This article has been causing a bit of a kerfluffle on social media, “play the man you are,” mostly because it speaks of the biblical concept of “effeminacy” in reaction to the cultural notion of “toxic masculinity,” androgyny, and assorted other gender erasures.
So if you want my opinion, which I’m sure you do, I think the truth lives somewhere in the middle, somewhere between rampant homophobia, fear of effeminacy, and the real truth of toxic masculinity. That’s a real thing too.
All in good humor here, but somebody once told me, “there’s nothing in the middle of the road, but road kill.” Yeah, I get that, everyone hates the middle. The thing is, there really are some very perverse distortions of masculinity in the world, distortions that have led to many things we try to label, “toxic masculinity.”
“Real men never ask for help,” for example, has led to staggering suicide rates. Also, homelessness, addiction, mental health problems, and a decreased life span due to an unwillingness to seek preventative medical care.
That’s toxic masculinity.
Also toxic, “real men don’t have feelings,” except strong, powerful ones like anger. So if you’re hurt, sad, or frightened the only appropriate masculine way to express it is through anger. Men are such verbs too, fixers, so anger must be productive, and that often leads to inappropriate violence in those who don’t have healthy outlets or other coping skills.
That’s toxic masculinity.
While the Bible certainly speaks of effeminacy, it speaks just as loudly and clearly about how, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” …Acts 7
Or perhaps Isaiah, “For I knew that you are stubborn; your neck is iron and your forehead is bronze.”
Or 2 Kings, “But they would not listen, and they stiffened their necks like their fathers”
Or Exodus, “I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people..”
There are many many, more, but I’ll just shut up now. Obviously I’ve had numerous encounters with the stiff necked ones…The point being, the Bible speaks far more about the dangers of stiff-necked, stubborn, hard-hearted men, then it does about effeminacy and the alleged danger of being too soft.
In fact, what leads so many men to reject masculinity in the first place? Having suffered the ill affects of toxic masculinity. Abusive or absent fathers, alcoholic men, and child sexual abuse. People’s spirits just recoil, and conciously or unconcously, if this is what it means to be a man then I am not one.
Women do something very similar, if being a woman amounts to being weak, out of control, and passively cruel and abusive, then where can I just go get my T shots?? I mean, whether we are aware of it or not, the narratives and deceptions we live and learn, impact us.
The solution is not more toxic masculinity or more delicate feminity or more rigid gender roles, the solution is actually allowing the Lord to heal the child within you, to allow Him to redfine how you perceive your own identity.
I have seen it, felt it, sensed it, I’m a mom, that child within people cries out to me sometimes. There are men so damaged they have a little boy inside being completely rejected, either because they fear he is too soft or they fear he is too evil, or they fear he represents so much pain they just want to avoid him entirely. Some are real stoics, the very definition of manly and some are more effeminate, but they both suffer from the very same affliction.
And the solution is to hand those broken bits to the Lord, to allow Him to heal you, to hand you beauty for ashes, to care for and nurture the child within, to help you build your true identity in Jesus Christ. We are who God says we are and who we are is good because He is good. Who He made us as male and female is also good.
So do the Greg Morse, Doug Wilson army of anti effeminates actually do anything to help people heal? I don’t know, not really, because they’re trying to play off of fear and condemnation. Perfect love not only casts out fear, it also heals. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does. It’s the only thing that ever has.
A bit ironic too, because forever pontificating about how the effeminate won’t go to heaven, as if the threat of hell should now cause a fear based, reactionary, rush to embrace masculinity is kind of the very epitome of toxic masculinity in the first place.
Fear, power, and control are not masculine traits at all, they are actually just tools of the weak, forms of bullying, ways of wiping the outside of the cup quickly. You want to promote genuine strength, genuine power, genuine freedom, you actually need the bold courage and healing power of love.
That’s the truth of masculinity, He actually laid down His life and hung on the cross for us all, to rescue the broken-hearted, to set the captives free. His authority is protective, it is compassionate, and it does not flow from promoting fear, it flows from taking responsibility.
It’s a strange paradox indeed, but male or female, the path to authority is actually responsibility, in its more casual form known as “blame.” A whole, whole lot of people in the world today don’t understand that His authority flows right into those who take responsibility, because we all serve Somebody. We’ll either be ruled by Christ or we’ll be ruled by the broken bits within us.
Men since forever, (including their sisters,) have always sought power and control, authority, while trying to avoid anything to do with accountability, responsibility, “blame.” The thing is His authority flows right to those who take responsibility and the first step to taking responsibility is to admit you can’t do it alone and to surrender all to Him.
Masculinity has a very protective nature, it provides cover, it’s sacrificial, it’s gentle, it’s patient, and a beautiful thing the world needs to embrace more. But simply rejecting effeminacy, denying the truth of toxic masculinity, and implying that more masculinity will somehow get you into heaven, is just stiffnecked…..