The University of Wisconsin-Madison enjoys trying new things. They pride themselves as being “a catalyst for the extraordinary” (according to their website). Their guiding principle is that “education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom” (again from the website). In keeping with this principle, they have tried to influence their students thinking on how cultures relate to each other, taking stands against violence, rape, and racism. Some of their programs have been lauded. Others have been ridiculed.
Last fall, they began a new program, building on the foundation of these values and influences. They called this program, “Men’s Project”, answering the question “What is masculinity”. You can find information at https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/news/campus/mens-project/. They hope to explore all the many expressions and types of masculinity. Sam Johnson of UW says, “We know that men are underrepresented on campus when it comes to campus leadership roles and getting needed medical and mental health services. They’re also overrepresented in acts of violence and use of drugs and alcohol. With this program, we want to find out why this is and how we can change that culture campus-wide to encourage healthier expressions of masculinities.” She insists that there is no rule of how a man is supposed to be. Therefore, the cohort will explore each other’s experience to create awareness about unhealthy interaction and how perceptions of masculinity “impact the student experience, including gender-based violence on campus, alcohol, vulnerability, media sexuality, and relationships.”
I applaud the University of Wisconsin for trying to change culture for the better. They see needs all around them, and they do what they can. However, their efforts are misguided and could produce more harm than they think.
What is masculinity? According to Merriam-Webster, it is the “qualities appropriate or usually associated with a man.”
Well, this doesn’t help us much. What are these “qualities appropriate” to a man? What makes a man masculine? The answer to this question has changed over the years. In the past, a man was someone who was strong, authoritative, who was a provider, who didn’t show unnecessary emotions. He led his home and his country, but didn’t mind taking some time to smoke and drink with his peers. Later, men were asked to become more in-touch with their emotions, but they were derided as not able to be good leaders in home and society. They were “all that is wrong in this world.” They were playboys, not able to keep their desires in check. They were irrational, not able to make good decisions about children and education. They got in the way of advancement.
Both past and present cultural expectations were wrong. Now, universities around the US, including the University of Wisconsin, are calling for masculinity studies to counter the harm that has been done in cultural expectations.
Unfortunately, each program insists that there are no rules for what is masculinity, but everyone who identifies as male can build their own masculine legacy, as long as they are not violent and they make good citizens. This is false.
There is a standard for masculinity. There is a rule for the “qualities appropriate” for a man.
This rule is found in the Bible.
The Bible is very clear on masculinity and femininity. There are standards that must be kept for a man to be appropriate. Unfortunately, there are too many to be discussed in a short blog post. So, the list has been drastically shortened.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah bemoans the fact that of his sin, that he has nothing to offer God for his past life or for the sins of his nation. There is nothing that God would accept, because they have not acted as men and women should. The standard God has across the board, not just for women, but for men too, is that all would have a relationship with him and that this relationship would affect all aspects of their lives. By humbling ourselves before the Creator of the Universe, admitting our need for Him (through the blood of Christ), we enter into an amazing relationship, that shows us how to act with justice in all situations, and to love extending mercy to all that we can.
A man is one who walks with God, and allows this relationship to make him strongly principled, and tenderly merciful.
1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
I am not going to touch the concept of wives as “the weaker partner”, except for this: God made men and women different, in order that they would fill needed roles in society and in family. Men need to realize that women are different, and they need to interact with their wives according to that fact, with consideration and respect.
Paul, in Ephesians 5, compares the man to Christ in the marriage relationship. As Christ has loved the church and died for the church. The husband is supposed to give himself for his wife, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is a high calling. Women don’t have this calling. Only men.
A man is one who dies to himself that his wife might live, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, realizing that she has been designed by God as different than him.
Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Men have a duty to train their children to walk with God and to have that relationship affect their lives, according to Micah 6:8. Unfortunately, all men, even those walking with God, have a propensity to mess up. One big way is to “exasperate” their children. In our zeal to teach truth and justice, we forget to “love mercy”. And, we drive our children away from ourselves and our faith.
A man is one who actively passes on his faith, both in knowledge and application, to his children, taking care to treat them with love, mercy, and understanding.
Though the last two verses seem to be only applicable to married men, all are useful as one, whether single or married, seeks to have “qualities appropriate” for a man. These qualities do not come naturally, but must be practiced continually.
Well, University of Wisconsin, will you add these standards to your program?
Pastor of Calvary Bible Church, Neligh, NE. Missionary with RHMA. Husband to Maggie. Father to Grace, David, and Daniel. Saved by Jesus Christ