It occurs to me, as we bandy around topics like Christian manhood and how we as men ought to live, that the idea of “Christian Manhood” can be dangerously subjective and ambiguous. Finish the sentence for me: Real men _____.
Can’t say “quiche.”
Drive a Ford.
Spit the farthest.
Belch the loudest.
And the list goes on. Pretty much everybody has their own list of the things that you must do – or not do – to be a real man. If I’m making the list, it’d be sure to include things like hunting wild pigs with a bowie knife and avoiding hipster hangouts like Chipotle and Starbucks. And no man who wanted to keep his man-card would ever be caught wearing flip-flops or eating a veggie burger.
Of course, society – and particularly marketing and advertising – doesn’t help. Since a good deal of the money we spend is tied to our self-image, there are a lot of people with a vested interest in what exactly that self-image should be. Take this guy, for instance.
It doesn’t take a marketing expert to identify the underlying message here. You need this body spray to smell powerful. To be powerful. Without it, you are just an average schmuck in your average schmuck underwear.
Also, potato chips.
This version of manhood is big, powerful, loud, and at least a little bit obnoxious. In moderation, this kind of manliness can be humorous and even endearing. Taken to extremes, it has given us brutishness and chauvinism of the worst kind.
Then, of course, there’s the sensitive man. The “real” man who is “secure in his manhood” so that he doesn’t have to “over-compensate.” It isn’t even that being sensitive is a bad thing or that it’s bad to be secure – it’s just that these things are no more inherently manly than being able to bench-press 300 lbs. or do a pull-up.
And if Terry Crews breathing Old Spice out of his mouth was an over-the-top example of the muscles-and-testosterone crowd, perhaps the ultimate caricature of this particular flavor of manliness is the metrosexual. You’ve all seen him – in the mall or at the local starbucks. He’s sensitive, he’s sweet, and he’s in tune with his sense of fashion. And there are a lot of people that would like to tell us that this is the man of the future – that we are done being Neanderthals and that it’s time to don our eyeliner and “get in touch with our feminine sides.”
And no. Not every “sensitive guy” is a metrosexual, just as not every “he-man” is a chauvinist pig.
Much of this mindset has to do with a long-overdue backlash against intense chauvinism. But once again, this approach to the question of manliness misses a very important question – are these things, these external adherences to a stereotype – are they really what makes us a man, or is it something more?
This, in a nutshell, is the dilemma of the modern male. We have testosterone-hyped pro-wrestlers and fashion-savvy metrosexuals tugging in opposite directions on our mancard.
Oh yeah. That’s right. They even have something called a mancard. We’ve never seen one, but every man has one. And not only that, but if you do something un-manly (read: not on somebody’s “real man” list) you can apparently get it revoked.
Okay. So we have a problem. The problem is that everybody has their own ideas about what it really means to be a man – and let’s face it, all of these definitions are ultimately colored by our own identities and experiences. What we need is an absolute standard.
As a Christian male, I have a lot of platitudes and preconceptions about what manhood is and isn’t – but it occurred to me recently that I’ve never taken the time to step back and examine them and see how they compare in the light of Scripture. And so that’s exactly what I intend to these next couple of weeks.