The Damning Effects Of The Masculinity Movement

[What can I say, I'm on a religion kick today.]I read Wild at Heart in college. Everyone did, or at least, a lot of the guys did. I could spend weeks discussing abstract principles and specific examples of how memes tend to crop up and sweep through Southern evangelical circles like fire. It's the same way fashion and music trends appear seemingly out of nowhere and consume high schoolers or twentysomethings or any given age group, only the church patterns carry more weight because there's an inherent and unspoken perception that the thing you're participating in isn't just new or popular but also Important and Meaningful and Connected to the Fate of Your Immortal Soul. It's why everyone my age from that background still knows the words to "Flood"; sometimes, these things just happen. In college, what happened was John Eldredge's Wild at Heart. It wasn't just Eldredge's writing style that put me off, or the fact that the book seemed to have been hastily cobbled together and not edited at all. I like to think I have a healthy respect for accuracy and language, and reading about "Jerry McGuire" didn't exactly inspire confidence, since if the author couldn't bother to fact-check his pop culture references, what assurance did I have that he wasn't on theologically shaky ground as well? But my biggest problem with the book was the manner of the responsibility it seemed to be calling me to, and the fact that years of not inconsiderable education and thought, not to mention a set of loving and God-fearing parents, hadn't taught me what Eldredge and others in the burgeoning masculinity movement said was my real purpose. Apparently, while I'd been learning and trying to be a good person, I was supposed to be preparing myself for some kind of epic battle for the heart of a woman and possibly the fate of all mankind. The Christian camps I attended in the summers of my youth had never skimped on the Braveheart parallels, but while they used Mel Gibson's movie mainly as a terrifying example of sacrifice for a cause, it wasn't until the masculinity movement kicked off that writers and preachers began to see a whole new side of William Wallace for modern Christian men to mimic. Eldredge wrote that most Christian men believe God wants them to be "nice guys," and there's apparently an inherent failure in this that I never really saw. Most of Jesus' teachings and the epistles of the New Testament did seem to be about being, you know, nice. But Eldredge is just a misguided man of passion next to Marc Driscoll, who through the Mars Hill Church in Seattle is apparently doing his damnedest to ruin my religion. Driscoll has said that the modern church has turned out "a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys." And just in case you're wondering if Driscoll is the kind of person who uses words like "dudes" and "chicks" ironically, he isn't: "Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks." Driscoll's other quotes are equally enlightening: "Jesus was not a long-haired, effeminate-looking dude," but a man with "big biceps." Real men are "dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes." There's also a terrifying group called GodMen, all one word. The most worrisome part of this noxious promotional video is the moment at around 2:40 when one of the men in the crowd at the gathering said that he's preparing to be a pastor and as such has thought he needed to be more meek and humble, but he's now had a change of heart. That's right: This man who had been contemplating entering the ministry and pursuing Jesusian qualities that are actually cited in the Beatitudes has decided not to do that because he's been misled by a part of the masculinity movement. There are two main problems with this whole thing, namely, that the movement creates a false definition for masculinity and then says that it must be pursued. But this is such a dangerous, damning road to walk. It's a divisive tactic born of branding and the desire to sell books, and to mistake the movement's sectarian call for segregation among believers damages the men at its center and would seem to ignore the God they claim to follow. Yet it's also easy to see why the movement has such a foothold in the souls of men my age: It promises power and revolution, and talks about swords and being valiant. We are a generation scattered further afield than our parents; we search for answers and yearn for something like guidance, but this isn't it. This is wrong, and mean, and small-minded, and it plays into an idea of stereotypical maleness that has nothing to do with manhood.