How men should ‘be men’ crops up as a religious topic from time to time. It would seem that according to some teachers, there is in fact a type of man that is manly, and another type of man who for various reasons is not a ‘real man’.
I’ll preface this with my personal bias. I think that the idea that anyone has to be a particular way to be a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ is rubbish. In my opinion, there is a broad spectrum of personalities spreading across both genders, and even though there may be different weightings of characteristics on average in each gender, you can’t confine a particular characteristic to a particular gender without demeaning those who aren’t typical. An average is only an average. It is neither the right nor the wrong way to be.
I have both a son and a daughter, who in their early development are definitely showing gender stereotypes in their interests – he loves technical things and building; she loves dressing up and fairies etc. How much I’ve reinforced these, I don’t know – I tend to let them follow their interest. So I’m not inclined to say that there is no basis for some gender differences on average.
However – to say that _all men_ are a certain intrinsic way, or _all women_ irks me. It just seems like too big a generalisation, which I find myself always seeing exceptions to. Maybe I just like to argue – because I’m a woman, of course!
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is a very popular book with some men. I have a friend who tells me that reading that book was incredibly impactful for him, and he seems to believe it absolutely. On the other hand, my husband, Heretic, read it, and really didn’t like it. John Eldredge, in his introduction to the book, says that men need,
…permission to live from the heart and not the list of ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ that has left so many of us tired and bored.
No, men need something else. They need a deeper understanding of why they long for adventures and battles and a Beauty – and why God made them just like that. And they need a deeper understanding of why women long to be fought for, to be swept up into adventure, and to be the Beauty. For that is now God made them as well.
(Quotes are from the Introduction to Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, to give an idea of the direction of the book.)
At the very least, this book is a different take on manhood from a lot of others, and is very popular, so there must be some kind of appeal to its message out there. Is this really how God made us to be though? Does scripture say anything about this subject, or present any immutable patterns?
John Eldredge has also written a book with his wife, Stasi, called ‘Captivating’, about women. According to wikipedia,
It also proposes that God made woman as the “Crown of Creation”, an embodiment of God’s beauty, mystery and vulnerability. The concept of woman as the “Crown of Creation” has become the subject of much controversy surrounding the book, critics claiming that it exalts women above men in the Creation.
And then we have Mark Driscoll, voicing his opinion on the lack of manhood in his congregation, it appears:
Most of you have probably already seen this one. The bit that gets me is at the end, when he refers to a ‘handful’ of men picking up the pieces. Makes it sound as though there aren’t many men in his audience whom he is not addressing! Of course, his message that men shouldn’t abuse women is good. Elsewhere, Driscoll says that real men are those men who take responsibility – in particular, responsibility for the covenant of marriage.
Personally, I agree that men should take responsibility – I think women should also be responsible though. Driscoll seems to say that those men who will not take responsibility are like children. Well, I ‘d agree again – but that anyone who does not take responsibility for themselves and their part in the world remains like a child.
I do wonder how effective the tone of his messages is, in that light, because his angry manner makes his audience into children, in my view. They are being ‘belittled’ if they fall short of his standards – though there is nothing wrong with the standard here. Is shaming the way to change people? I am not sure that is even effective with children – it can just assist them in learning to hide perceived wrong behaviours, rather than ceasing them. Still, in a ministry which could be perceived as very ‘masculine’, its good to be clear that some things, which may once have been acceptable ‘masculine’ behaviour, are not.
Most churches have ministries for men and for women. At C3, the men’s ministry is called ‘RealMen’; the women’s ministry is ‘Everywoman’. At Hillsong, there is ‘Hillsong Men’, ‘Hillsong Sisterhood’ and ‘Colour Sisterhood’. Anyway, if anyone here would like to share their views on whether scripture says that men do need to be a certain way to be ‘real men’ – and likewise women, ‘real women’, and whether Eldredge or Driscoll have some good/bad points here, then here is the thread.