We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
“All men are created equal but not all men are the same.”
One of my fondest Independence Day memories took place in Amherst, Ohio on July 4, 1976. It was the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – the Bicentennial. Gerald Ford was our President, I was eight years old, and the fireworks had been promised as spectacular.
Excitement was in the air and I was not going to celebrate the evening alone. I had Jerry over as a house guest and we probably drove mom crazy asking her over and over again when we’d be leaving to watch the powerful display of pyrotechnics at the local Hills Department Store.
Anticipation grew as the hour approached, but everything changed as we looked for a place to settle in the store parking lot. The sky slowly paled to a dull gray, mom turns on the radio, and we hear the forecaster warn all locals to head back home, a flash flood was on its way. We did and we were disappointed at first, but I had a guest (a new friend) and we weren’t about to let an overflowing deluge destroy our adventure. We celebrated friendship on the fourth!
We splashed in the basement “pool” and rolled laughing when mom got spooked by my big brother’s plastic alligator that was floating out his bedroom door. We whooped and hollered, wrestled and sang, and had the time of our lives. The funniest was when we stripped off our clothes, donned are pajamas, and threw our soaked duds down the clothes chute. We “forgot” that mom was cleaning the basement down below and soon heard a giant splash and mother’s “booming” scream!
It was an experience I will never forget because it was one of the few hours I spent uninhibited time with a male friend. The reckless abandon we experienced together would soon be hampered by the messages I’d be receiving from American culture and the church. Dancing, vulnerability, drama, laughter, and tears were not celebrated masculine rituals. “Don’t be a sissy” was the heralded call. Although nonsexual in nature, I was warned about the closeness I was feeling. “You might be gay” was the proclamation.
“Historically in America, I don’t really think there was even an option for men to view themselves as not masculine. You were either masculine, or not masculine enough, which was a problem.” Mike Barry
America is known for its diversity of ideas and people; but when we discuss how men should and do act; it’s somewhat less diversified. in the context of the 2016 presidential election, we have been bombarded with a myriad of newspaper print, magazine articles, and blog posts discussing and debating the crisis of American masculinity and the rise of lost American machismo a need for more aggressive Clint Eastwoods and John Waynes and a lot less Obamasculinity. In all honesty, it’s downright scary and unbiblical. Speaking without thinking, bullying and berating, and equating aggression with competence are not healthy examples of godly manhood. (BTW, even John Wayne proclaimed that his persona was not his true self. He was an actor playing a role – a role that some adapted as masculinity’s perfect design.)
A recent USA Today post stated: “The stereotypical sense of masculinity is at war with everything we know about what it means to be human. It’s muted suffering, even when we know talking through trauma is important for healing. It’s not expressing physical affection for other men, including male children, even though we know human touch is central to emotional well-being. It’s filthy jokes, flaunting sexual conquests and insecurity disguised as bravado. It’s being taught that power is dominating others, rather than treating people as the full humans they are. For this, men pay a steep price. So do women.”
The facts are startling and we cannot and must not ignore the statistics that are piling up like lifeless corpses in a land of learned machismo. As we look over the data presented to us we must also remember these headlined numbers are merely trumpet blasts that garner our attention towards deeper problems and truths. Statistics should be more than numbers on a page but rather a call to participate and look beyond the obvious. The stories and details should motivate us to move and stop the madness.
Sometimes we need a shot of reality espresso to jolt our comfortable complacencies and stir us to action.
Official figures reveal that men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide and the numbers are increasing. There are several factors leading to this increase in suicide including several societal changes over the last fifty years. One study stated that “men in mid-life have seen their jobs, relationships and identity, radically altered. There is a large gap between the reality of life and the masculine ideal.”
Older men and young men alike are attempting to find their place in the world. Carl Beech, director of Christian Vision for Men said that men “often have a particular resistance to expressing their feelings or asking for help – a false impression of what it means to be masculine.”
Forbes contributor Alice Walton explains that men in their mid-years are “caught between the traditional silent, strong, austere masculinity of their fathers and the more progressive, open and individualistic generation of their sons. They do not know which of these ways of life and masculine cultures to follow.”
A national proposal to establish a White House Council on Boys and Men, headed by Warren Farrell, Ph.D. documented the following challenges that set up our boys for failure:
- Education: This is the first generation of boys in U.S. history who will have less education than their dads. Yet male teachers are scarce and boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, drop out of school or be expelled than girls. By 2020, they are expected to receive only 39 percent of the total college degrees.
- Fatherlessness: A third of boys are raised in fatherless homes. This lack of a dad leads to poorer academic and behavioral results for them than it does for girls. A recent study of boys revealed that by the third grade, boys with absent fathers scored lower on every achievement test.
- Emotional health: Depression remains hidden in boys because of the male taboo against the showing of feelings. Boys’ risky, anti-social or violent behavior often serve as a mask for depression. Usually that behavior is punished but the underlying depression not treated. Between the ages of 13 and 20, boys’ suicide rates soar to four times that of girls of the same age.
Many of our young men are failing in massive numbers to reach mature adulthood and we must address these issues. But, the answer is not adhering to the same macho, hyper-masculine stereotypes (human constructs) that led us down a path of male destruction with a lack of diverse male role-models. Our answer, as Christians, must come from the Scriptures.
What does the Bible offer on the subject? The Word of God gives us a plethora of varied masculine stories, unique personalities, and close male bonds. As Christians, we cannot be afraid of our God created masculinities but rather need to celebrate and embrace vulnerable friendships, creative artistry, emotional expression, and nurturing fatherhood. Our identity must come from God’s reminder that we were created in His image and that our purpose is to be co-creators bringing hope, joy, peace, love, and restoration to a broken world. Now that’s a “manly” mission!
I believe it’s time for a Masculinity ReThink in America. Our boys and men are receiving so many mixed messages and definitions when it comes to masculinity, identity, and gender and LET’S BE HONEST, our churches are quite messed-up on this crucial topic as well.
I am writing a book that I believe can be a game changer for our parents, churches, mentors, teachers, pastors, brothers, and friendships. I can get the book published for $8-10,000. I know, it sounds like a lot BUT if I can grow my newsletter list from 80 (where I am now) to 500 and everyone bought a book presale, I’d have the money to make it happen!
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America, “God shed His grace on Thee.” This beloved lyric is a prayer for God’s assistance, an appeal for hope, and a petition on our nations behalf. Together, with God’s help, we can make a difference (be the difference) for our boys and men for generations to come.
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