The Oxford word of the year for 2018 is “toxic”(see more here). The number 1 word associated with “toxic’ is chemicals, which makes sense. The second word associated with “toxic” is masculinity. This is a result of oppressed narratives intensified exponentially by intersectionality. In this system, one’s classification determines what level they are the oppressed or the oppressor. So, if one is a White Christian male, then he is the highest level oppressor. He is racist, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. He oppresses everyone under him no matter if he acknowledges it (or actually does any oppressing) or not. He deserves to be shamed by the culture. On the other hand a Black female gender-nonconforming Lesbian would be and the lower end of the scale of being oppressed. Likewise this person is oppressed by others and there’s nothing this person can do about it. This person deserves to be honored by the culture.
What’s more, the American Psychological Association (APA) came out with new guidelines for counseling boys and men denouncing “traditional” masculinity. An article commenting on these new guidelines written by Stephanie Pappas in January of 2019 summarizes the problem, “The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” Red flags erect in Christian’s minds at the idea of new guidelines for a particular “gender” coming from the APA. But a red flag is not enough.
The APA’s understanding of masculinity is fundamentally flawed at the worldview level and their proposed problems with “traditional” masculinity are easily dispelled with Christ’s example. Several questions still have to be answered: what is masculinity? Is what the APA said wrong? How should Christians think? How then shall we live? We will begin with a worldview analysis. Then we will explore a passage exemplifying Christ’s masculinity. Finally, we will conclude with some applicable remarks.
A worldview constructs one’s purpose for their present, their longing for the future, and their honoring of past. A worldview can be discovered with four questions: where do we come from? What’s wrong with the world? How can it be fixed? Where are we headed? The APA’s new guidelines form a worldview of masculinity diametrically opposed to Christ.
Where does masculinity come from?
The very first guideline answers this question for the APA, “Psychologists strive to recognize that masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms.” Masculinity is merely a social construct. Well, they clarify that it’s “masculinities” because masculinity is a term that they cannot really define. This dilemma is further delineated in their application to psychologists, “Psychologists aspire to help boys and men over their lifetimes navigate restrictive definitions of masculinity and create their own concepts of what it means to be male, although it should be emphasized that expression of masculine gender norms may not be seen as essential for those who hold a male gender identity.” A reader leaves this advice swimming in a cesspool of stipulations. More qualifications preside in this advice than a popular Christian singer explaining the Biblical view of homosexuality.
According to the Bible, masculinity comes from God as a part of His original plan in being created in His image (Gen 1:26-27). Masculinity is not something we can inherent based on having a certain anatomy. Rather, it is the quality of taking on the God-given attributes of being a man. (1 Cor. 16:13). Douglas Wilson succinctly defines biblical masculinity as “the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility” (Wilson, Douglas. Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012.) So, having a certain anatomy makes you physically a man, yes; however, it does not force you to act in the way God designed a man to be.
What’s wrong with masculinity?
As aforementioned above, the article sums up the problem with “traditional” masculinity as being four-fold: stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression. It then cites much research of the end of this perverse masculinity. Men are more likely to commit violent crimes. Men are more likely to commit suicide. Men are less likely to seek medical help (especially psychological). As an aside, one has to wonder how they could conduct meaningful research if the definition of men is a social construct. Where does one have to land on the gender “spectrum” to be included in this research in the first place?
Also, there is a problem in causality and teleology (teleology is the study of ends, or main goal of something. You might hear the famous statement “the end justifies the means). The APA’s assumption is that social construct led to this stoic, aggressive, domineering masculinity which then led to the horrible outcomes of suicide, violence and self-neglect. The causality between “traditional” masculinity and their claimed end results can be easily debated. Causality itself is hardly provable; however, if one denies any idea of sin, these negative ends have to result from an Ichabod society, rather than a rejection of the Creator. One is hard pressed to argue that any man is competing (a means) in order to commit suicide (end). No one can say that men lack in emoting in order to neglect medical assistance. These ends may have been unintended results of the vices of “traditional” masculinity; however, they were not the men’s goal in behaving in those ways. If the APA misses men’s telos for indulging in the negativity of traditional masculinity, they can never give lasting solutions.
Any student of the Bible would agree that stoicism, hyper-competitiveness, dominance, and aggression are sinful behaviors (competitiveness, here, being a means to dominance). One might think of the Sermon on the Mount or the book of Proverbs denouncing such attitudes and actions. And the Bible would also give more. The telos for all these behaviors is self-exaltation, or the sin of pride. Men lack in emoting because vulnerability is shameful and not in line with their goal of self-exaltation. This is not as a result of poor socialization (and social construction) from other men, but rather as a result of rebellion against a holy God.
Queen Vashti’s refusal to see King Ahasuerus is not to subvert the patriarchy (such thinking is anachronistic). The king called her to exalt himself, and she refused in order to exalt herself. The ensuing competition for dominance was not a result of social construct (nor was it tied to one particular gender), but rather it resulted from sin, namely, pride. In other words, masculinity is not inherently the problem, but rather sinful men abusing the role of masculinity. Now these same vices detracted by the APA (namely, competition and dominance) are being used in intersectionality where the different classes compete to see whose the most oppressed. The oppressed then dominate the oppressors who then become the oppressed. This leads to an enduring degenerating downward spiral.
The main problem is people taking advantage of their societal status as a “thing to be grasped” to oppress others. I agree with the APA’s assessment of “traditional” masculinity being problematic. I would agree that several men have misused their societal status. But the answer cannot be to allow others to gain and misuse their higher societal status. So what is the answer? See part two.