Book Plunge: The Toxic War On Masculinity Part 4

Is culture fair towards boys? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I hear about problem students at school. Inevitably, they’re boys. These are boys that seem to always act up in class and parents can’t figure out what’s going on. Sometimes, I think I also know what the problem is.

They’re boys.

No. It’s not that being a boy is a problem, but it’s that the schooling system we have today is much more geared towards girls. Sit at a desk and be quiet and don’t move and do your work that way. Many boys would rather be active and they are gunning inside of themselves to be active. Also, if they don’t find themselves challenged, they will either make artificial challenges, like I did, or they will cause trouble, like I didn’t.

This started more and more when fathers went off to work and sons were left at home often to be raised by the mother. This isn’t to say that a mother can’t raise a son, (See this book for instance) but there is a challenge as a mother can’t pass on masculinity. That’s one reason many excellent single mothers I still would encourage to get male role models for their sons that they can personally interact alongside.

Pearcey says that the way boys were was shown in the novels of the day. Boys were more and more being scamps. Think of something like Huckleberry Finn. The good boys were boring and the bad boys were going off and having adventures.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spirit and spunk. Boys are on average more physically active and aggressive than girls. Many of them love to pretend fight, to play competitive games, to be a hero. But being high-spirited is not the same as misbehaving. The bad-boy books taught boys that being good was boring and girly—that to be a “real” boy meant to break the rules and defy adult standards of behavior.

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (p. 144). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In many cases, this led to an escape to the wilderness because home was where femininity reigned. Why did Thoreau go out to Walden Pond? To get away from femininity. What about the classic tale of Rip Van Winkle? Just go and look and see what he had to say about his wife!

Why were men going out west? Not just to find gold and riches, but to get away from centers of femininity. Real manhood was to be found out on the open range. One went out into nature to get in touch with one’s manhood. It sure wasn’t going to happen in civilization. Yet Pearcey says about this that:

Yet, instead of escaping into boy culture, a more biblical response would have been to recognize that Christianity does not strip away the virtues of boyhood—the natural drive many boys have to fight, to compete, to build forts, to win. Instead, it calls men to direct those masculine traits to fight evil, overcome sin, protect those they love, and strategize how to advance biblical truth in the world. Christianity does not suppress men’s thirst for risk and adventure but redirects it to eternal goals.

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (p. 151). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This idea of escaping femininity and the noble savage even impacted the formation of the Boy Scouts.

Today few people remember that scouting was also originally framed as a means of liberating boys from the world of women. A 1914 article distributed by the Boy Scouts argued that, at a certain age, a boy “slips the apron-strings” and discovers “a world in which petticoats are scorned and an attempt at petticoat rule is resented.” As one historian explains, scouting was intended to be “a boy’s liberation movement, to free young males from women, especially from mothers.”

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (pp. 152-153). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

By the way, Pearcey doesn’t have anything against the Scouts. She says she was a cub scout leader for a year and loved it. What needs to be asked though is why was there a need to have an idea of a noble savage? What were boys not just running to, but running from?

Think about things like Dude Ranches as well. Men are needing to find masculinity and are not thinking they can find it at home. They think it is out there in the wild.

Well, what about Jesus? Many men don’t identify with Jesus who is often seen as weak. What about gentle Jesus meek and mild? As Pearcey says in response:

It’s true that Jesus described himself as meek: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29 KJV). But in the first century, the meaning of the word “meek” (Greek: praus) was quite different from what it is today. A Greek military leader named Xenophon used the word to describe war horses that were well trained—strong and spirited yet highly disciplined. Socrates said a meek person was one who could argue his case without losing his temper. Plato used the word to describe a victorious general who was merciful to a conquered people. Aristotle referred to a meek person as someone concerned about justice but whose anger does not degrade into revenge or retaliation. The common theme in all these uses of the word is power under control—which certainly describes Jesus better than any saccharine Victorian image.

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (pp. 156-157). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Power under control is not what many of us think of when we think of Jesus as meek.

She ends this section with a battle cry hopefully men can get behind, as well as women.

We are called to engage in the battle for the advancement of the kingdom . . . employing all the natural and spiritual gifts with which we’ve been equipped to fight against hunger, poverty, and ignorance and to fight for truth, life, and justice . . . to redeem culture and transform nations.

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (p. 159). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I will certainly take part in this battle and hope I already am.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)