Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fighting Cultural Manliness

I love this short blog entry from the True Manhood website. Maybe it is high time to re-examine the essence of authentic biblical masculinity vis-a-vis what the culture is trying to portray.

Society makes suggestions to us, either directly or indirectly, about what’s manly and what’s not. Typically, society paints a picture that “cultural manliness” stems from all or part of the following: POWER, MONEY, SEX and STUFF. Society calls a man who possesses these things a “real man”. Separately, and in the right context, these attributes are wonderful, and add nicely to life. When used out of context, they can become disastrous. If a male possesses one (or more) of these attributes, than he automatically racks up points on an invisible ‘man scale’. A given amount of points on the cultural manliness scale doesn’t necessarily gain a guy anything, and it’s not like he can cash those points in for anything tangible. Nor is this something that guys sit around and discuss, it just sort of “is”. It comes from movies and music, TV and the internet. It’s the machismo mindset. However, because of the picture that is painted, a man with lots of points is (for whatever reason) elevated to a higher level than a regular Joe. As this happens, men being elevated and esteemed for what they possess and/or what they have done, other men desire to emulate these “real men” and therefore, “get what he has and do what he’s done.” Other men begin to shoot for power, money, sex and stuff, instead of what really determines what manliness is.

What is real manliness? Or, in our case, true manhood? If real manliness isn’t power, money, sex and stuff, what is it? Where can we find out? What can we do to become really manly? Well, we’re given lots of great examples throughout history of what NOT to do and what’s NOT really manly. Where do we go to find good examples? I’d like to point to a few perfect examples of what manliness is using three Biblical characters.

1. After a storied youth, this man fell away from God and screwed up royally. He engaged in sins of the flesh which led to men dying and problems for others around him. However, instead of remaining lazy and indifferent, he heeded the words of his dear friend and decided to better himself and devoted his life to serving, honoring and praising God. He became faithful, prayerful and humble. He set an example of great virtue for others to see. He, like us, sinned – but repented, asking for forgiveness and continue to grow in holiness.

2. This man was wronged at an early age. After spending many years in confinement for crimes he hadn’t committed, he rose in the ranks and eventually became the king’s trusted advisor. Instead of taking vengeance on the men who wronged him, he chose love, honor and service. This man was a humble and faithful servant to God, never losing his foundation of prayer, trust and faith. An incredible witness of how to work through hardships.

3. This man was given, quite possibly, the hardest task a human father could be given. He was asked to take on a role that no other father had ever been asked to do, but he readily accepted and because he was a virtuous man, he succeeded in this difficult task. Because he trusted God (and His messenger), this man remained faithful and obedient. Due to his successful job-well-done, all men have a perfect example of what it means to be a chaste husband, a loving father and a hard worker.

What is True Manhood? From these three examples, we see a theme: These three men were virtuous. Their virtue (especially their theological virtue of faith) allowed them to persevere and to continue to serve God.

The idea of cultural manliness is that, as you accumulate more wealth, as you sleep with more women, as you buy more stuff and as your power “ranking” goes up, the more manly you are. Cultural manliness never takes into account your virtue, your faith, your relationship with God and/or others, how you treat your wife, children, family, friends, strangers, etc. Cultural manliness is a facade, a lie, a demeaning and empty way of living. The glamour of being a “culturally manly” man will wear off in time. How many people will a culturally manly man hurt along the way?

I call this cultural manliness for a reason, a simple reason. The culture is expressing the thought that everyone, man or woman, is in this world on their own, free to make up their own truth, free to generate their own spirituality from within. A man simply goes after what he wants, and his list of wants comes from what gives him pleasure. Seeking pleasure is what drives his actions and pleasure is often the only motive behind actions.

The Biblical characters described above are, in order: King David, Joseph of the Old Testament and St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Fathers and Workers.

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