I’m weary of the constant wooing I receive from the manly religious men among us with their Flintstone-like portions of meats and campfire bonding sessions. It makes me feel like we of the more copious nether regions are seen as nothing more than Neanderthals, and these meaty methods are the only ways our primal male minds can be attracted to God. My problem isn’t with meat—heaven forfend—it’s that most of the ideas of manhood they’re selling (and I’m sure this kind of naïve attempt at connecting applies to you of the double XX chromosome as well) come from personal and cultural experiences, not the bible.
Woe is Men
We hearken back to some 50’s ideal manliness with wide, nostalgic eyes, an ideal that has as much to do with biblical Christianity as what type of deodorant one uses. We believe men are those who hunt and spit and tug heartily at their crotches before eating a rare steak on the back of a horse. It’s not, for instance, considered as manly to be an artist, or if you don’t give one red cent of care about sports-ing. And while I love all the meats to an almost disturbing level, and everything my culture says about the male of the species screams at me that it’s manly to do so, I reject that idea personally, but most definitely as a Christian.
If you love sports and beer and fixing broken cars, I’m not saying those are bad things. They’re not. At all. I’m saying that we aren’t a cookie-cutter sex, and our churches should feel foolish for treating us as if we were. All these ideas, on which a multitude of books are being written, come from a place of the personal preference of the Lumberjack-ian believers who frowns at others for liking things like video games when, for example, walking around in historically silly hats and putting a ball into a hole is considered a good time (And I’ve nothing against golf, or sports in general. I’m just making the point that some might find that to be a waste of time too).
The Lie of the Disappearing Man
Here’s the thing: We haven’t stopped being men any more than any other generation just because someone says so while holding a bible. And I’m personally weary of being made to feel guilty because I don’t fit every facet of a culture whose ways are fading’s definition of a man. A friend of mine said in a recent conversation on this topic that he doesn’t “have time to learn what the cultural definition of a man is, I’m too busy trying to put food on my kid’s table. Give me freedom.” I both love and agree with that sentiment. What frightens me is that Christian’s who are about grace, but whose men’s ministries are just a load of rules, lists of things to be better at, and lectures about stepping up are confusing a generation of guys.
I’m sure there are decent ministries out there for guys that aren’t like what I’ve described above. If so, God bless you and keep you. Maybe you provide a safe place for men who are having a tough time in whatever way, and you regularly give them the Gospel rather than superficial advice about some nebulous notion of maleness. You would roll your eyes at the idea that being a man means knowing how to tie a tie or cook a steak properly. It isn’t loving all things car-shaped and having the sharpest pocket knife. Those are just things. They’re things people do and like, even—gasp—women.
On Manly Church Attendance
And, if you’re still with me, here’s some important information for you from someone who once owned a muscle car and has a pretty awesome beard: The problem isn’t that men aren’t attracted to church because there aren’t enough manly things going on there. To paraphrase another thing my friend from above said: Men haven’t forgotten how to be men. We’re just tired of being given a set of rules to follow that we’re ultimately going to fail at. You can call us losers. You can say we’re quitters. You can even mutter under your breath that we’re sissies. Because, honestly, we’ve given up caring what you think. That’s not sarcasm, that’s the sad truth.
Instead, give us Jesus.
What I need to hear, whether I know it or not, is the Gospel. When I feel like I’m drowning in my struggle with sin, I need to hear that God loves me, so I can breathe. When my marriage is rocky, I need to know that Jesus died for sinners like us, to soften my heart. To get me to care about your church or ministry, I don’t need ten ways to be a better manly-man man. I need to know that I’m accepted and cherished by the God of the Universe. I don’t need your opinion on comic book readers in their thirties, and proper shoe shining practices. I need a brother (or sister) who will remind me of who God is and to trust that his Spirit can make me the individual human man-type person he wants me to be.