellent response to the CBMW blog! I had read it yesterday and I’m glad someone spoke out on their un-thought-out assertions. Thanks, Tim!

  2. anon says:

    Totally agree, Tim. Gender roles are not taught by the Bible. Look at Jael in Judges 4 or David in 2 Sam 6. And on the subject of being like God, complementarians often ignore the fact that, in places, the Bible speaks of God using both masculine and feminine metaphors.

    • Tim says:

      Great points, anon. Thanks for adding those in to the conversation.

      P.S. How do patriarchists explain away Jael and Deborah? By making up stuff that’s not in the Bible, such as “God couldn’t find a willing man so he had to settle on women.”

      • Remington says:

        What’s funny is that most egalitarians I’ve read say that OT culture is misguidedly patriarchal. For instance, the Junia Project talks about how they only find “whispers” of God’s egalitarian plan for women in the OT. God is, for the most part, simply tolerating the rampant patriarchy of that time period. But if the culture was as patriarchal as egalitarians often admit, then wouldn’t that have been exactly how a patriarchal culture would have understood the Deborah narrative? In fact Deborah herself implies that it’s shameful in that culture for the man to let the glory of a battle go to a woman (Judges 4:9).

        What is there then for the complementarian to explain away? The hyper-feminists (if you can use pejorative labels, so can I) already admit that the original audience would have understood the narrative in a way similar to what you say complementarians will do (the men weren’t willing–so God shames them by using women). A complementarian doesn’t need to “explain away” how his understanding of the text fits with how the original audience would have understood the text. On the contrary, it’s the hyper-feminist who needs to explain something to us: if the original audience would have understood the text in such a way, on what sound hermeneutical basis can we overthrow that reading of the text?

  3. Beth Caplin says:

    So glad to see other Christians responding sensibly about this. Nevermind the real issues, like kids going to bed hungry every day, but let’s collectively freak out about Target’s change of signage. Priorities; evangelicals have them.

    • Tim says:

      Someone mentioned the same thing on my Facebook link to this post. Getting lathered up over toy signage when kids are starving? Come on.

      • Remington says:

        So why are you wasting time here Tim getting lathered up over something the CBMW says? Come on.

        • Tim says:

          False doctrine is worth addressing, Remington. I think you knew that answer already but your three comments here this morning seem to be an effort to provoke a reaction rather than engage a discussion.

          This comment section is for discussion engagement, not reaction provoking. But I think you knew that already too.

        • Remington says:

          Actually, Tim, my three comments point out how prejudiced and shallow your approach to this subject is.

          You and Beth apparently think CBMW should be focusing on “real issues” and yet I could level the same charge against you. You rhetorically cast the CBMW as being “lathered up” about a non-issue, yet I could say the same thing about you: You’re getting “lathered up” about the CBMW when there are real issues you could be addressing like kids going to bed hungry every day.

          When I point out your hypocrisy you say “false doctrine is worth addressing”. Too bad it didn’t occur to you that CBMW could give the same reply to you and Beth! A clear sign you’ve not actually taken the time to think critically about the issue.

  4. The bible is very clear men are to be conformed to the image of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

  5. “Women, on the other hand, are wired by God to nurture and to be pursued, so it is also not surprising that they largely enjoy playing with American Girl Dolls, Barbies, and Disney princess dresses.” It seems Mr. Castelbury is not only confused about what the Bible says about gender roles (i.e. nothing), but also about Christianity being owned by Americans? In Australia we have Target stores also. Does he want Australian Christian parents to teach our kids to play with American Girl Dolls, Barbies and Disney princess dresses to fall in line with his American version of Christianity as well as his American version of Biblical gender roles?

  6. Bev Murrill says:

    Totally true… where does the Bible teach that men pursue and women are pursued, men protect and women nurture? It’s dangerous to go around making assertions about the Bible (and by inference, God) that actually come out of your own enculturation and bias.

    Honestly, it gets so tiring … and yes, how are Jael and Deborah explained away? As ‘exceptions to the rule’ of course. Wait… what rule?

    • Tim says:

      Usually Christian Patriarchist articles cite Scripture when saying “The Bible says …”, so it was really interesting to see that assertion with no citation at all.

  7. Aimee Byrd says:

    When I saw all the outraged headlines on Twitter about Target removing gender labels, I thought it was for clothes, and that it was absolutely ridiculous. But when I clicked on an article an saw it was for toys and bedding, I thought, good for them!
    When I was a child, I never once stopped to think whether Lincoln Logs were for boys.

    • Tim says:

      Lincoln Logs were one of my favorite toys for years, Aimee. Solidarity, Sister!

      As for clothes, I’m with you. When I go into a huge store I like to see big signs that say “Men’s clothing” to tell me which acreage I should aim for to find what I want. But toys? Kids are creative and can fine a way to play with anything on the shelves.

      • Remington says:

        Too bad you and Aimee are still sexist when it comes to clothing! Why is there such a thing as men/woman differences when it comes to clothing but not hobbies? Hypocrisy much?

  8. Pastor Bob says:

    There is something to the article, the responses-pro and con show my poet peeve -polarization. The balance between two positions is not ONE or THE OTHER. Where is -BALANCE?-

    Many believe that “aculturization” is learned behavior. yet, these learned behaviors help us identify who we are, and what we need to do – no doubt from differing perspectives. Yet, there are exceptions, and powerful ones at that.

    I am considered by many to be an “expert” in children and youth. Yet, the stereotypical expert in children is the woman. My sister is a talented computer engineer, she started when this was a male dominated area.

    The parent knows this, the child learns aspects of self and self-worth from BOTH parents, for the perspectives are –different. Balance at its best, and most productive.

    • Tim says:

      Absolutely, PB. Kids are people, and quite complex people at that. These attempts at labeling and categorizing do nothing to free anyone to be the person God created them to be. Wise parents know this and children thrive when they are allowed to develop in that complexity.

      And when it comes to something like labeling children’s bedding in the store aisles, that’s just foolish. A girl can sleep on Star Wars bedding without wishing she were a boy, and boy can snuggle under a Wizard of Oz blanket without wishing he were a girl.

      • Pastor Bob says:

        I may argue that “categorizations” are a START to understanding some what makes people who they are, but notice the word START.
        Application: “Girls usually ……” or “Boys usually …” USUALLY — if stated as an absolute, and if one does not, then the absolute is wrong.

        • Tim says:

          It’s that nature of being absolute that undermines the whole premise from the start, PB. Thanks for helping clarify that.

  9. VelvetVoice says:

    About Target clothing, they have already removed the gender labels from the baby sections (according to another news article). However, the girls’ clothes they sell are unwearable, a mother compared the inseam length of the boy’s shorts to girl’s shorts, and ALL of the girl’s shorts were less than an inch in length. Where are we supposed to shop for decent modest clothes that are wearable? Remove the signs and let kids choose for themselves.

    • Tim says:

      Kids come in all shapes, and like all kinds of colors. Telling a little girl or boy they are wearing the wrong shorts because it came from a section of the store labeled for the other sex is ridiculous in the truest sense because it would unnecessarily ridicule the child for their clothing style.

  10. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for another great post on sex and gender, Tim. This “pursue and protect” vs. “nurture and be protected” stuff is a ridiculous basis for anything, let alone sex-segregated children’s clothing. Sheesh.

  11. Ruth says:

    Haha, try to type cast our family….bought a large pink Barbie car at a garage sale….instant transport for child’s glow-worm, wand and all, or several mechanical soft puppies madly barking. Yes, two sons, Lego, great cross gender toy, after mum has made it up first, on demand from them then watched them make what their interpretation was. Large go cart, steep hill, guard duty, mum, most used by girl next door who had classic Nordic glorious looks, and the mouth of a wharfie!
    Years on, archery, target shooting at club, gym, rock music, motor bikes, cars, push bikes…..the ‘can you get, where is, hold this, look under bonnet, fill radiator, change oil’, fine, so they should, except they didn’t, I did, and love it. They cook, I don’t, one vacs, I can’t, we all rough house, in fact I just did a spin kick and got my 6′ son square in the face! Lucky I have small feet and 5′, not much to it really…, the point of this is, that barriers are not God-made, but made by fearful man, and if we drop those artifical barriers, who knows what may happen in our lives.
    Just embarrassed my dad by getting his dad player working. He is an excellent electronics expert, but 86 and tired, he was happy when I pointed out that him allowing get me to be in the garage, around electrical stuff, sharing jobs with my brothers, allowed me to be independent and a resourceful, so if an elderly man can appreciate equality, in God, I’m not arguing, just off to sew on some buttons!

    • Tim says:

      That sounds like everyone gets to do what they enjoy doing, Ruth. I love this bit: “the point of this is, that barriers are not God-made, but made by fearful man, and if we drop those artifical barriers, who knows what may happen in our lives.”

  12. Pingback: Christian Gender Compmlementarians, Target Removing Gender Store Signs, Women and Motorcycles, Social Science Doesn’t Confirm that Men Are From Mars / Women From Venus | Christian Pundit

  13. Pingback: Christian Gender Complementarians, Target Removing Gender Store Signs, Women and Motorcycles, Social Science Doesn’t Confirm that Men Are From Mars / Women From Venus | Christian Pundit

  14. Laura Droege says:

    Tim, did you see this news story about the guy who impersonated Target on their FB page and “trolled” those complained about Target’s decision? I can’t say it’s right to impersonate a business, but his responses and their responses to him were pretty funny. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/guy-impersonated-target-on-facebook_55ce8dece4b055a6dab07edc

  15. caramac54 says:

    As always, well said – and I love the examples from both of your children. Powerful, gender-less stuff!

  16. I was a little startled by the reactions to something that I felt was a move in the right direction. After all Lego is Lego whether it’s pink, purple, red or black. Why should my daughter only get to use the pink and purple while my son gets all the other colours?

    • Tim says:

      Honestly, S&P, I think they’d say it’s because colors other than pink and purple would hinder your daughter developing her nurturing character. It’s all a nonsensical cultural construct, but those are the types of arguments I’ve read from that camp.

      • Oh dear. What was my generation to do? The pink and purple only became available in the last decade or so? All those primary colours must be at the root of my independence, er rebellion. Oh dear. Perhaps my access to Lego is the root cause of thinking about things other than cooking, cleaning and baby bouncing?

  17. Barb says:

    I almost started laughing when you talked about “men kissing men” and how would CBMW feel about actually seeing that happen. It is directed 5 (count ’em, 5) times in the Bible that men/men should do so. By implication, women/women also, although it doesn’t really SAY that. Well, I grew up in an American church (albeit with European roots about 160 years ago), and they literally DO kiss each other as a greeting, men and men, and women and women, as part of greeting each other. Not a handshake or an arm around the shoulder or a quick hug. It’s a kiss on the LIPS. When you grow up knowing only that tradition, it doesn’t seem like a big deal! BTW, men sit on one side of the church, and women sit on the other. And if women have infants or very small children, they likely spend most of their time in the baby room connected to the sanctuary. Men do no child care unless the child is older and can sit with the dad reasonably quietly. I can direct you to probably 100 churches of this denom across the US where it happens every week. Needless to say, I left immediately after high school.

    • Tim says:

      I was thinking about that cultural issue too. Lots of places have men greet men with kisses. Can you imagine CBMW touting it as manly though, even in the context of those cultures? They might get around to it eventually but it would take some doing for most patriarchalists in our society.

  18. You’re able to put things so simply! It’s refreshing to get the plain truth in the midst of this culture.

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