Saturday, October 6, 2007

Manhood According to Whom?

Yahoo articles are so inebriated with cultural standards that they can appear almost comic. If what they reported wasn't so sad. In a recent article , Yahoo's Lev Grossman commented on the stay-at-home father phenomenon and by association, the definitions of manliness. What makes a man manly?

According to the article, things like attending a daughter's tea party and strolling down the block, holding your young son's hand are not manly. Yet Grossman promotes doing this anyway. He says that men's parenting styles are changing. "Men hug their kids more, help with homework more, tell kids they love them more. Or, as sociologist Scott Coltrane of the University of California, Riverside, says, "Fathers are beginning to look more like mothers."

So if these actions are not manly, how are we to view masculinity? Grossman reports, "Many dads are challenging old definitions of manliness. 'Masculinity has traditionally been associated with work and work-related success, with competition, power, prestige, dominance over women, restrictive emotionality--that's a big one.'" I think most of us will agree that it is good that these definitions are being challenged. But how does Grossman summarize masculinity? "Masculinity is bad for you." After saying this, Grossman goes on to praise this new house-husband and his testosterone-reduced role, saying that a more involved husband and father is good for the family.

Agreement can be had that a fatherly presence in the home is essential, but the removal of masculinity? This seems to promote the turning of daddy into a second mommy. I, for one, see this as almost as bad as no father at all. There have been many attacks on masculinity in the last 50+ years. And this article shows that they continue unabated. Masculinity is seen as violent, aggressive, unemotional, and therefore harmful. While masculinity carries with it these aspects, that does not mean they have to be harmful. Every boy will pick up a stick or a stone and pretend he has a weapon. Every boy wants to be "king of the hill." Is that inherently bad? Some say yes. I say it is how we were created. We see violence and aggression running rampant in society and blame testosterone when the problem is clearly that we have removed personal responsibility and judgment from society. If a man learns to control himself, those violent and aggressive traits can be trained into something constructive rather than destructive. Men are more goal oriented than women. Men are empire-builders and defenders. They are protectors of rights and of property. They can be courageous and willing to take stands, no matter the cost. It is how we were created to be. Boys must be taught how to become men.

So what about house-husbands? Is this a bad phenomenon or a good one. Maybe it is both or neither. My guess is that it is what one makes it. Children need both parents. they need to learn boundaries and goals. They need to be reigned-in at times and be let free at times. A masculine example around the home teaches boys what they are supposed to become, and teaches girls what they are supposed to look for in a prospective future mate. If men only follow archaic (let's just call it sinful) types of masculinity (such as: overt violence directed inappropriately toward the family; emotional estrangement; monetary gain trumping family relationships; drugging with sex, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc. to cover-up pain.) their sons will grow up to struggle with the same things, and their daughters will marry men who act the same way. House-husbands may help by presenting a healthy masculinity to children. This may not always be the outcome, however.

How should we look at masculinity, then? I would suggest that we follow good biblical examples (noting that their are plenty of examples in the Bible that are models of what not to do). Also, we should look at the laws and peripheral evidence given in Scripture to piece together our own model for masculinity. This, of course, takes a knowledge of Scripture, theology and hermeneutics (interpretation).

Here are a few examples. God created Adam and Eve (man and woman) and made the one to serve the other. (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:7, 18-25) They are equal but their roles are different. The man is head over the woman, and therefore he must answer for his headship over the woman (Gen. 2:16-3:20, also see Num. 30) Because of this creation of one man and one woman, we have a model of marriage between one man and one woman. Also see Gen. 2:24. They are a single unit ("one flesh"). Husbands are to care for their wives as themselves and care for their needs. God models this in his treatment of Israel and Christ's care for his Church. (Deut. 24:5, Prov. 5:18-19, Isa. 54:5, Jer. 3:14-4:2, Eze. 16:1-61, Hos. 2:2-3:4, 1 Cor. 7:1-7, 2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Tim. 3:2,12, Tit. 1:6) So husbands are supposed to take their role seriously and care for their wives in order to protect and serve themselves as well as valuing the woman they have married. Jews would say that it is important to fulfill the command of the Lord, and Christians would go even further and say that it represents Christ and the Church to the world around us.

We should also see that masculinity is passed on to children by modeling, not only today but throughout history. The Bible speaks of this as well. Ex. 10:2, Ex. 12:25-27, Deut. 4:7-10, Deut. 4:40, Deut. 5:29, Deut. 6:1-25, Deut. 11:1-30. The Israelites were to teach the Law and God's fame to their children for all generations. They were to model obedience for their children (which they did not always do). In the biblical times (which covers thousands of years), fathers were around to teach and model correct living for their children. Children went into a family trade and were taught it by their fathers. They, in turn, taught it to their children. Also, Ancient Israelite boys were all taught to read and write, mainly to understand and comment on the Torah. Even today, Jewish boys are conferred manhood upon examination in and reading of the Torah.

Likewise, if we are to embrace true masculinity, we must have a definition. I shall humbly offer one of my own. True masculinity is the acceptance of God's creation of your person and identity as male, through his giving of male reproductive organs and male hormones. These parts and their affects on the body and mind must be harnessed and ruled by something outside of the self - God's instruction. If we obey God, through belief in Jesus the Christ, we will automatically begin to model right masculinity (manhood) to our spouses and our children. Only then can we find real satisfaction in our manhood.


J&B said...

Kudos, friend. Did you ever read that book... ah, he also wrote Sacred Romance.... Hmmm, anyway, it was about growing your boys up to be men. And it's ok for them to throw sticks at each other and whatnot. Anyway, he pointed out that society (namely, moms) tend to emasculate boys.
Where do you think the greatest pull comes from for a man to abandon his God-given role and take on feministic tendencies?

Steven Douglas said...

Thanks J-Money. The answer to your question, I think, is complicated, but the most direct answer would be Satan. The single best way to destroy a society is to silence its men. These are the ones that God made to have headship in marriage and to lead society. By removing their desire and ability to lead, causing them to misrule, or undermining their leadership, the society can be ripped apart at leisure. We can see that we have all of these in spades.

Masculinity is undermined in evening sitcoms; male leadership is vilified (sometimes rightly) by feminist interest groups, liberals of all stripes, and the media at large; and the notion of headship and a husband’s moral responsibility concerning his wife is considered a joke. Men are made into that which the feminists have so long complained about: immoral and selfish sex machines. Women are seen as more responsible and mature. We are now considering electing our first female President. The nation is ripe for plucking.

Public policy is the main human culprit and instrument of Satan. The thing that made this nation so wonderful is also the cause of its downfall: the will of the people. If the will of the people shifts (which it has), then the policies and laws change. So here we are! It is my desire but not my expectation that we will still have a societal shift back toward a God-centered morality, in which biblical masculinity is valued. It is also my hope that if this occurs, we will avoid the mistakes that plagued masculine dominated society for millennia; namely, the subjugation of women.