Gentlemen: Orthodox Christianity is not for Sissies

mcqueenI had a woman parishioner tease me that sometimes I make her feel a little uncomfortable. A couple of the things she mentioned that contributed to her minor anxiety were that I like shooting guns (and have built my own AR15), I love a good dark beer or a straight up whiskey, and I love and support our military. Then she chuckled. But she has a point. I’m all man. I often tease that in Texas all we guys of my generation were raised to think we were John Wayne… or Steve McQueen. As I’ve considered this exchange a little more it has reinforced one of the perceived problems of much of American Christianity; it’s been feminized to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I love women. I especially love my wife. But, I don’t work very well in heavily estrogen laden gatherings and I don’t think that most men are entirely comfortable in such a gathering either. In churches there should be a balance of men and women but these days we need to focus more on developing spaces for men in churches. Notice I didn’t say a “safe space”, men don’t care for a safe space. Some of the things that I would love to do is have a guys day for guns and grills. We could all go to the range and shoot and then grill whatever meat we each wanted to consume. One thing that I have done in the past was organize a men’s movie night out where we would go see something that our lovely wives wouldn’t care to see. I saw Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down in just such a church group. There is a lot more that we could do through the establishment of a men’s group in the parish where we could take on some rather more dangerous and real needs of ministry together.

St George, one of the many warrior Saints of the Orthodox Church.

But beyond these sorts of fun events and services, it’s important for men to know that Orthodox Christianity isn’t for sissies. I am fully aware that some may object to the way I have phrased that statement, but that’s okay. The Faith is not about a knitting circle; it is a mission into danger where we will find confrontation. We must stand firm for the Gospel which has been preached for 2,000 years and never dilute or negotiate its theological and moral mind. Orthodoxy is for Christian warriors. Warriors have always been disciplined, ready for battle, focused, and courageous. They stand for truth and are willing to die for others. There is a hardness to warriors, and there is the same things when it comes to Orthodox men. That is not to say that they don’t love, but that one of the principle ways in which they love is their willingness to die for the sake of someone else.

Even our worship requires physical effort and self-discipline because we bow down before the Almighty God who is glorious in his majesty. Our legs become weary and our feet a little sore because we stand through most all of our services, much like a warrior on parade. Our worship is serious and demanding, but it is also very deeply planted in our hearts. No, this sort of Christianity is not for sissies. It is for men as God has made us.

This may well make many people uncomfortable. It doesn’t really bother me. It is more important that men come to see that they are called to be part of this mission work on the dangerous frontier, and to engage as men. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s words: Men who shirk this shall hold their manhood cheap. Gentlemen, stand upright and let us go forth in the name of Christ our God to slay the dragons that lurk beyond our doors.

Fr. John Guy Winfrey

About Fr. John Guy Winfrey

Fr. John Guy Winfrey is an archpriest in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, serving the parish of St. George Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  1. Well said Father,
    Your Blessings! I know that the canons specify a non lethal intent in regards to weapons for Clergy, not taking of life. I own guns myself although I don’t use them at all and question my ownership. I grew up with them and we hunted with my grandfather. I do agree fully with the need for manliness in the church and it’s cultivation.
    Thank you.
    Deacon Michael Walker

    1. Thank you Deacon Michael! The legendary canon which forbids ownership of lethal weapons is actually myth. I spoke with an Orthodox canonist about this and he laughed because that is one of the most commonly held misconceptions regarding our canon law. There is a canon law that would forbid a cleric to serve if he has taken a life. That would include a car accident. However, any such occurrence would require a canonical trial before the priest is laicized. I myself have replied that if someone came into my home and killed my wife, I would not be mentally able to serve from that point on especially if I had not done anything to protect her. Which in that case, I think I personally would take my chances on a canonical trial. Just a thought.

      1. Absolutely, and the same would go for members of my parish along with innocents being stalked in a shopping mall.
        I am thankful for my police and military training as it taught me a sense of duty, honor, and sacrifice.

        The Rev’d Canon Dr. William C. Fleenor, P.A.

        1. Protecting the innocent seems to me to be a Christian duty, even if deadly forced must be used. I am very thankful for our police force and our military as well and still regret that I didn’t go into the Marine Corps as I had originally planned for at least one enlistment.

  2. Absolutely outstanding. I wish there were more men around like you, the way it was back in the day. I found a great deal of comfort in what you said. Amazing post.

  3. Very nice Fr. John. I’ve been saying the same thing for years. It’s been years since I read Hardenbrook’s Missing From Action. There needs to be a revival of masculinity in the Church, and it needs to come from the Episcopacy.

    1. I wish our bishops would lead in that area too, but failing that I think it falls on us Father. Chin up, and let’s get this done!

  4. As a woman I love this article and these are all the reasons I love Orthodoxy. It has changed my life. I understand what you mean and, unlike some others, I do not take offense to the verbiage. Now, if only my husband would convert!

    1. Let him know that there is a place that will let him be a man AND grow in the Faith. I’ll keep you (and him) in my prayers.

  5. Father, are you familiar with The writings of Jack Donovan?Robert Bly? John Eldredge? Lenard Sax? How can Orthodox Men productively make use of these resources? What specific Ortho-spins need to be put on them?

    1. I love the Art of Manliness site! I heard a podcast about this very topic right after I wrote my post (how embarrassing). We can use many of these sources but we would have to use them creatively and imaginatively. A lot of these ideas and suggestions a great but don’t present a one-to-one analog to what we can do in Orthodoxy. I would suggest getting together with your priest and several men of the church and brainstorm through these ideas and figure out what you can do.

      1. Regrettably not necessarily. Many well educated and not so well educated men feeling abandoned by society’s “PC” enlightened progressivism have truly been “sissified” (if that is even a word), not knowing where else to go.

        1. All are welcome within the Church, that is axiomatic. But all of us must struggle to change as well, to mature, heal, and grow into more perfect images of Christ himself. Christ our God was not a sissy, therefore men must be encouraged and helped to grow out of the “PC” version of masculinity if they have been afflicted with it.

          1. Actually, it requires far more courage for men to reject this macho nonsense than to go along with it, especially in the sort of environments you appear to be promoting.

            But what you are promoting is fundamentalist Protestantism not Orthodoxy and I can only pray that someone intervenes before you drive more people away from the Church. Because, really, for a priest to label people “sissies” is a great way of doing just that.

          2. It requires men ceasing to be men. The modern concoction of what a male is come from a feminized agenda and its rejection has little to do with Protestantism. It seems, by your comments, you are not familiar with native Orthodox cultures very much. Look into the character of the cossacks, or the Macedonians, or the Serbians, et al. You will find pretty quickly and clearly that I am only presenting what has been considered the standard pattern of masculinity in Orthodoxy countries.

            As to which requires more courage, I think you are deluded. The feminized male is all the rage now; he is the pattern for all college students. It takes far more virility and courage to say no to that silly modern notion and to live like a man has always lived. I hope you will note that I have not defined sissy and have intentionally left it ambiguous. I leave that identification to others but only use the word which has common usage. As to driving people away from the church, you should do more research. The feminized male model has driven men away from Christianity in droves. It is actually your model that will drive more away. Does the loss of traditional men bother you at all? It seems it must not.

  6. Love this article Father! I would like to add that the ladies are kneeling and standing right along with their men. The virgin martyrs are some of the strongest spiritual warriors of the Church. Glory be to God for brothers and sisters alike!

    1. I agree. I think that women have been far more stalwart over the centuries than men have been. So I hope no one takes my post as negative towards women at all. Rather, I believe we need to get after the men to begin stepping up to the plate and being men. A man who does not lead the prayers at home, who doesn’t make certain the children get to church every Sunday, who doesn’t pattern his life according to a deeply Christian pattern has abdicated his manhood and his being the head of the family. He must be willing to step out and die for his family through his self-denial. That’s manhood.

  7. The Church’s central image of “manhood” is that of Christ the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ who has poured His life out for humanity, divesting Himself of all power. Yet strangely, there is no reference to Jesus Christ or to the Gospels in this article, save for the last line that seeks to invoke His name in an ideological project. That’s hardly surprising, really, for what it is arguing is the very antithesis of what Jesus teaches in the Gospels and reveals in His own Person. This article is more pagan than Christian. That an Orthodox priest would write such a thing is a scandal. And that Ancient Faith should publish it is an even greater scandal.

    1. Macrina, Thank you for your comment. My post is absolutely not antithetical to the Christian Gospel at all. The image of Christ the Bridegroom is central to the Church’s understanding of who Christ is but it can not be isolated from the rest of what we see of Christ either. For example the turning over of the tables at the Temple and driving them out with whips. This is too is part of who Christ is… and what manhood is. I don’t expect everyone to like or agree with what I have written. That’s fine. But I would ask what the feminization of churches in the United States has done for Christianity? Men have left in droves. This is not because they don’t want to believe or participate, but because they are not allowed to be men and participate in the sort of things that men desire to do. Nevertheless, if you will bare with me, you will find that towards the end of this little series I will be bringing it into more theological focus. Approaching it this way may not be your cup of tea. That’s okay. It doesn’t bother me. However, I would guess that I’m not writing for you.

  8. Thank you for this article father!

    As an orthodox faithful and a Finn who has done his national duty in our Finnish military I felt good reading this article.

  9. Macrina, one of the things that I love about Orthodoxy, and Father John specifically, is that both tell us truth. I’m tired of being told that men can use the same locker room my wife does, because they feel like they are women that day. I am completely confused by your comments. I want the Church to tell me what God has designed for genders, not what society is making genders. I don’t see anything scandalous about truth and frankness, and thank Father John for keeping it alive. What we like or don’t like does not determine what God has created absolutely. Orthodoxy doesn’t care how we feel; if we don’t like it, we can find any number of Protestant churches that will tickle our ears and make us feel good.

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