Yes, you read it right. ‘Muscular Christianity’ indeed. Now, what in world does that mean?
I had a similar reaction when I first came across this phrase a couple of days back.
Proponents of muscular christianity emphasise the key role that health, fitness and the pursuit of all things ‘manly’, play in one’s Christian commitment. Their key Biblical verses are Mark 11:15 and 1 Cor 6:19&20, though to be frank, I fail to see the connection.
Apparently, during the heyday of the ‘muscular christianity’ movement (the late 19th and early 20th century) many Protestant preachers held that a man was not a real christian unless he was a muscular christian. I am sure glad I did not live in that era, or else with my level of fitness and physical activity (or the lack of it!), I would have been excommunicated and branded a heretic!
Many Protestant preachers believed that the Protestant Church was too ‘feminine’, what with all the sentimental hymns, effeminate clergymen and sickly-sweet images of Jesus. Jesus was a MAN, and so all those who follow Him should also be ‘MEN’.
The emergence of Christian organisations like the YMCA and Promise Keepers that place a great deal of emphasis on sports and physical activity, can be traced to this movement.
Some suspect that this emphasis on ‘manliness’ in the church contributed to militarism and after the World Wars, the Protestant Church moved away from this emphasis. The church gravitated towards Reinhold Neibuhr’s position that ‘divinity resides not in the muscles of men, but with God’.
Now that makes more sense. Looks like even the church has its little fads.
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