Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Christian Manhood

I think Rod Dreher makes a good point when he says that evangelization tools like this are a sign of a deeper need. Ironically, the faith of King David, Saint Stephen the protomartyr, Charlemagne, Richard Cœur de Lion, and Dietrich Bonoeffer is struggling to deal with a deficit of authentic manliness. This is more than a Christian phenomenon though. It is an American one. A combination of the deliberate confusion of gender traits, the rise of single-parent households, and increased dependency have created a generation that doesn't know how to be men, or where to go to learn.

Fight Club and Wild At Heart are both great books dealing with manhood, albeit from drastically different perspectives. Rod talks a little bit with Fight Club and its hyper-masculine nihilism. In their attempt to discover what they lack, its characters embrace the worst faults of manhood rather than remain mild and boring. This is because a godless worldview has little to offer as an alternative. The solution for the hyper-masculine is not to become feminine. That is the direction taken by too many today, and young men, never the most faithful churchgoers, look around and see little in modern churches that meets their needs. Church is like too much like school, another place ill-suited for young men. It is a place where you are told to be good, quiet, patient, and safe. Jesus was Mr. Rogers and we should all aspire to be like him. There is a worship song that gets on my nerves every time I hear it for precisely this reason. One line describes Christ on the cross as "like a rose, trampled on the ground." I hate that. My God isn't a rose. He wasn't some fragile little victim dragged to a cross against his will. He was a man of such power that the hired thugs sent to bring him back fell on their faces at his very name. HE chose the cross, not his persecutors.

That is the message that John Eldredge tries to convey in Wild at Heart. The traits that lead to a Fight Club world are not inherently bad. In fact, they are the very traits God wants his men to have. They must be controlled, but not ignored or denied. Christian churches don't have to throw MMA parties to teach manliness. They just have to rediscover a balanced view of their own savior and history. Buddy Christ has been tried and found wanting. It isn't easy, and its much simpler to say than to do, but it is necessary.

Oh, and by the way, there are some Christians doing it pretty effectively.