This is a two part series, click here to read part two.
“Today’s world is seeing the greatest attack on Biblical masculinity that there has ever been!” That would have been a great intro and I really wanted to use it, but it’s not true. Biblical masculinity has always had enemies and has always been under attack. Twenty three hundred years ago, as Alexander the Great was storming the gates of Persia, Biblical masculinity was just as under attack as it was in the 60’s with the feminist movement. It has always been under assault and always will be. The enemies may change but the assault never does. So where do we see the greatest onslaught against manhood for today’s generation? I believe there are four ideas and cultural concepts that are the greatest villains and enemies preventing men from being men.
I lived seven years in the Ukraine, under the “old ways.” I recall going to the store to buy bread, in the Ukraine, while being about six or seven years old; alone and without my parents. They let me, a child, go grocery shopping in a post-communist country with mafia roaming the streets! Unbelievable! Yet six years later I could hardly step foot outside the door without being warned of the many dangers, from kidnappers who would steal my organs, to street gangs who would sell me drugs. The modern American culture put far less responsibility on 14 year old Yuriy than the Slavic culture did on the 7 year old Yuriy. I became far less independent as a teenager, than I was as a child. This trend was not new, it has been ongoing for many years now. While a teenager in the 19th century was expected to be the man of the house, run the farm, and protect the home, the teenager of today is only expected to play Farmville.
In America I joined millions of other boys who lived sheltered lives and refused to grow up. Whatever the individual causes are (personal laziness, fear of growing up, uncertainty of the future, lack of role models) we as a culture embrace this prolonged adolescence. Growing up is not seen as very fun, and more so not necessary. Why grow up and take on responsibility when you can be a kid forever? Responsibility and work appears hard, dull, and unrewarding, while staying home and being stimulated by the extravagant sensory stimuli of video games, drugs, alcohol, movies, music, and porn is far more rewarding.
In addition the fear of failure hangs like a dark cloud above every act of responsibility or undertaking. While in video games we can accomplish things with no fear of failure; die or fail? You have one hundred more lives, or you can simply restart from your last save. And if it gets too stressful, you can simply turn it off and play another game. Having to marry, love, and care for one woman for the rest of your life is hard. It requires a deep seated commitment, a form of responsibility to the woman, rather than simple response to psychological or sexual desire. Looking at porn or sleeping around with girls is much easier, when one wants a sexual reward, he simply clicks or texts, and later when he doesn’t want it, he moves on. By remaining a teenager one can simply do what he wants to, not what he should do.
Our culture encourages young men that it is good and normal to remain boys. It is rather ironic but this partly happens in response to our overzealous attempts to give boys “their childhood.” Rather than explaining to children that adulthood is about taking responsibility for others who depend on you, our society as a whole explain it as the time of independence from parental restrictions. Rather than teaching manhood as giving up your desires to care for others, boys are taught that manhood is the time when you can follow your desires and do anything you want. In addition we have over-glamourized youthfulness as the perfect ideal that everyone wants to remain in or return to. This in turn has created a generation of children with voting rights.
The culprits range from overprotective mothers who baby their sons to irresponsible media portrayals of men, yet the ultimate effect is the same: men are don’t take on accountability and responsibility. They are either afraid of the hard work and the possibility of failure because they have been babied, or they don’t want it because they have been trained to follow their lazy and overstimulated feelings. Manhood, on the other hand, involves taking responsibility for the wellbeing of others. For the babied child-man this is frightening and for the overstimulated man-boy this is not as rewarding as pursuing his own pleasures.
Of those that have matured beyond the fear of responsibility and actually want to become men, in some shape or form, there is an even greater problem, they don’t know how to. There is a striking lack of role models in contemporary society. Primarily there is a huge lack of fathers, according to the statistics, at least one third of all children grow up without a father. (1) And those that have a biological or adoptive father, don’t necessarily have one who can adequately model masculinity. This leaves our generation without much in terms of solid role models of manhood. And to make matters worse our society and culture is so contorted that true masculinity is not help up in high regard. Because of this, those boys that have solid role model fathers, uncles, teachers, and others often choose to imitate other “boys who can shave” because of their glamorized portrayal in society or media.
I grew up thinking Rambo was the greatest man ever. Granted, my parents did not know this, nor did they let me watch it, however, I had my ways, which usually included sneaking out to a friend’s house when both of our parents were away. In the first Rambo film, Rambo kills 58 people, in the second 78, and in the third he singlehandedly takes down a total of 83 bad guys. Rambo is not someone you want to mess with, he exudes toughness, strength, and domination. Even now I can picture the puffed out Sylvester Stallone lip, slightly drooping to one side. One simple glance from Rambo was enough to cause grown men to cower. He was a total “badass,” or so I thought. Unfortunately I wasn’t alone in thinking that and ended up growing up thinking manhood had something to do with big muscles, a mean face, demeaning manner, and fighting… lots of fighting.
In most ancient cultures, great warriors were greatly honored. Notwithstanding the fact that there were indeed great men of renown, who fought bravely for justice and righteousness, most “great warriors” were simply rapists and murderers. The majority of these brute men would simply run into a town or city, kill its men, and rape their women (all because their king/chief wanted to feel masculine and powerful). It was a world of brute force and strength. If you had strength, you could take anything; if you were weak, you could do nothing. The strong preyed on the weak, even in the home, physically powerful men would domineer over their own wives, daughters, and sons. Other men, who were kind or gentle, were seen as effeminate or weak.
Unfortunately much of our modern concept of manhood still stems from such vile, ugly, primal ideas. For many 6ft boys the idea of masculinity of manhood is centered on strength, power, and toughness. Many think masculinity is about taking anything you want through violence or arrogance. While popular media, in film and television, often portrays heroes as self-sacrificial and responsible, just as often it shows them as those that take what they will through violence. Many growing boys assume this portrayal of physical toughness is the defining feature of masculinity, and grow up to become spoiled irritable children, in tough, battle-tested, muscled bodies. They are fearsome, yes, but are they masculine? Hardly. Biblical manhood on the other hand shows men as both tough and tender, or lamblike/lionhearted as Christ (Rev 5:5–6). True masculinity is not about taking with violence, but sacrificing with humility. It is about displaying toughness to protect those you love, and eschewing tenderness towards them.