I read an interesting article at The Good Men Project about: The Hazards of Manhood
Despite some obvious political leanings away from my preferred direction, the article nails some important aspects about manhood and my gender’s incessant quest to attain it, which I think are absolutely true.
“Most American men know perfectly well the qualities they must display to be considered fully creditable as men: power, competitiveness, and toughness.”
That’s the prize, right there. You have to be “considered fully creditable as a man”. And the unspoken understanding of many is that you don’t just get that from having X and Y chromosomes and reaching adulthood. You have to earn your manhood, so as to be seen manly by those around you. If you can feel it, all the better, but in the very least you need to be seen that way.
“They compete for promotions, putting work first in their lives, lest they be seen as wimpy or wussy—sexist code words for “feminine” or “womanly.”
The thinking behind this: If you’re not a man, then you’re a woman. Female is the default gender. Little boys and little girls are virtually indistinguishable with their voices, body hair, and skin, but some of us grow out of that, attaining manhood. The rest remain in that lesser condition. So you can either “wuss out” (be a girl), or you can “man up” ( be a man).
And as the article above tells us, far too many men spend a lifetime reaching for that goal but never feeling they obtain it. (This is absolutely true, and one of the powerful selling points in the message of John Eldredge’s best seller, Wild at Heart.)
“This kind of manhood striving is driven by a contradiction: To be a real man in U.S. society, one must have or display power—the capacity to exert control over one’s self and the surrounding world—but the fact is that most men in a capitalist society have little or no power. For most men, striving for manhood status is an attempt to evade this contradiction, to escape the psychic pain it causes.”
And there you have it.
And if that’s true, that is ultimately what drives patriarchy: Men living in the pain of not “being the man”, which is believed to be “displaying power to exert control over one’s self and one’s world.”
As John Piper said, “Men are hard-wired to lead”. And by that Piper means that if he is not leading, he is not being manly. Listen to John:
Ok wait. Let’s think this through…. The only difference between a “Complementarian” Christian and an Egalitarian Christian is that the Complementarian places men in authority and leadership roles over women.
And in the video above, when it comes to answering a little boy’s question, “What does it mean to grow up and be a man, and not a woman?” – John Piper says that Complementarians are the only ones of the two that can answer that question. Apparently the only difference between men and women that Piper can see and articulate is that men lead, women follow. So John Piper’s masculinity is inseparably linked to his authority and leadership of women.
This is made clear in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The Meaning of Masculinity” (2006 edition, pp36-45) and several other places. Piper says that mature masculinity includes a sense of responsibility to lead. (p36) “Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative.” (P 39).
And if a man can’t do that in the neighborhood, or the factory, or the office, or at the club, where can he do it?
At home. In the church, where he can still build his patriarchal kingdom and rule over his subjects. After all,
“A man’s home is his castle.” – Sir Edward Coke, 1628 AD
The church and the home are among the final bastions of officially sanctioned male power. This is true for a number of reasons, among them tradition and faulty Biblical interpretation. But from this brother’s perspective, there is another, more compelling reason.
I believe that fueling the reluctance to change or to even look deeply into the issue of male/female equality is, in the heart of many men, fear.
Often people think it’s about selfishness or control, and sometimes it is. But I don’t think most guys in the church are like that. It’s usually not a case that they’re bad men. Quite the contrary, most Christian guys just want to live their life, raise their kids and grandkids, serve the Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the end. But many men, even the strongest ones, have a deep and abiding fear of not measuring up. I suspect that fear and insecurity drives John Piper and his theology of “Biblical Manhood” and his feelings that his manhood is being compromised whenever he is in the presence of a woman he feels is less than lovingly deferential to his “authority”. And I believe that theology plays into one of the worst fears of very many men: The fear of not being seen as manly.
Can you imagine Jesus deriving his personal sense of manhood from his authority over and leadership of women? Neither can I.
We shouldn’t be drawing our theology from our fear of inadequacy, nor let such fear hinder our quest for the truth.