What it Means to Be a Man

What with Mark Driscoll’s new book on marriage and his winning ways of relating to the world, the question of manhood is making the rounds again. Okay, maybe not in normal people circles, but it is all the rage in Bloggerworld (a very odd parallel universe where people obsess over esoteric religious questions). Of course, Pastor Mark gets all the press, but he’s not the only hypermasculine preacher with skewed ideas on manhood. Take Doug Giles, for instance. Giles is the creator and host of Clash Radio, which is described on the website like this:

“Simply put, ClashRadio.com is world-class, in-your-face commentary on current events from conservatives who are completely comfortable with being real, raw, rowdy and righteous. Everything smells, so attitude sells.”

It also says it’s “profusely packed with patriotic principles fueled by uncut testosterone” and not for “preening Nancy boy” who is “blinded by political correctness who capitulates to nefarious forces shredding America’s amazing values and constitutional infrastructure under the guise of “progress“. Isn’t that nice? Some more fundamentalist churches have mounted campaigns to get men interested in church, using military themes and MMA fights as draws. All this seems an odd way to follow a man whose ministry was about non-violence and inclusion.

As abhorrent as I find their methods and message, people like Driscoll and Giles have a point: real men sometimes seem few and far between these days. In a world of deadbeat dads, abusive husbands and boys having babies, we need to build up men and masculinity. I don’t think this is the answer, though:

I’ve written about this before, in a post titled A Manly Man for Jesus. There, I compared people like Giles and Driscoll and their “manly man” theology with men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King who stood up to injustice and fought for the others. In other pieces, I’ve talked about how my father and grandfathers made taking care of their family the main priority in their lives. In my 51 years, I’ve never seen my father beat anyone up and I never saw either of my grandfathers even raise their voices to anyone. Yet, you’ll never meet anyone who would question their manhood. I’m a little sensitive to this issue because I work in a hypermasculine environment; one where working with  your hands is a badge of honor and intellectual pursuits are suspect; where stories about hunting, fishing, racing and contact sports are greeted with cheers, but talking about what the latest book you’ve read draws raised eyebrows. In case you’re wondering, I fall into the latter category on both accounts. After 22 years of this, my “F.U.” skin is thick enough that I don’t really worry about it anymore. But, others may not be able to shrug it off so easily. But, don’t you think church is one place where you shouldn’t have to shrug things off. Church is supposed to be a place where you should feel accepted and loved no matter what. However, it doesn’t always work that way and rock star preachers like Driscoll and, to a lesser degree, Giles don’t help the situation. The title of this article is “What it Means to Be a Man” and I’m going to take this space to tell you what I think that is. A man stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, he doesn’t beat them down even more; a man takes care of the people he loves, he doesn’t control or dominate them; a man lives up to his responsibilities, he doesn’t ignore them; a man does what’s right even when it’s unpopular; a man realizes that it isn’t just about him, it’s about everyone around him. Young men aren’t going to learn these things from ministries that espouse militarism, uber-nationalistic patriotism, violence or control. They’ll learn them when they see the men around them living these ideals out in the real world. The question is, how do we make that happen?