Thursday, September 28, 2006

Guys, Girls and Sports

I think girls are wonderful. I live with one full-time. But I don't think playing serious athletics with girls is fun at all. I don't care if I ever do it again.

The cultural project to advance feminism has slyly struck many blows against complementarianism through the medium of popular culture. One of the weak spots it has found involves athletics. I recall seeing a recent Gatorade commercial in which Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm went head-to-head in a number of sports contests that ended with them being basically even in all events. The message behind the commercial, besides being that one should drink prodigious quantities of Gatorade, was that men and women are athletically equal. Now, there are many good female athletes out there, a good number of whom are better athletically than I am. I couldn't touch Marion Jones, for example, in the 100-meter dash. But to suggest that men and women are equal, or even nearly equal, in athletics is absolutely ludicrous. It's so foolish it doesn't really warrant a second thought. Men have been made by God to be more athletic. They jump higher, run faster, hit harder, and do lots of other athletic feats better than women. Men and women are not equal athletically, no matter what the culture may tell you. Not even close.

Aspects of the feminist project have infiltrated even Christian athletics. I'm not talking about the volleyball game after the church picnic. It's great to have everybody, men and women, out there playing ball together. But we do see the false notion of athletic equality when it comes to certain sporting leagues, where men and women play highly competitive sports together. This is a terrible idea. Here are a few reasons.

1) It puts men and women in close physical contact. I have a wife. She is the only woman in the world I want to be in close physical contact with. I don't want to box out another woman out, or have another woman box me out. Boxing out, for those who don't know, involves sticking one's rear into the player behind oneself to better position oneself to get a rebound. I'm not choosing this example to be gross--it happens all the time in basketball, my favorite sport. There is absolutely no way I want any part of that with any woman who is not my wife. That to say nothing of single men and women.

2) It puts women at risk of physical danger. Men are tougher, stronger and faster than girls. There is a higher rate of risk of injury for girls than for guys when they play sports together. So often guys will go easy on a girl because they don't want to hurt her. This seriously detracts from the fun of intense competition. I would also guess it's not that fun for the girl, when she really thinks about it. Better for her to be able to be similarly competitive with those of her own gender.

3) It robs men of the close camaraderie that they may have through shared competition. It is good for men to be with men and do men things, just as it is good for women to be with women and do women things. Each of the sexes need their own isolated times to bond, share experiences, and have fun together. Girls are by definition not part of the guys. It's very postmodern to have guys doing girl things and girls doing guy things. I don't want to be part of that. I want guy time. I want to race down the court and yell at my teammates and slap them on the butt. I don't want to think about any impropriety or hurt feelings or anything like that. Contrary to what the feminist-soaked culture says, guys should have guy time, and girls should have girl time. Sports are a big part of guy time.

Those are some quick thoughts on the subject. In the isolated fellowship of the sexes, when it happens for a period of time, one sees the common grace of God. There is such fun and joy in brotherhood, and I'm sure the same goes for sisterhood. Rather than robbing ourselves of this gift, we should prize it. Let the games begin!

The Shamefully Weak Men of Hollywood

Yesterday I talked about the men of Friends and how I disliked the image of manhood they each represent. Today I turn my attention to another masculine character, the character of Zach Braff in Garden State.

For those who haven't seen this movie, it's a coming-home story of a young postmodern man struggling to deal with the darker realities of life: familial death, broken relationships, and over-medication. Braff stumbles his way through the movie before he realizes he's found true love and a very happy ending results. It's a well-acted, well-made movie with a serious flaw: its lead character is a ninny. Despite having been out of high school for a number of years (seven, I believe), Braff's character has no clear idea of where he's going, no intention to marry, no greater purpose for living. He's like alot of young men today, even young men in the church: he's just coasting passively by, waiting for life to raise up and shower him with a blessing he doesn't deserve. Interestingly, this isn't simply a character Braff plays in angsty movies. He lives this part, having confided to Time magazine in its "Twixters" article about twentysomethings who won't grow up that there's a "new ten years" post-college in which young people find themselves. This comment, which is of the variety that doubtlessly leads many cool dudes of my generation to mutter, "whoa, dude, right on" represents a revolt from traditional gender roles and--what's more--a revolt from maturity.

Somewhere along the line, college guys decided that life was going to be an exercise in drifting but pleasurable passivity. No longer would they go out and join a transcendent cause or fight for noble aims. No longer would they pass up the fleeting flirtations of youth and marry a woman anxious to fill her role as wife and mom. No, they would live life in college-extended mode, making 25 the new 18. After graduation, instead of thinking hard about what to do and where to go, they would simply drift along, goofing off, traveling a good bit, working lightly, flirting heavily, while the worthy women of their peer group tapped their toes impatiently and waited for them to grow up. Sadly, I see this type of man in strong numbers even at my seminary, a place one would think would be a bastion of generation-defying maturity. Nope. Many guys are content to drift along, never really getting their act together, waiting for girls to go after them, content to take a pass on maturity for awhile. This is not right. There is a break in the system. Men, like the film characters they consciously like and unconsciously emulate, are passive, immature, and allergic to responsibility. I'm not sure where the counter-Reformation will come from. I'm not counting on Zach Braff or his peers to start it, that's for sure.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Men Looking Stupid--and Society Rewarding Them

"Men are pigs."

This little phrase is probably familiar to you. It's been hammered into your brain by those you might not necessarily suspect. Gloria Steinem et al have done their part, yes. But more than her and her feminist friends, Hollywood has moved the feminist ball up the field.

Think back on the way the arts have portrayed men in the last twenty years. You needn't think too hard. The portrait is pretty uniform: men are idiots. There are exceptions, of course, but it's not the exceptions I'm interested in, but the rule. The rule was authored in the popular cinema by such men as Chevy Chase and Steve Martin. Go upstairs to your attic, get out the ol' VCR, and dust off your National Lampoon and Father of the Bride videotapes. Pop 'em in. Be prepared to see manhood, with admittedly great humor and enjoyment, openly mocked and degraded. I thought this when watching FOTB recently. Steve Martin isn't a grown-up man--he's a white-haired baby! All he lacks is diapers. His wife is clearly progressive, in-touch, and aware, while Steve's character is a bumbling idiot possessing the self-awareness of an amoeba. Chevy Chase is no different. He stumbles through life, a walking joke to his kids and wife, hopelessly out-of-touch with reality. Hollywood has had its say about men. Have you noticed their whispering? Or did you, like me, soak it all in without even noticing?

Or think about the guys from Friends. Here are where the feminist-minded screenwriters of Hollywood worked true magic. They wrote a TV show that was hugely watched for years and years, and they did it while all the while portraying men as idiots. Think back over the three male characters. Chandler is a weak, wimpy manipulator, avoiding confrontation at all costs. Joey is, in the mold of Steve Martin, a stupid guy idiot, albeit with more testosterone thrown in. And Ross--I grit my teeth even writing it--Ross is a pandering, whiny, wimpy, afraid man. A problem arises, and all Ross can do is gesticulate. His voice goes nasal, his hands are in the air, and you have to wonder if his fellow actors are holding their noses, cause someone's got a heavy diaper. These are all distorted pictures of manhood, and young men and women sucked them up for years without thinking about it for nary a minute. Of course, these male characters were cast against the characters of Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox who, while quirky, were strong, assertive, and in charge.

We'll look more at this. But for now, just know that little phrase--"Men are pigs"--may not be spoken by anyone near you right now. It doesn't need to be. It's been spoken to you for years by Hollywood. You probably just didn't notice.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Myth of Passivity

Many men today believe that being passive is a virtue. Physically, socially, romantically, and spiritually we think that if we put off making decisions and evade definitive action, our action (or lack thereof) is consonant with Christian maturity. We have grown up believing that men are stupid, boys stay boys for roughly thirty years, and decisions should only be made when excessively thought through. We've subscribed to a soft version of Jesus, Jesus 2.000, who is soft, mild-mannered, and endlessly weepy. All this has brought great harm to the church.

This week, I want to examine the ways in which men act passively and the world encourages us to do so. We'll think about the way society portrays men, we'll think about men and decision making, we'll think about men and romance. In all, I hope we stimulate some thought and produce some godly action.

Here's a fun story about one man who took the matter of physical masculine action very seriously (From Mark Chanski's Manly Dominion):

"A few years ago, I was studying early one morning in my basement office when my wife poked her head in and told me about how she couldn’t take her usual morning walk. The neighbor’s bull (that’s right, horned bull) had gotten loose and was wandering the neighborhood. “I’m afraid he’s going to gore me!”...

My manliness having been awakened, I realized I couldn’t let the bull endanger other people’s wives or children either. But I knew that I as a city boy was no match for the bull. The neighbor wasn’t home, so I went across the street to get Mike, the beekeeper. Mike is a rustic fellow known in the neighborhood for his courage in facing aggressive beasts. His plan was for him to grab a bucket of grain from the neighbor’s barn, and with it, entice the bull back through the barn door and slam it shut for the capture. All went well until the bull actually neared the barn. Instead of following the bucket of grain Mike had tossed into the barn, the bull charged—actually charged—the beekeeper! I was horrified. Mike would be gored and pinned against the barn wall. But then Mike did something extraordinary. He grabbed the bull’s horns! That’s right, he literally grabbed the bull by the horns! The effect of the beekeeper’s forceful grab and jerk was striking. The seemingly fierce bull stopped in his tracks: he was stunned, intimidated, and subdued. Quickly, Mike thrust the bull toward the barn door. The beast acquiesced, and Mike slammed the door shut behind him.” 62

And, just because you could have guessed it was coming: that's taking passivity by the horns.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On Women and Their Role

There have been, of late, a number of provocative questions launched in the comments section. I want to take a day and answer some of the fair and interesting questions that I've seen.

We are concerned here with the idea that girls should be raised to be homemakers and moms.

Claire, a dear friend from college and an awesome Christian girl, asked what I meant by saying that many Christians raise their girls to be economically and politically ambitious. She asked how she was to practically understand this statement--did I mean that she was simply supposed to cook casseroles all the time and not work? I would reply to this by saying that it is well and good for a Christian girl to work after college. There is a big difference, though, between working (and doing one's best in one's job) until marriage happens and working with ambitions of a long and accomplished career. These are polar opposites. The first, which I would strongly encourage, means a girl goes after something until a man gives her the opportunity to be a wife and mom. The second means a girl intentionally avoids marriage until she has fulfilled her careerist goals. This I do not encourage, and this I do not think a good model of femininity. I myself have come into contact with the second brand of femininity and have observed a number of young Christian young men fall victim to it. In a good number of cases, godly young men have pursued godly young women and have been rebuffed, in large part because the young woman wishes to fulfill her career goals and delay marriage for a while. That is the triumph of feminist ideals over biblical principles.

Feminism's promise of the joys of careerism is a lie. As a dear mentor and wise brother once said of women of a particular city who come to make a career, "Many women come here with dreams of upper management and huge influence. A few years later, when they've gotten a raise and moved up a post, and the world still isn't conquered, and their friends are experiencing the joys of childrearing and homemaking, they leave, disillusioned." The feminist push to play the role of men ends in fruitlessness and unfulfillment. Well, perhaps worse than this, it leads a woman to a fulfillment she was never meant to have.I will state this again so I am not misunderstood. Women may well be single for a time, and they may find it difficult in places to find the godly husband they desire. But they should seek marriage in prayer and decorum, and when a godly man who they are attracted to and who will lead them well shows up, they should lay aside their career goals and take up the joyful work of the wife and mom. I know numerous women who have done so, women who were going to be doctors and media professionals and political dynamos, but who have because of Scriptural conviction joyfully exchanged the work world for the home world.

To conclude on a personal note, my own wife is an omni-talented woman. She could have been a concert pianist, an actress, or a professor (several of her college professors urged her to be one). Where there were hundreds of capable, bright young men who could have been a Teacher's Assistant to one of her college's most popular professors, she was asked to fill the role. She had every opportunity before her to make a career in a theology career, an acting career, or a music career. Bethany is godly, smart, beautiful, and talented. How incredibly thankful I am, then, that she was trained by her father not to aspire to a career, but to aspire to be a godly homemaker. She was trained, and trained by the excellent example and teaching of her mother, to be a wife and a mom. Our marriage is young, and she will have to work for a little while to help us through school, but suffice it to say that I am reaping the fruits of this training. These fruits are not bitter, friends. They are delightful. Bethany's decision to be my wife and homemaker means that our ministry will, Lord willing, multiply many times over as I am freed to fulfill my role, which I am gifted for as a man, and she is freed to fulfill hers, which she is gifted for as a woman.

Such is the plan that only an all-wise God creates.

Biblical Support For Women as Homemakers

My dear friend Claire asked for some scriptural support for my convictions that girls be raised to be homemakers. As with numerous biblical doctrines, I take my position not from one whole book of the Bible that deals only with this topic, but with a smattering of biblical texts that together inform our discussion. I would say at the outset that in order to fully understand this position, and more broadly complementarianism itself, I think a full study of Scripture will be immensely helpful. This mirrors the helpfulness of studying the full text of Scripture when it comes to Calvinism or some other such major issue. On that matter, I started out an ardent Arminian and ended up a convinced five-point Calvinist. Scripture did me in. So, I think, does it speak to this issue.

Scriptural Support For Women as Homemakers and Wives

Firstly, read the Pentateuch. There is enormous descriptive evidence in the first five books of the Bible that show men in the role of provider and women in the role of homemaker. The Israelite society is patricentral, meaning that it is focused around men, and men are the ones who work, who provide, while women raise children and tend to the home.

After the fall, in Genesis 3, it is Adam, expected to be the chief provider, whose work is cursed by God. Not Eve--Adam. Why? Again, he is the provider, the chief laborer of the home. Eve is the homemaker.

In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are the ones who bring sacrifices to God. Their wives are nowhere to be found in economic terms. Why? Well, we can infer with confidence that they were at home.

In Genesis 9, after the flood, when God renews his covenant with his covenant people, He tells Noah that the offspring and fruit of the earth are his. Noah and the men with him are the providers, the ones who slay the animals, who tend the crops, not the women, and God makes this clear.

In Genesis 13, strife arises between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot, the men who work and lead other men in work. This is clear from the context.

In Genesis 25:27, we read that Esau was a skillful hunter; his brother Jacob later relieves Rachel of her shepherding duties (premarital work) and works to win and support her. She later struggles to deliver children while he is off working.

In Genesis 37, it is Joseph and his brothers who work. This makes perfect sense--no mention of women working with them.

In Exodus 2, it is Moses' sister, not a male in his family, who cares for the child as he grows up.

In Leviticus 27, on the redemption and selling of property, men are the economic agents, those who do the buying and selling. They are the owners of land.

The book of Ruth (see chapter 4)--Boaz provides for Ruth, and Ruth gives birth to children. Before Boaz takes Ruth in, she works to survive. After they marry, Ruth is provided for, and raises a son.

Job (see chapter 1)--Job is the head of his household, as Israelite men were. He owns the cattle, he oversees his workers, and he provides spiritual and economic leadership for his family.

In Proverbs, it is young men who are admonished to work and not to be lazy. One would need to read the book to get the full weight of the responsibility that men have to work and provide. No similar word to women is found. For starters, see Proverbs 6:6-11, 10:4-5, and 20:13.

Proverbs 31:27--"She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." The proverbial Proverbs 31 woman works diligently from her home to contribute economically to her family. I fully support this, a woman working part-time from her home to supplement her family's income. This woman's husband is a city ruler, showing us that his work takes him from the home, while his wife tends to the business of her home.

1 Timothy 5:8--"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." This is a key text. Men, not women, have the responsibility to provide for their wives and children. No one else does. The responsibility lies solely at their feet. If the family fails economically, noone looks to the wife--they look to the head of the home, the husband. This clearly shows us that the role of provider belongs to the husband, not the wife, which makes perfect sense when taken with the rest of the Bible.

1 Timothy 5:14--"So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander." Nowhere are widows told to work, as men are. Instead, they are to seek marriage and let a man provide for them. This is perfectly consistent with the biblical model for all women.

2 Thessalonians 3:6--"Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." Throughout Paul's writings, he admonishes men to work. Where he could make his arguments to both genders, he focuses his attention on men, because men are to be the home's providers and yet men often stray from this role and force women to provide for them. This is evil and condemned by Paul (see also 3:11 and 1 Thess 4:11).

Titus 2:3-5--"[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." No comment needed here. This is a case-maker.

The burden of action in the sphere of work is clearly on men, not women. Women clearly are not charged to work as men are, and are in several places spoken of as those who do their work for God from the home, not the office. I would add, though, that situations may change slightly after the kids leave the home. That's a bit of a different scenario.

I hope that this has been helpful. Thanks, Claire, for the provocative questions. I'm glad for all the responses in this little conversation and hope that I've been of some help. As the beneficiary of a wonderful homemaker, I can say that the biblical plan for the home works wonderfully, if two months can tell such a story. The Bible's word must be carefully studied, but I believe the truth is there, if we will look to find it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Wrong To Raise Both Genders The Same

Myth: Boys and girls should be raised to be people.

Wrong! Boys should be raised to be men. Girls should be raised to be women. That's what the Bible teaches. The myth is taught by the culture today. Boys and girls are thrown together in the public and private school blender. Sixteen years later, they come out not as distinctive representatives of their God-given gender, but a finely chopped puree of "person," with the requisite identical attributes of true God-hatred, unquestioned intolerance of all absolute truth, and ironclad commitment to egalitarianism, the belief that there are no differences between the sexes and certainly no God-ordained hierarchy of roles. You know what's scary? It's not just little Johnny Postmodern that is influenced by the culture. It's Sammy Sunday School as well (how's that for a stupid sample name).

You see, if Christians raised children according to their gender, they wouldn't raise women to aspire to men's roles. They would raise their girls to be smart, critical thinkers, capable at many tasks, but they would fundamentally raise them to be wives and moms. That's the biblical picture of femininity. Women of the Bible do work, but they usually do so in a secondary role, giving first priority and the lion's share of their time to their husband, their children, and the care and development of their home. Women of the Bible are almost without exception homemakers, those who care for children and make the home a home. Women of the Bible are not, contrary to what the culture screams at us all, the movers and shakers of the political and business spheres. They just aren't. I think that many Christians have bought more into the cultural model of femininity than the biblical model of femininity. They raise their daughters with the vague notion that they may someday raise a family, but they strangely import ideas into girl-rearing that belong to the realm of boy-rearing: political, economic, and academic ambition. Certainly girls should cultivate their mind--I'm delighted that my wife underwent a rigorous biblical education at her college--but their goal should not be to be the US Secretary of State. Their goal should be to raise the US Secretary of State's children for the glory and reknown of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the same way, boys should be raised with the idea firmly and squarely fixed in their minds that they are to lead, provide for, and protect their wives. Some circumstances may arise in marriage in which wives need to work, but ordinarily, men should do all they can to allow their wives to raise their children and build their home. Unlike women, men should use their God-given testosterone (women have far, far less of this ambition-fueling chemical) to shoulder the burden of provision for their family. Men, contrary to what the culture teaches, are not to be passive, wimpy, freighted down with worry, concern, and indecision. Men are to pray, to take counsel, to read their Bible, and then to act. They are to be courageous, aggressive, and wise. They are to consciously take the burden of provision for their wives whenever possible and shoulder it themselves, and do so without complaint. This is their God-given role. They are made to flourish, just as women are made to flourish as homemakers. Men are not to be the primary child-raiser, the stay-at-home parent, the pushover father. They are to be strong, godly, gentle, kind, bold, and dominion-takers, as Adam was.

Christian, don't accept the cultural lies. Raise boys to be men, and raise girls to be women. Such is the picture of family life from Scripture; such is the design that promises God's best to us.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

For Men, College Should End When It Ends

Here's another myth many men believe today.

College lasts for twelve years.

What do I mean by that? I mean that many men have bought into the contemporary fiction that they don't need to grow up. It's that simple. Many men today think that they can put off family and steady work for as long as they want and then pick these things up when they please. They feel no sense of duty to God, family or country and act only as pleases them. Such is the code for many a young man.

College, it should be said, is a great time. It is fun to have friends and do goofy things and hang out alot, and I'm not out to destroy that. I can't really see marriage working for most college-age people. We as a culture don't prepare men to be married during their college years, and I'm not sure I would quarrel with that. Men and women should get to know one another as friends, develop healthy patterns of interaction with the opposite sex, study like crazy, and have fun during college. I would advocate a serious-minded approach to college, but I wouldn't try to strip the collegiate experience of fun. What I would try to change today is the post-collegiate collegiate period that many young men go through these days. Many young men of my generation enjoy college a great deal and then decide upon graduating that they don't really want to give up the collegiate lifestyle, with its flirting, its freedom, its lack of commitment. You don't have to commit to a woman, you don't have to commit to a job, you don't have to commit to anything but having fun. You can flirt, you can travel, you can goof off--anything you want, dude, it's your time and noone else's.

All of that's fine from a cultural standpoint. But there's this whole deal called Christianity which calls men to a) be husbands b) be fathers c) be responsible laborers d) grow up. Over against the cultural code of immaturity there is a biblical code of maturity that involves putting aside the fun pastimes of youth and taking on the meaningful responsibilities of manhood. You trade fun foolishness for fun productivity, in more ways than one. Both ways of life, the collegiate and the post-collegiate, are fun, you see. It's not either/or. It's a matter of whether one has fun in a socially helpful, personally beneficial, spiritually maturing kind of way, or a self-gratifying, others-ignoring, unending-adolescence kind of way. We'll talk more about this, but for now, that's a pretty weighty trade to think about.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Women in Men's Roles (and vice versa)

A reader of this blog asked me a couple days ago if I was saying in an earlier post that I didn't think that women should be in the position of the US Secretary of State. He referenced Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Thatcher. This is a fair and good question. I would like to respond to it now.

On this matter, I take the same position that John Piper, the Minneapolis pastor, takes. In several works, including, I believe, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper argues that there are certain jobs that it is more appropriate for a man to have and less appropriate for a woman to have. I agree entirely. I say this prepared for a hailstorm of criticism, and some which may come from Christians. That's okay. I think that the culture and its egalitarian doctrines have so infected the church that we have unknowingly imbibed harmful teaching.

I think that certain work is suited to men, though I do not argue this from explicitly scriptural grounds and I would not argue it with the same force that I would on something clearly taught in Scripture. I argue this based on a smattering of biblical texts and principles, including the original pattern for the home found in Genesis 2 and 3, the work of the Proverbs 31 woman, and the qualifications for elders and deacons. In all of these texts and many more, men are portrayed as being the chief breadwinner in the home. Men occupy leadership roles in the home, the church, and the society. I believe we were made to do just this. We were made to be strong, and so we are best suited for military service and law enforcement work. We were made to lead our fellow citizens, equipped as we are with qualities that befit the ardors of public leadership--toughness, a more analytical nature, a less emotional nature. We were made to till the ground and seed the earth and fish the seas. We were made for danger and hardship, and we were made to protect our families as best we can from these things. We, not women, are supposed to be in the line of fire, the hot seat, and the city gates. When we fail to occupy these places, we fail our women, and we fail our world.

Does this mean that I believe in a highly structured code with all kinds of restrictions? No. I don't. There are numerous situations in which a woman may take on a man's role for a time. I think of struggling seminarians whose wives put them through school by working. This is not a good long term plan, but it is a helpful short term solution. When possible, though, I think it best to have Dad in the workforce and Mom at home. There is something right about this. There is something right about men being President and Secretary of State. Though women have sometimes performed well in such capacities, I do not believe that such work is best suited to them. Were I a foreign dictator, I would think that a society with women in power must be a society with weak men indeed. On a personal note, I've noted my own innate reaction to female cops. I will be decidedly un-PC here: it's just not the same to have a crisis and have a female cop show up to help a bunch of men, which happened recently at my church. Moments like that lucidly show, I believe, that there is some work that is gender-specific. That, I think, is the scriptural pattern, and that, I think, best meets the needs of our families, our churches, and our society.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Don't Worry, Guys: Testosterone Is Not Bad

If you are the typical twentysomething male, then you have probably been told the following repeatedly in some form:

a) testosterone is bad
b) guys should always be more sedate
c) guys should be more like girls
d) testosterone is bad.

Included somewhere in this list of propositions are the ideas that it is bad for boys to be active and squirmy, that it is bad for boys to laugh and make fun of each other and generally carry on, and that it is bad for boys to be inquisitive. These propositions are all wrong. They are flat wrong. Boys are different than girls. They are educated in the public and private school systems by women teachers, primarily. They are taught not that they are simply different from girls, but that their natural behavior is aberrant and in need of correction. In short, they are docked for having testosterone. The bias against this chemical continues throughout life.

I'm not the most testosterone charged guy I know. I have plenty, don't worry. I love sports and I like goofing off and I enjoy making fun, in good humor, of other guys. But please don't think I'm advocating some kind of towel-snapping masculinity. Nope. There are aspects of certain brands of manhood that I don't enjoy. And yet I am happy to affirm that testosterone and manliness are good things. It is good for boys to be playful and physical and passionate. They were made by God to be subduers, cultivators, those who take dominion of the earth, those who fight off the enemy, those who kill slithering serpents. We weren't made to be soft and sensitive. We weren't made, in the face of conflict, to go off and journal somewhere and listen to melancholy music. We were made to be tough and strong and fun. We were made to tease girls. Not many girls tease us. They don't have the testosterone we do. They don't have the instinct. They weren't made to climb trees like we are. They weren't made to play football like we are. We were created by the Creator to be fun, tough, playful, and brave. Don't listen for a second when today's society tells you otherwise.

But don't just refuse to listen to societal lies, which are pushed at you from all directions. Rebel against them. Rebel against the attitudes society urges upon you. Don't be a wimp. Don't be a wuss. Don't be in touch. Be tough. Be strong. Be able to take rebuke. Be able to give rebuke. Be able to have fun and get pushed around. Push back. Compete aggressively. Love passionately. Defend your woman. Defend womanhood. Refuse to think that masculinity is soft and sensitive and is defined by sitting in a corner with your thoughts. Refuse to think that life comes to you. Instead, believe that you bring life into being. Use the God-given drive within you to reject passivity and to live passionately. Take off the headphones, stop whining and crying in other guy's shoulders, and be marked as a man of action. The only "getting in touch" you need to be doing is with the tools of manhood.

Men: your testosterone is a good thing. You were made to be strong, courageous, tough, fun, passionate, protective, and a leader. Embrace that role. Take it back from the culture that has stolen it from you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Knocking Heads With The Myths of Manhood

Manhood used to be a defined quantity, a recognizable set of traits that inhered in men. Nowadays, this definition is lost, eroded by the seas of feminist postmodernity. Over the next few days, I want to take on a few myths of modern manhood, and knock heads with 'em. Hopefully, some fruitful thought will result.

Myth One: Guys Should Never Use Aggression

As a young man taught in postmodern classrooms for all of my formative years, I can readily say that I have been taught that it is bad to use aggression. Men should never be aggressive, goes the line, and so an entire generation was neutered. Only men from the Stone Age use force and show adrenaline and speak directly. Men of today speak softly and never offend anyone and always resort to pacifying diplomacy to make their case. Assertions of any definite type must be accompanied and foresworn by at least three sentences of apology for the mere presence of any sentiment of personal will, and must beseech (in whimpering tones, if possible) the hearer to not misunderstand what is said. Men should never really say anything, basically. They certainly should never say it directly. Someone's feelings might get hurt.

Men also should never get upset. We in the Christian church have been taught a feminized Jesus. So much has His love and kindness been emphasized that His wrath and justice have been lost. If we would follow Jesus, goes the thinking, we'll never say a cross word, never hurt a feeling, never make a direct statement. We'll go around scattering rose petals and speaking diplomatically and give lots of people thirty-second hugs. Well, this image of Jesus is ridiculous. Jesus was a confronter. He told people that they were dogs and vipers. He spoke sentences charged with anger. So did Paul and Peter. So did everyone, it seems, except modern Christian men.

We have lost all sense of honest discourse today. We can't have conversations anymore. Someone's feelings get hurt in 2.4 seconds and it's all over. Disagreement to the modern mind is tantamount to hatred. This is also ridiculous. We should be able to speak honestly, to evaluate arguments, and to expect a reasonable response in return. Instead, if anyone actually says anything, people run around with their hands over their mouths, shocked at the act. What happened to debate? What happened to argumentation? "Well, for me, war is okay...I mean, just war is okay...but sorry if you disagree...I mean your opinion is totally valid..." Such statements are pure hogwash. Speak your mind, man! Believe in something enough to say it clearly, without fear. We're so afraid today. We're afraid in our classrooms and our living rooms and our battlefields. We can't fight wars anymore. We have to do diplomacy, which is the word "cowardice" in disguise. And our diplomats aren't strong. If I were a tyrant from the Middle East, I would laugh at American "diplomacy," seeing it for the weak-kneed sham it is, and laugh in amazement that a country full of so-called cowboys sends a woman in a purple dress to negotiate with me. Diplomacy indeed--and the hammer and the sickle march on.

Now, please read this all very carefully, and don't be offended. And please don't disagree. My feelings just won't recover. :)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Money Won't Make You Happy

It can often be enticing to think of the future and its promised riches. I suppose I'm typically American in that I often have a rosy view of the future, and sometimes find myself dreaming of material comfort and even luxury. How interesting to read the occasional study not from the Christian world but from secular society that reminds us of the biblical truth that money does not buy or bring happiness. The Wall Street Journal had a piece a while back on this topic that you can find here. Read it, and let those dreams of Pier One couches, thirty-foot yachts, and superpowered computers be what they are: dreams. Dreams that come with pleasing aromas and happy feelings but that pass just as quickly as they come.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Christian Freedom

Many in the Christian life seem to think that there is no room for gray areas in our lives. Everything has to be painted either black or white. This is a mistake. Such thinking robs us of the joy of freedom that God intended us to have.

Christian freedom is a glorious thing. We see God's love for uniqueness and difference in His creation of beings who look as different from one another as possible. Beyond this, the very first thing God did was to create different pieces of matter with different properties and different functions. The first two humans were created and shared many common traits, but they were fundamentally different from one another. Man was made to be different from woman in temperament, physical structure, and emotional makeup. The creation, both human and all else, shares this essential trait (how ironic): it is distinct. No two beings are exactly alike. All are different. Clearly, we worship a God who values distinction. He stamped it all over His creation.

The people of the Bible are a testimony to the creative and free impulse of God. Over the course of biblical history, God used men as different from one another as possible. Weak Gideon, stout Daniel, and fiery John all made their mark in the ages of biblical history. Short men, tall men, handsome men, ugly men. Beautiful women, bold women, meek women. The canon's cast of characters runs the gamut. God clearly loves to create and use men and women of all different types.

We ought to remember this as we seek to construct a biblical worldview. There is freedom in God's work, and there is freedom in our lives. So much is spelled out for us, and how we love it. How we cherish the words we have and the direction they provide. I personally am a person who loves application in preaching, precisely because I love to have things to go out and do after hearing the sermon. Know that about me. But as the years have gone on, I have also come to prize Christian freedom where it is given. I believe that I am doing right in celebrating it. It was not given by accident. God did not stop speaking because of a bad cold or an over-occupied mind. He said exactly what He wanted to say, and He left us to figure the rest of it out, albeit with the Spirit's help and consciences trained in the Word. The Bible does not give a dress code. It does not give a calendar for our days. It does not give a plan for our lives. It gives principles that inform all of these things, but it gives us a generous measure of freedom in which to apply these principles. As we do so, we grow. We mature. We learn the value of gray. We treasure black, we treasure white, but we love gray as well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Excellent Article On The Education of Boys

One of the issues I'm most interested in is the development of masculinity in boys. Those who know anything about the cultural stance toward masculinity know that this project is not simply assaulted but has been overhauled in recent years. It's always interesting to see even non-Christians acknowledging the ills of the culture in educating and training boys. Here's a fascinating piece from New York's City Journal that I found at Dr. Russ Moore's website (props to him, or more politely, HT to him). It's called "How The Schools Shortchange Boys" and it's written by Gerry Garibaldi. The piece is punchy and at one point profane, but it evidences keen insight into the failings of contemporary to train young men for manhood. Read it--and do something.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tattoos, Earrings, and Kilts, Oh My!

I want to return briefly to the matter of the biblical stance on tattoos and earrings and the like. The Old Testament speaks of the importance of men not looking like women, which I fully support. However, to take from this precept that there is one monolithic ideal of manhood is to make what is called in theological terms a "stretch." The Old Testament does not prescribe such an ideal. Rather, it gives us a principle by which to live by. It gives us a grounding and then, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, we gain Spirit-guided freedom by which to live out this principle. We don't dress and look like the Old Testament writers, and we don't dress and look like New Testament writers. Furthermore, we nowhere find a once-for-all dress code in the Bible. To suggest otherwise is to commit legalism.

That does not mean, however, that in our respective cultures we may not find it wise to adhere to certain dress codes and patterns of clothing. That is surely a good idea. I'm not advocating some sort of total freedom where we wear whatever we want to. Rather, I am suggesting that the best principle we can come up with is that of cultural adaptation: we generally (an important qualifier) clothe ourselves according to the customs of our culture. So in America, that means we men don't wear dresses. We wear pants. In Scotland, however, we might well wear a kilt on certain days. Neither code of dress is right. Neither code of dress is wrong. Both are culturally determined. It is wise to wear each country's code in said country, and it is wise not to wear one country's code in the other. Cultural adaptation.

With the above argument, I think it's pretty clear that there is no monolithic ideal of dress. Far be it from me to go to Scotland and tell the hardy men there, many of whom could crush me with a glance, that they are "feminized." And far be it from them to tell me that I'm feminized because I wear pants. And far be it from me to tell an Indian that his manner of dress, with what looks alot like a dress to me, is wrong. I have no--utterly no--biblical basis by which to make that statement. There is freedom in dress, then. There is not one certain style of dress that is most masculine. We learn from our cultures what the norms are, and we adapt ourselves to those norms, though we are also free to freelance a bit. Do you want to shave your head? Fine. Do you want to pierce your ear? Fine. Do you want to wear baggy pants? Fine. There is plenty of room here. Too often in the Christian life and community, we busy ourselves with legislating gray areas and constructing advice that hits as hard as law. Far better for us to emphasize conformity where it is actually required and to allow diversity where it is possible. We then preserve both unity and diversity. That's a pretty good way to go about things, I think. I mean, it works pretty well for the Trinity.

Friday, September 01, 2006

9Marks Article

Now that I've stirred up a hornet's nest about tattoos and earrings, I would like to leave it. We may return to this topic at some point, but for now, please know that I have a 9Marks article up at It's on "doing seminary well," and even if you aren't in seminary, I think it will make for interesting reading, because it gives readers a bit of a look into what seminary is actually like. It's not terribly long and I don't think it will cause any revolutions, but you might find it mildly interesting.

I might also say that the current 9marks offerings are impressive: a theologian/pastor's forum on the emerging church, a couple of great pieces by one of my literary heroes, Greg Gilbert, and a couple of reviews of pastor Mark Driscoll's work. If you don't know these names, you should. Take a few moments and scroll around at're doing great stuff.