Thursday, September 23, 2010

A New Kind of Masculinity?

Al Mohler comments on the latest cover story of Newsweek:

The most interesting portion of the Newsweek cover story concerns the home front. The authors admit that the “New Macho” is “a path to masculinity paved with girly jobs and dirty diapers.”

American readers of the magazine are likely to note very quickly that Romano and Dokoupil seem quite enamored with Europe and its welfare and social policies. They highlight Sweden’s liberal parental leave policy as evidence of how government can act to redefine a reality as basic and ingrained as gender roles. In Sweden, “men are expected to work less and father more” and to see themselves as equally competent at child-rearing.

The message is plain — men will have to redefine masculinity as they take on “girly” jobs, transform themselves into nurturers, and celebrate a fully egalitarian society in terms of gender. Working for a female boss will become standard, as will the expectation that a stay-at-home father is as common as a stay-at-home mom.

On that point, Newsweek confidently points to a future that is not likely to happen quite as described. Americans may say that they are for services like paid parental leave, but when it comes to any tangible policy, economic factors are likely to scuttle the plan.

Of course, the call for men to be more engaged with their children is never wrong. Indeed, in this case, the political Left is picking up on themes long driven by the Right, and by conservative Christians in particular. The difference is that the Christian concern for asserting a man’s responsibility and fulfillment in fatherhood is not about social egalitarianism. Rather, it is driven by a biblical conception of true manhood as defined through the roles of husband and father.

Still, as much as we might complain about Newsweek’s rather predictable tip of the hat to the welfare state and the end of many gender distinctions, there is a sense in which the writers come very close to getting a big point just right.

They explain:

The truth is, it’s not how men style themselves that will make them whole again—it’s what they do with their days. The riggers, welders, and boilermakers of generations past weren’t wearing overalls to feel like men, as Susan Faludi, the author of books on both sexes, has pointed out. Instead, “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around,” she writes. “Conceiving of masculinity as something to be”—a part to play—“turns manliness into [something] ornamental, and about as ‘masculine’ as fake eyelashes are inherently ‘feminine.’?”

We may be surprised to find ourselves in agreement with Susan Faludi here, but she is absolutely right. Our fathers and grandfathers did not put on overalls to play dress up. They were headed for work. Faludi is profoundly right when she writes that “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around.”

A true masculinity is grounded in a man’s determination to fulfill his manhood in being a good husband, father, citizen, worker, leader, and friend — one who makes a difference, fulfills a role for others, and devotes his life to these tasks. Most of our fathers went to work early and toiled all day because they knew it was their duty to put bread on the table, a roof over our heads, and a future in front of us. They made their way to ball games and school events dead tired, went home and took care of things, and then got up and did it all over again the next day.

Today’s men are likely to be more nurturing, but they are also statistically less faithful. They may be changing more diapers, but they are also more likely to change spouses. Men must be encouraged and expected to be both faithful fathers and faithful husbands. Otherwise, any society is in big trouble.

The Newsweek cover story is an undisguised alert that the world is changing. A healthy masculinity should motivate men to find their way in this new world of changed economic realities and work opportunities, and to do this while remaining men. The unanswered question from Newsweek’s analysis is this: Will men change the new work of work, or will the new social realities change men?

Read Mohler's entire post HERE.

The issue of masculinity is important for the church to consider. After all, the church has lost many men over the last 30 years or so. The church ain't what it used to be, which is not all bad. However, evangelical Baby Boomer's insistence on getting rid of everything that had belonged to their parent's church led to the loss of a great many good things. Music lost its majesty as we began singing more "God is my girlfriend" songs. Sermons became less 'thus says the Lord' in favor of a kind of group therapy. Even the architecture of our churches changed. Gone were stone and steeples. In were low slung office park - type buildings filled with mood music and pastel colors.

Certainly, these are merely symptoms of something else. But those symptoms betray a deeper problem the church has with men. Instead of holding forth a biblical image of masculinity, the church began to parrot the same distrust and even mockery of maleness that was found in popular culture. Ray Barone became the de-facto representative head of all men. Sex was the wife's charitable service to her bumbling husband. Masculinity came to be seen as a disorder to overcome and the call to men was simple: be more like women.

I hope I don't sound misogynistic. Clearly, a biblical vision for manhood involves tenderness and sacrifice for one's family. It is never to be a cover for boorish behavior. But the sacrifices a man is called upon to make (Eph 5:22ff) for love of his wife requires a kind of strength and competence that are characteristic of genuine masculinity (and as far away from Ray Barone as imaginable).

1 comment:

Pathdrc said...

Just wanted to say everything you have stated is true.

David R. Crutchfield