During a little adventure in Hot Springs, SD, my fatherly influence was again confirmed.
Archive for the ‘Fathering’ Category
Casting Crowns arrived on the music scene in 1999. By a long but steady ascent, they have become one of the few Evangelical bands to move between Christian and secular radio, touting positive messages for general audiences. As such, their lyrics hold special insight into values popular among conservative American believers. Among the consolidation of virtues Casting Crowns is responsible for is a set of gender expectations for men. In particular, their code turns on concepts of moral integrity, inner piety, protection of women and children, and evangelism.
In 2011 Casting Crowns released the single “Courageous,” which accompanied the film by the same name. With a story about a police officer in the background, the song laments the loss of traditional manliness, when men “were warriors on the front lines, standing unafraid.” Now, men are “watchers on the sidelines while our families slip away.” The golden days of patriarchy have waned into the dark days of men without backbone and purpose. The refrain that Christian men are “taking back the fight” does not refer to a program to subject women. Rather, the fight is directed at the heart, turning to a life of prayer. This battle to regain the authoritative self starts with the regaining of the authentic self, “on our knees with lifted hands.” Those who “reignite the passion,” the song goes on to say, “become warriors.” Accordingly, the battle for one’s place in the family has been internalized to take place on the war-field of the heart, in which lethargy and cowardice are put to death via prayer. The song ends with the promise, “In the war of the mind I will make my stand.”
Casting Crown’s inner masculinity continues to the be the basis for external masculine honor in 2014’s “Heroes.” The woman of the song expresses her valor in financial ways, supporting her two children (notably after her breadwinning husband abandons her). The high school boy in the second verse “walks against the flow” in fairly nebulous moral ways, not following “the hopeless road” but “willing to stand alone.” His manhood comes through principally in a moralistic separation from the world (though this is somehow equated with seeing the school as “his mission field”). Again, the battle is fought in internal terms, battling for moral integrity through self-discipline and prayer.
Through both songs one hears the moralistic theme of Promise Keepers set in the militaristic language of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Thus lead vocalist Mark Hall confesses his penchant for uber-manly movies like Braveheart, saying, “I think that’s my spirit in me longing to be the warrior that God created me to be.” Yet his battle-loving language is simply the key through which he sings of a longing to return to traditional values beginning with the conquest of self. Notably, this sort of Evangelicalism is still psychological and inward-facing while much of the rest of Christianity is turning toward the social sciences and political action.
Lazarus, after watching the episode about the Green Goblin:
“A boy turns into his dad. He turns into a different person, he gets bigger, and he becomes a bad guy.”
Every once in a while I have to report on a feel-good story. This one comes from the Black Hills in South Dakota, where a boy got a truck off of his father, who was pinned underneath. The father told the boy to throw it into “racing gear,” which earlier he had told his son was the meaning of the “R.” The father lived, and the boy is being honored as a local celebrity. The full story here.
“liberalism,” def.: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, disapproves of your sexual proclivities.
It was no minor miracle. Last night I persuaded my wife to watch Year One, a comedy starring Jack Black and Michael Cera. In it two primitive tribesmen leave their village only to find themselves in the midst of biblical salvation history. The poop jokes abounding throughout the film were, predictably, hilarious. My wife’s reaction to the humor was, predictably, cool. What the two of us could agree on in any case was Year One‘s utter disregard for the Genesis narrative.
In the movie the two protagonists run into Abraham, who is in the process of sacrificing Isaac. Isaac is a mouthy, sex-crazed profligate, so it’s understandable why the father of all nations wants to slay the youngster. When Black and Cera break up the would-be sacrifice, Abraham believes it to be divine intervention, and the two men are taken into the Hebrew clan. Of course, the people of Abraham practice all manner of deviant behavior: his daughter is a lesbian, another son practices buggery. A few scenes later Abraham gets it in his mind that he must circumcise every male among him, not so much for covenantal purposes as for a quasi-religious way to address sexual lust. Throughout the visit to the proto-Israelite camp, Black and Cera endure Abraham’s diatribes against the people of Sodom. The sexually depraved Sodomites are a people hideous to the prudish Abraham, and loathing for them drips from his mouth.
Casting the biblical patriarch as a sexually repressed sadist makes sense only in the gospel of Jack Black. Denial of any personal liberty represents sin. Numerous freaks lie along the path to wholeness, but the real problem are the puritanical. Deliverance comes in the form of antiauthoritarian expression and the genuine friendship of those who condone one’s animalistic passions (which turns out to be the overtly didactic conclusion of Year One).
The flick got me thinking about Abraham’s masculine identity, in any case. If he didn’t establish his gendered self-identity as a pathologically aggressive killjoy, then how did he? Of course, there is something to be said about his slippery personality when it came to interacting with pharoahs (Gen 12) and kings (Gen 20), not to mention his passive but self-serving attentiveness to his own wife (Gen 16). More positively, he lives into his calling to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12:2-3). In stark contradition to Year One, Abraham is wholly on the side of Sodom. He saves their people from wholesale defeat and slavery (Gen 14). When the LORD intends to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, it is Abraham who comes to their rescue, interceding on their behalf (Gen 18). That is to say, Abraham’s posture is not one of self-righteous condescension at all, but one of deep and abiding hospitality.
In the end, Abraham does far better than tolerate the Sodomites. He intervenes for them who are so remote from the divine covenant. That is a form of friendship quite impossible for Year One, caught in its haze of blasphemy and methane, to comprehend.
For as long as I’ve been doing men’s studies, researchers have claimed that the birth control pill for men is only a few years away. That promise has never materialized. The problem has to do with the tenaciousness of the male reproductive system, which produces 1,000 sperm each second (compared to the one ovum a month in women).
Nevertheless, CNN reports, the thirty studies done in the last thirty years may be about to pay off. A study of 1,000 Chinese men achieved 95% success with a hormonal injection. That same rate has not been duplicated in the United States, though contraceptive gels are looking like a promising option.
In any case, wide-scale studies have yet to be started, meaning we’re still five years or more away from having the pill for men available.
It takes no more effort than tuning in to the evening news in order to find bad news about men: embezzelment, abuse, theft, corruption, cheating, molestation, lies. But that isn’t the only word. Here are a couple other sources to hear about positive things men are doing with their lives.
Tom Matlock founded the Good Men Project, devoted to capturing stories from men about the key decisions they’ve made to become honorable fathers, sons, husbands and friends. A DVD and a book have each been released, and an introductory video is available online.
Sidney Poitier recently released his third memoir, entitled Life beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter. Above and beyond his breakthrough roles as a black actor, Poitier testifies to a life of courage and character, and reveals insight about his own father, whose lack of education and opportunity never kept him from passing on remarkable character to his children.