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Volume 7, Issue 5: Husbandry

Men With Backbone

Douglas Wilson

"I've never seen such losers, darlin' . . ."
Bonnie Raitt, "Love Me Like a Man"

The current wisdom does acknowledge the need for a recovery of masculinity. But the current wisdom also figures this means men must become much more sensitive, first to themselves, and then to others. This emphasis is whooped as true masculinity: real men cry and suffer deep pain. But actually the current wisdom is a drunk in a bar ordering a stiff one as a preparation for his forthcoming promised sobriety. Before turning around, before converting, he thinks he must take at least three more steps in the other direction.

The need of the hour is masculine confidence; we need men with backbone. And what do we have? We have men off in the corner, moaning and whining about their childhoods, keening over long-remembered hurts, snuffling about aimlessly, and getting in touch with their own personal selves. Secular man is off looking for a mommy, and we are all sick of it.
The popular Christian alternative to this can be seen in the Promise Keepers movement; in many positive ways this movement does provide a Christian alternative to the secularist groping after a genuine masculine identity. At the same time, when the doctrine and practice of this Christian alternative is examined carefully, the effeminacy of modern evangelicalism is clearly still in evidence. Dismayed by the fact that men have ceased to function as men, we gather them together to recover true manhood. Unfortunately, while the emphasis is on restoring real masculinity, American Christian men are still heading in an effeminate direction. If the airliner is flying east, to leave the seat and head west up the aisle is an inadequate response.
For example, some training materials for PK urge that we start giving purple hearts to men with wounded hearts, which is not exactly a masculine response. And New Man, the magazine of PK, is filled with calls for increased sensitivity, real men have feelings too, eight steps to intimacy, and so forth. And one PK spokesman, Robert Hicks, expresses a desire for wayward young men to be indulged after their first experience with the "police, or their first drunk, or their first experience with sex or drugs." Hicks suggests that the time be used as a teachable moment and a "rite of passage." He suggests that the "true elders could come forward and confess their own adolescent sins and congratulate the next generation for being human." Whatever else this response is, it most certainly is not a biblical masculine responseit is not strong, masculine leadership for young men at all; it is indulgence, which is the last thing such boys need.
Still, Promise Keepers is not the problemthe movement simply represents an initial and inadequate response to a problem which was overwhelming us long before PK came into existence. That crisis is one of rampant masculine abdication. The PK movement has provided the valuable service of identifying this problem on a national level. However, PK is to be faulted, for while they insist that this problem be addressed with courage and integrity, they have allowed the movement to be steered by professional handlers into various forms of moral cowardice and doctrinal compromise.
When it first began, Promise Keepers was, well . . . promising. Our prayer should be that PK returns to that early promiseand that they do so fully prepared for a real fight. The need is certainly great. Whenever "real masculinity" prances in a skirt and blouse, it must be attacked, and attacked by Christians with a warm enthusiasm. The doctrine of the "sensitive male" must be critiqued, wherever it appears, and soundly, with a baseball bat. Psychological and theological flimflam merchants, with all their estrogenic supplements, must be hooted off the public stage. If they were to engage the enemy with full integrity, Promise Keepers could have a tremendous impact for good in Christianity's cultural war against effeminacy. But as the situation now stands, it seems clear they will not.
This may prove to be offensive to some, although it is certainly not the intent. But the modern resistance to pointed criticism does not reflect a manly concern for biblical obedience; it is yet another specimen of men who can get their feelings hurt on the sharp edges of the truth. Because we live in such an effeminate culture, especially in the evangelical church, the temptation for proud men is to think the only way out of their sin is to cultivate an effeminate form of pride. This is not sanctification; it amounts to castration. Because the fundamental antithesis in our fallen world is covenantal and ethical, and not gender-related, ungodly men must become godly men. Ungodly women must become godly women. Men who seek to get away from arrogance and pride by becoming more like their wives have misplaced this antithesis. And so when a brother comes alongside with an admonition, the appropriate response is not to take offense. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Christian men must be called to true confidence. And this masculine and biblical confidence avoids the sin of hubris without falling into the common error of confusing humility and effeminacy. The word confidence comes from the Latin, meaning with faith. A man who walks in faith may certainly be accused of being arrogant and proud, but such accusations are simply a part of the cost of doing business. And the restoration of biblical masculinity is business that must be done, and done immediately.

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