Where are the real men?
“Men, this country is hungry for real men.”
The above is from Collin Campbell and his Meat For Men blog. Campbell tells us he is an “AUTHOR, SPEAKER, and AUTHORITY ON BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND FAMILY.” I’ve used the all-caps form because that is the way it is shown on his blog. I guess he doesn’t want us confused about his status.
I suppose the first time I pondered the question as to whether I was a real man was when, as a teenager, I heard Mick Jagger satirically declare that I needed to smoke the same cigarettes as him to be a (real) man. The question came to a head in the early 80s when the book Real men don’t eat quiche” became a best seller. Sadly, by the time the book came out I had already tried quiche so my only hope is that, having had some, it is not like the unpardonable sin. It would be too bad if it was not possible to repent.
Since that time, the idea of “real men” has really taken hold in the culture. There are all kinds of rules out there to find out if I am a real man. I found a list of 7 ways to know I am a real man; I also found a list of ten ways and twenty ways. Sadly, I also read that there are no real men anymore; feminism having killed them all off.
Assuming it is not too late, there are suggestions for things real men do and don’t do. Some ideas seem pretty good; real men don’t hit women for instance. Others I am not so sure of. I’ve found web sites that assure me that real men cook, real men eat kale (presumably not in quiche), real men pray the rosary, real men wear gowns (?) and many other helpful suggestions. There are suggestions on the negative side too. It seems that real men don’t swear, real men don’t trust robots, real men hate sugar and also many other ideas on things real men avoid.
Eventually Christians, like Mr. Campbell above, began to chime in with real men lists and, frankly, we are well on our way to dominating the “real men” market. It started pretty well when we were told that real men love Jesus but the list of do’s and don’ts has been getting longer all the time. There are now quite a few ministries, like that above, dedicated to helping us all be real men. Of course, we have an ace up our sleeve in the “real men” contest. Not only can we be real men but we can be “biblical” as we do it. I suppose being real men and biblical men at the same time is the best, huh?
It is a funny thing but I’ve noticed that, whatever the definition of real men is; serious or absurd; Christian or secular; progressive or conservative, it always seems to be exactly what the guy making the list already is or does. I couldn’t find a single list where the definition didn’t have a “follow me” theme to it.
As a missionary I lived 13 years in what is called a shame culture; a culture where shame is a motivating force in regulating behavior. At times the use of shame as a motivator was absurd, at time tragic, at times even infuriating. Frankly, it appears to me that, among Christians, a shame culture has crept in regarding real men. We are told over and over that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t follow the list of things the speaker gives us that make us real men; anything else makes us fake men.
In Jesus I see someone who was never afraid to speak truth, never shy about saying “follow me”, but who never resorted to shame as a motivator. I am sure there are things that men ought to do that make us good men, or better men. But can we drop the real men language? All men are real men. We may have, and in fact all do have, our values and practices screwed up at times, but it doesn’t make us fake, it simply makes us fallen humans.
Men, whatever you believe, whatever you think, whatever you do, you are real enough that Jesus thought you were worth going to the cross for; and that is about as authenticating as it gets on being a real man.
You want to know a funny thing? With a few keystrokes and a click on find and replace this could be about real women just as easily. I’d like to hope that the reality that Jesus thinks we, men and women, are all as real as we can get will motivate us to drop the shame language and set a course where love, not shame, flows from us.