Is Christian Masculinity Really in a Crisis?
Christian masculinity must be on a serious decline these days…at least if the selection of books in a church cafe is any indication.
Recently, while browsing some book titles in a church bookshop, I was alarmed at how dire the condition of Christian masculinity seems to be.
I was there to meet a friend of mine who was visiting, and while I waited in between services, I decided to check out some of the books that were for sale.
I’m going to make up some titles here just to convey the point about what I saw, so if I happen to conjure up a title of a real book, please know that it’s thoroughly coincidental. But the books I saw had titles along the lines of these:
- Be a Man
- Act Like a Guy
- The Man God Wants
- Play the Role of a Man
- Be a Godly Man
- The Christian Bro’s Handbook
- Man Up!
Like I said, I just made those titles up, so if I happened upon a real title of a real book, it was a complete accident.
But I think you get the point: the selection of books had several titles that implied quite clearly that there aren’t enough Christian men out there. And for some of the titles I saw, there was something in the title that suggested someone should “act like” or “play a role” of a man. Isn’t this being dishonest?
Four years ago, I wrote about this concept of “macho Christianity” and my thoughts on a book that’s regarded as a great guide for helping Christian men display proper Christian masculinity: Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.
I didn’t finish that book. I hated it then and my opinion of it hasn’t improved over time.
There’s this belief — and unfortunately, in four years, I haven’t seen it diminish much — that to be a Christian “man,” you have to be like the angry Jesus who overturned tables at the temple.
The kind, compassionate Jesus who preached about loving thy neighbor and showing grace — the Jesus that most of the Bible in which he appears actually depicts — somehow takes a backseat to the “badass” Jesus who “wasn’t afraid to fight” when necessary.
Anything less than playing the tough guy (a Christian tough guy but a tough guy nonetheless) seems to be equated with something along the lines of femininity, though most don’t go quite that far in defining the problem.
Back in 2014 when I wrote that earlier piece, I’d heard one too many mentions of figures like Braveheart. I’d heard one too many suggestions that men were supposed to be “warriors” or “fighters.”
I’d certainly heard far too few reminders that sometimes, being brave means knocking down the very walls men put up around themselves to appear “macho,” to be caring, loving men who were protective of those around them without feeling the need to pound their chests like some sort of Neanderthal.
Maybe I missed sermons that said standing up to the world around you, even when you stand up to show the power of forgiveness rather than agression, takes a great deal of bravery.
Or that sometimes it takes more guts to take a knee than to stand and fight.
I find it hard to believe that God would require a man to act like a stereotypical jock just to win His favor. I’ve certainly found no Bible passage that would support such an idea.