Every now and then my husband has something he really needs to get off of his chest, and this is one of those days!

So I’m going to turn the blog over to him today, because he’d like to talk about masculinity.

We’ll be talking about this on tomorrow’s Bare Marriage podcast, too, so tune in to that as well!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Time for me to go on rampage about “Biblical” manhood and womanhood again.

Today, I had planned to write an inspirational post about how we as men can make a big difference by speaking up about the things Sheila has found in her studies. God willing, I might get to that by the end of the post. But Sheila knocked me off course (and got my blood pressure up a bit) by sending me a link to an article called “The Masculinity of Christ in the Face of Effeminate Christianity” by someone named Dale Partridge.

The article is the same old, tired rant.

Apparently men are deserting the church because we have feminized it and we must realize that “Christianity is not an egalitarian religion” and get back to patriarchy as soon as possible if we are to have any hope for the future.

It instantly reminded me of a similar article published a couple of years ago on the Desiring God website called “The Future of Masculinity” by Greg Morse. Both articles are permeated with the idea that men are supposed to be “in charge”, dangerous and a little bit scary. Anything less is not a true man.

In Morse’s article he mourns the fact that “today’s ‘virtuous man’ is depicted as much more virtue than man”, while Partridge similarly opines that “any form of masculinity that doesn’t adhere to the world’s standard is deemed “toxic.” Both then try to show how Jesus should not be seen the way “effeminate culture” wants to portray Him, but as truly masculine (i.e. the narrow way they see masculinity).

But here’s the problem: Forget masculine or feminine; we know that Jesus was good.

If your view of masculinity sets it in opposition to virtue, it is by definition in opposition to Jesus. Men who write articles like this are usually the first to accuse people who disagree with them of reading their preconceived notions into the text of the Bible. How do they not see they are doing the exact same thing here? They seem to have a great need to project their preconceived view of masculinity onto Jesus rather than letting Jesus inform their masculinity (and in the process maybe learn how to be a man and not be toxic).

Partridge (in a superscript) references the Wikipedia page on “Toxic Masculinity”, giving an example of what the “world’s standard” is vis-a-vis masculinity – you know, the one we must avoid. The Wiki article clearly states which of the elements of traditional masculinity are considered toxic – “stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with…misogyny and homophobia”. And it also explains why: “due in part to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence”.

So which of “social dominance, misogyny, homophobia, sexual assault and domestic violence” are the non-negotiables these men are advocating for us to endorse?

Morse describes the pitiable watered-down non-toxic man this way: “He is compliant, deferential, and soft. He is nice. He works his job, pays his taxes, keeps his head down, and avoids scandal and, by all means, anything that could be called “abuse.”

Consider what Morse is saying – if a man is nice, works his job and pays his taxes he is not really a man.

No, to be a real man, he has to be dangerous, even to the point of crossing the line to things ‘that could be called “abuse”’. The Wiki article Partridge references grants that “traditionally masculine traits such as devotion to work, pride in excelling at sports, and providing for one’s family, are not considered to be toxic”.

Unfortunately, that is simply not enough for the kind of men who write these articles. No, to them real men must be “alpha males” who control and dominate. And we men who don’t feel that need? Well, my friend, we are all relegated to “beta male” status. I have a couple of problems with this. First, the alpha/beta male thing is total nonsense (as this humorous video shows)

But even worse, by their own definition the sort of men who clamour for female submission are clearly much less manly than the men who don’t do so.

To me, men who need to make women small in order to feel like a man actually have no idea what it means to be a man. If being a man means having courage, taking responsibility and doing what needs to be done then we regular males are out-pacing all you “alpha males” by a large margin. If you want to be courageous, try living in a world where you don’t get any freebies by being a man, where you are judged by the merits of your contribution rather than by the fact that you were born with a penis.  We – the majority of men – have been doing that for some time now without really finding it to be an issue.

Only weak men fear and shame women for being strong.

This was shown scientifically in a study from 2015 of players of the video game HALO.  The study found that male players who did poorly became increasingly hostile to female players who were more successful than they were. But the men with the skills? They had no problem with the women being allowed on the field!


Men Being Small

The kind of men who write articles like this reveal their insecurity in their need to “genderize” virtue in the first place.

Partridge makes a huge point that Jesus displayed masculinity by His great courage in saying “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem.”  In saying this was courageous, I agree with Partridge completely. Given that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him, the unflinching resolve He displayed is a tremendous inspiration to us all, male and female alike.  But Partridge’s claim that “of all the statements demonstrating the raw masculinity recorded in human history, there is none remotely more courageous” falls on deaf ears to me. How was this a uniquely masculine act?

Can women not resolve to do things that require courage?

What about the women at Christianity Today who got up and went to work every morning for years knowing their boss was likely going to sexually harass them, but also knowing the head of HR was his golfing buddy so there was nowhere to turn for help?  What about Eileen Gray, who steeled herself to go before Rev. John MacArthur and the men on the church elder’s board to seek help from her abusive husband? I am sure she feared what would happen if they didn’t listen. (And in fact, MacArthur publicly shamed and excommunicated her for not taking her abuser back!)

To me, these examples of courage have more in common with Jesus’ utterance of “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem” than anything I have seen coming out of the bastions of male dominance lately. But, shamefully, men like Partridge and Morse are too busy telling women how much Jesus is not like them that they miss it entirely when Jesus shows Himself in them.

Simply put, men who are confident in their masculinity don’t feel like women are “treading on our turf” when they are courageous, too.

We don’t feel it necessary to distinguish how she was brave or strong or virtuous in a feminine way, but the way we were brave or strong or virtuous was particularly masculine. Maybe it is high time for us to let these authors know that when they talk like that, they just come across as silly and frankly a bit pathetic.

So, I guess this is my inspirational call to men who are reading this:

Most of us are not toxic and don’t particularly find that a hardship. Most of us are not ashamed to be like the One who called Himself “gentle and humble of heart”, the One who said “turn the other cheek”, the One who said “not so among you” about ruling over others.  Most of us are confident in our masculinity without needing to make women feel small or afraid or that somehow they are less like Jesus than we are. Most of us think that being a bully is the opposite of being a man.

Let’s stop letting these bullies claim they speak for Jesus.

Let’s stop letting people who have told us they need an uneven playing field or they will take their ball and go home to think they can give lessons in masculinity. And most of all, let’s stand up for our sisters if we ever see these bullies try to pick on them again.

Evangelicalism and Toxic Masculinity

What do you think? Where has evangelicalism veered off course with masculinity? How can we bring it back? And is there a difference between “feminine” courage and “masculine” courage? Let’s talk in the comments!

Keith Gregoire

Keith Gregoire

Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books

Keith is the rock that supports Sheila, who runs this blog! Sheila and Keith married when Keith was attending Queen's University medical school in Kingston, Ontario. He later completed his residency in pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children, and has since directed the pediatric undergraduate program at Queen's University, and been Chief of Pediatrics at a community hospital in Belleville, Ontario. He and Sheila speak at marriage conferences around the world, and together they've also done medical missions in Kenya. Next up: They're authoring The Guy's Guide to Great Sex together! Plus, of course, he's an avid birdwatcher.

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