Maleness is under attack in this country and has been for the past 40 plus years. This is true in the culture at large, as well as in The Church, and it is extremely detrimental to male culture and our society at large. For a few years now people have been addressing this issue in books like The Feminization of American Culture by Ann Douglas, and David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church. The results of this feminization have been disastrous. Men are not real men anymore. Many males themselves don’t even know what it means to be a man because they have no role models. Part of this is due to the fact, that far too many fathers have literally abandoned their children or they are not engaged playing an active role in being a part of their son’s lives. For decades since the industrial revolution, most boys have been surrounded and raised by women who are the caretakers and role models. The message men are getting in spades—consciously and unconsciously– is that they need to be more like women and less like men.
While, there is much to be said about the causes and cures for this phenomenon, for the sake of this argument, we are going to zero in on one particular area: living by feelings. More importantly, how it’s a dangerous thing when men live by them. In his book, Man and Woman in Christ, Dr. Steven Clark states that one of the earmarks of a feminized man is that “he will place an unbalanced emphasis on how he feels (and how other people feel), in turn becoming highly visceral in his personal thinking and reactions”. In other words, because such a high emphasis has been placed on feelings, men have incorrectly learned that they have permission to act on and live by their feelings rather than thinking through logically what is right and wrong.
At first glance it would seem like being more aware or “in tune” to feelings would make guys nicer, gentler, more sympathetic, compassionate and understanding. That can be true for men and it is definitely true for women. Generally, for a woman, feelings lead them to very idealistic and altruistic behaviors like caring for others out of genuine love and concern. But the wild card that gets played in the hand for a guy is that men—being men–often experience different feelings and emotions that women do not. Things like anger, retaliation and vengeance, and even inappropriate violent or sexual urges. Definitely feelings that you don’t want him acting upon.
Think about it. When a man gets angry, he will likely feel the urge to express that anger and want to hit something or someone. Now, if he has been taught that you don’t act according to his feelings, he will stifle that urge and find a different more appropriate response. But, if he has learned either directly or indirectly in a feminized environment that is ok and appropriate to allow your feelings to dictate behavior—rather than choosing to do the right thing—he will swing away. He may also yell, curse, or throw things because that’s what he feels like doing—and to him this is normal and acceptable. While it doesn’t excuse the behavior, it certainly helps to explain the line inside a guy’s head that gets crossed when he hits his wife and calls her horrible names, because in his minds it’s ok. He’s just acting on what he feels and thinks he can’t help it. For males, because they are men with much higher levels of testosterone along with more aggressive instincts and emotions, unleashing their feelings or lashing out can be downright destructive.
Let’s look at the extreme: It is a well-established fact that boys who are raised with no fathers have much higher incidence of criminal behavior. Just take a trip to any prison and ask the men there how many of them grew up with a father present—and acting like a father. Most will say that there was no dad, and if there was one present, he sure didn’t act like one. While the absence of proper role models is a no-brainer in this, what if there is another part of the equation we should consider? What if this lack of a man in the house to provide modeling is only part of it? What if these boys are actually being “feminized” from the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters around them? Could it be that the acting out in violent ways—ways that lead these young men to lives of crime— is a direct result of what Dr. Clark reported? Is it because they have internalized and lived by the notion that feelings and emotions dictate behavior?
Another characteristic that Clark reports, seeing in men who are “feminized”, is that they “will be much more subject to the approval of the group, and thus significantly affected by how others feel and react towards him”. Could this be another ingredient that goes into the dysfunctional decisions young boys make when they join gangs? Young men frequently state that acceptance, approval and belonging are high on the list of why they got involved with a gang in the first place. Is it possible that the lack of a father is only one of the culprits and that the resulting feminization is a large part of the problem too?
Of course, when we look at men who end up in gangs or in prison, we are talking about some real extremes in choices and behaviors. But there are very negative results that manifest in the average, typical husband and father. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from couples who are having issues because the guy isn’t getting a job, isn’t helping around the house, taking care of the kids, investing time and attention with his wife, or willing to make love to the woman simply because he “doesn’t feel like it”. Or worst-case scenario, he ends up in an affair because he had to “be honest and follow his feelings”. Because they have been feminized to think in this broken way, too many men are behaving very badly.
In her book, Reading Your Male: An Invitation to Understand and Influence Your Man’s Sexuality, Mary Farrar talks about Dr. Clark’s findings and how to counter this trend of “feminization”. She says that it’s not really as difficult as one would think. Farrar states:
“The good news is that feminization is easily remedied. It is not some kind of complex psychosis that needs years of counseling. It only requires (1) the permission/encouragement to be manly, and (2) a template, or masculine mentor—a man who visibly models healthy biblical masculinity.”
It’s time that Christians realize this as a problem in The Church and our culture and it’s time to stop demanding that men act and behave like women. We need to start allowing men to be manly men—and, as Farrar says, to give them permission to be men. Real men who man-up, do the right things and who refuse to live by their very deceptive and destructive feelings.