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Men’s Liberation

 

 

 

Actress Uma Thurman, speaking on being a single Mom to Parade magazine July 2006:

The stay-at-home mom is over not just because of women’s liberation but because of men’s liberation from wanting to be the breadwinners.

I think the consequences of “men’s liberation” are just as dramatic and pervasive in this culture as of “women’s liberation.” 

We have men by either active decision or by passive indecision setting a lifestyle requiring more income than their paycheck, or even worse being so lazy as not to be able to hold down a honest job and de facto forcing their wives to work.

We have men not taking active leadership in their home, leaving their wives to try and fill the gap. We have men not working and leading in their churches and the schooling of their children.  We have men who want to be liberated from any form of marital, fatherly or other masculine responsibility through figuratively or literally walking away from wives, children, job, or any situation, difficulty, or relationship that doesn’t suit them.

For all these men I have a few choice words:

Husbands, love your wives… as your own bodies, nourishing and cherishing (Ephesians 5)

But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  (1 Timothy 5)

Be men of courage, be strong. ( 1 Cor 16:13)

 

 

A Sacred Honor

In the novel Brave New World, the protagonist John ”the savage” is attracted to a young woman of “civilized” 26th century London.  He confesses his attraction to her, and she immediately offers herself sexually to him.

Then something happens which she finds inexplicable:  John tells her that he is not worthy to take her as his own.  He explains that in his culture he would need to do some mighty deed to prove that he was a man and worthy to possess her beauty.  She, with a worldview framed by a culture of casual sex without any type of enduring relationships, cannot even understand what he is talking about.  The notion that women should be treated with a sacred honor is unfathomable to her.

Do we have a “Brave New World” today?  In a culture where men can divorce their wives at the drop of a hat, where they can “hook up” on weekends with no expectation of responsibility or commitment, where they can show contempt and disdain for the sacredness of a woman’s body by the millions via the internet?

Where are the men who are so awed by Eve, by the pinnacle of God’s creation, that they would not dare possess her beauty until they were proven worthy?  Who hold her in such honor that they would never profane her body outside marriage?

I remember a men’s Bible study years ago where a newlywed gushed, “I just feel incredibly honored that my wife would give her beautiful body to me.”  How many broken hearts and lives would be saved if men would recover such a sense of honor toward women, a deep, unshakeable soul conviction of profound respect and honor toward all daughters of Eve.

The One Thing That Truly Matters

 

Men.  Oh, they’ll give you the world… But they let the one thing that truly matters slip through their fingers. Typical. They’re so busy being brave, they forget to use their brains.

Those words, spoken by a character in a play written by the fictional character Jack Driscoll within Peter Jackson’s epic King Kong, are supposed to ironically be Jack’s own subconscious telling him what he’s doing wrong with his relationship, or rather lack of relationship, with the heroine Anne Darrow.Unfortunately, it’s a misdiagnosis: The reason Jack can’t tell Anne that he loves her isn’t a lack of brains, but a lack of bravery.  It is a heart problem. Truly intimate, honest relationship does not come easily to the sons of Adam.  Worse yet, they have trouble seeing it as “the one thing that truly matters.”  They will try to substitute nearly anything for soul to soul relationship.  As the character says,  ”they’ll give you the world,” but they will rarely give a woman their soul.

And the contrast between how man and beast handle the beauty is stunning: Kong has no brilliant intellect, no dashing good looks, he’s not even the same species!  And yet, just because he is willing, in his own way, to be honest and real, he forms a deeper bond with Anne than the man who has it all.

What say you, man?  Are you giving the woman in your life your heart and soul?  Do you value the one thing that truly matters?

Three Men that Weren’t and a Gorilla that Was

As one columnist has put it, King Kong is destined to be one of those movies that people generate endless psychobabble about because the nature of the movie allows people to populate its subcontexts with whatever worldview and/or neurosis they happen to be inhabiting at the time. (can we say The Matrix, boys and girls?) Not wanting to be left out, let me jump into the fray with one observation that struck me:

This movie is a presentation of four caricatures, four archetypes, of masculinity. Which is the most authentic man: door #1, door #2, door #3, or door #4? Or, to switch obscure television references, which eligible bachelor will the lovely Miss Ann Darrow choose?

Behind door #1 is Carl Denham. Ambitious, driven, and unethical, Carl is a human steamroller, not in a malevolent way, but merely because he inherently values projects above people. He is the man who has never truly looked into the mirror to see the face of his soul. When he tricks his friend Jack into the ill-fated ocean voyage, he isn’t being mean, he doesn’t even think of it as being disloyal, because his tunnel vision is only on his prize. When two of his coworkers horribly die, he even has to cast their deaths through the lens of obtaining his goal. When he solemnly pledges to finish the movie in honor of the men, at first you think he’s being shallow, or manipulative, or heartless—but really, he’s just being clueless.

Carl just doesn’t get it, anywhere throughout the story. And what a great description of many contemporary men—it’s not that they are deliberately evil toward their friends or their women, they just don’t get it—they don’t understand that life is about people, and about building Christ’s kingdom. Life isn’t about whatever private vision or goal or pinnacle a man sets up as an idol in his heart. As for the prize of Miss Darrow’s heart, Carl will never win a woman’s heart because it will never occur to him that a woman’s heart is worth winning.

Behind door #2 is Bruce Baxter. The most obvious caricature of the bunch, his idol is not any vision or goal, but himself. He, in a way, is the opposite of Carl—he is the man who is constantly and literally looking in the mirror at himself. He is unabashedly self-centered to the core and any thought of others or of self-sacrifice is alien to his soul. Unfortunately, a larger and larger group of men are being bred with exactly this persona, as many frustrated and despairing women can attest to.

What is particularly intriguing about Bruce is that he has a momentary lapse into selflessness to add a plot twist. However, he soon resumes his former self to reassure us that his heart really hasn’t changed its self-fixation. Many men, likewise, will have a momentary lapse into a romantic frenzy and win a woman’s heart, but will soon revert back to type into their original self-centered fugue. Bruce just might win an undiscerning or just plain unlucky woman, but he will never take his eyes off himself in order to care for and keep her heart.

Behind door #3 is Jack Driscoll, the kind of man that Adrien Brody was able to play to perfection. Jack has a noble soul, and his selflessness and love is recognized by all around him. But here’s the rub: although he has looked into the mirror of his soul, he isn’t confident in what he sees, and because he isn’t sure of who he is, his courage to express himself to his woman falters. He is able to risk all for his woman in a dangerous dinosaur infested jungle, but he struggles to be real, to be authentic, in the more dangerous jungle of a romantic relationship. Consequently, Ann ends up feeling just as uncertain and ambivalent about Jack as Jack feels about himself.

To quote from page 87 of Future Men by Douglas Wilson,

A masculine toughness is the only foundation upon which a masculine tenderness may be safely placed. Without a concrete foundation, thoughtfulness, consideration, and sensitivity in men is just simply gross.

…and just to make sure I’m politically incorrect I’ll quote from p. 31:

Women are created by God to be led by a strong man, but marriage is disastrous when a man is not strong enough, or his strength is not biblically informed.

Now isn’t that quote a great segue to door #4, Kong. Was it Kong’s toughness, his “macho”, that attracted the beauty? No, it terrified and repulsed her at first. Was it Jack’s tenderness that repelled Ann? No, she was attracted to it, but she sensed the uncertainty, the timidity, in his soul, and it confused her.

But when Ann starts to realize that this being of monstrous strength and ferocity actually has tenderness in his soul, and that she has both his tenderness and his strength, without even thinking her heart and her figure are compelled to follow him. She starts walking behind Kong, in awe and wonder of this creature who showed her both strength and tenderness in a way that no human male ever had. And the great genius of Jackson’s film-making talent is that we believe it, we see this bond between beauty and strength blossom and grow, with each giving something to the other that the other desperately needed.

Can this be true? Can Kong be a better man as an ape than his human costars? Ann’s heart tells her so. His tenderness is empowered through strength, his strength is guided by tenderness, and Ann and Kong’s world is for a brief moment as it should be, as our lives should be if we are acting like men created in the image of a strong and loving God.

Babes in Arms

In the last few years, there has been an explosion of what I playfully term “babes in arms”, or actresses in very restrictive and undoubtedly uncomfortable clothing wielding high-caliber weapons or just generally kicking butt. Matrix, X-Men, Tomb Raider, Underworld, Catwoman, Aeon Flux, Bloodrayne, Buffy, Xena, Elektra—even Disney got in the act with Kim Possible. These are not just B-movies on the fringe, these are mainstream culture making big money, along with video games and other media.

This phenomenon would have been inconceivable 50 years ago, and probably illegal 100 years ago. What’s the reason? Why are men flocking to this new image of femininity, which is almost a complete antithesis of the beauty that God looks upon as precious?

Although the reasons are undoubtedly complex, let me venture one that both men and women need to think about. It certainly is not my original thought, but let me express it in my own way.

I would start with a very self evident quote from John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart:

If a man does not find those things for which his heart is made, he will look for them in some other way.

Yes, that’s obvious, but maybe not so obvious after all. Eldredge is famous for saying that men must have a battle to fight and an adventure to live. And that is not original with him either, having been echoed in one form or another for millennia. Men must be releasing testosterone and adrenaline—that is the way God has both biochemically and spiritually made them.

So what happens to men, millions of them, in a culture who are not engaging on a daily basis with the challenges, battles, risks, and adventures that are Kingdom-building, God-honoring, Christ-focused, and Spirit-empowered?

They look elsewhere. And where are they looking? Lots of places, like the spectator sports industry, grabbing power and success, and various addictions.

But how about looking for adventure through women? And what kind of women? I recently read a commentator describing his feelings while interviewing Angelina Jolie. He basically said that all men think that they “play it safe”, and never risk enough in their “lives of quiet desperation”, as Thoreau put it. He said being around Jolie a man wasn’t sure whether she was going to have sex with him, murder him, or take him around the world, but he knew one thing for sure, that life wasn’t going to be boring, that he wouldn’t look back and think he missed out.

There it is. If a man thinks he isn’t risking, something within him is impelled to start risking, and the picture of a woman with a kind and gentle spirit, which is of great value to God, doesn’t fit the bill of risk the way a woman in a black catsuit with Uzis in each hand does. If you don’t think you are living on the edge with God, then living on the edge with that kind of woman seems to be a pretty good second choice.

So, if you are a man, what about you? Are you trying to fulfill your God-given spirit of adventure, risk, and battle with a “risky” woman, either in reality or vicariously through media? If you are, you need re-oriented in the basic concept of what God made women for, and you need to find out what kind of real adventure that God made you for.

If you are a woman, don’t be pressed into the mold of the world. Be beautiful, be feminine, be a refuge of delight and peace for your man away from his adventure and battle in the world, instead of unknowingly being a substitute for them.

Greatness & Beauty, Created, Corrupted & Restored

Just got finished listening to a great series of messages by C. J. and Carolyn Mahaney that are available for download here .

I found it interesting that one message directed primarily toward men was on true greatness and how one message directed primarily toward women was on true beauty.

This echoes many other writers, most famously John Eldredge recently, that there is something God-given within the masculine heart that seeks after, knows that it is made for, and is not satisfied without, greatness, and likewise something within the feminine heart that is made for beauty.

In men, the God-given desire for greatness has been corrupted into what Eldredge likes to refer to as striving after “small stories”—greed, power, lust, sports, self-focused achievements. Most clearly through Jesus, we see that true greatness, the greatness that God defines, the greatness that God made men for, is the path of servanthood and humility.

In women, the beauty that the apostle Peter describes in 1 Peter 3:4 as precious to God is that of a gentle and quiet spirit. This has been corrupted into the brash, competitive, and self-focused vanity of external appearances.

Our relationships have been corrupted as well. Every man wants to be thought of as great, respected, by the woman in his life(because of this seed of greatness within his soul), and wants to be able to glory in the beauty of his wife(recognizing the beauty that God has intended for her). Men have corrupted this into domination and abuse of women, and focusing on and abusing their external beauty instead of seeking and cherishing their inner beauty.

Likewise women want their men to be enthralled by their beauty, not abusing it or comparing it to others. And as a literal reading of the Hebrew of Genesis 3:16 points out, women’s desire is now corrupted into wanting to rule over their husband instead of wanting to join as his help-meet in God’s vision of greatness for him.

So, in a nutshell, this is what was intended and where we have went wrong, and also a path back, through Christ a path back for men to seeing that true greatness, the greatness that the regenerated heart truly longs for, is through servanthood and cherishing our wives’ true beauty, and for women to relish and cultivate their true beauty and see and support the greatness in their husbands.