Whatever Happened to Manhood? A Return to Biblical Manhood, by Wayne Braudrick (Lampion Press, 2015)
The war against boys has been going on for several decades now, and it is beginning to bear its bitter fruit. Fewer and fewer young men are willing to stand up and be leaders, to take responsibility for their actions and those of others, to be the spiritual heads of their families and the role models of their communities. They prefer to remain adolescents forever: not men, but guys or dudes or “bros.”
The deck has been strongly stacked against them. Even as schools have beaten the fight out of their male charges, television sitcoms have trained the fathers of these emasculated boys to view themselves as comic figures with no real authority. Their job is to drink beer, watch sports, and horse around with their buddies, while their wives do the real work of holding the home together. They’re nice guys, good for a laugh, but they are not to be taken seriously.
One would have expected a concerted outcry from the church followed by a flood of books, seminars, and workshops calling on men to shake off these stereotypes and become again the men God created them to be. But that has not happened. There was, of course, Promise Keepers, and thank God for that group, but its influence has dwindled. Focus on the Family and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have ministered powerfully in this area, as have the filmmakers who gave us Fireproof and Courageous, but their work has not been taken up by the church and society as a whole.
It was, therefore, with a great sigh of relief that I discovered Wayne Braudrick’s Whatever Happened to Manhood: A Return to Biblical Manhood. Finally, someone was speaking out clearly and boldly about this issue. In the midst of a billion dollar self-help industry, someone had written a book with the sole purpose of helping men be men. Not helping them to get rich, or win friends and influence people, or find their best life now—just to be the men God created them to be.
Mr. Braudrick, senior pastor of Frisco Bible Church in Frisco, Texas, spares no punches in calling men to live up to a biblical ideal: one which expects them to be focused servant leaders who are true to their word, who fight for the right, who commit themselves to life-long learning, and who form strong, lasting friendships.
Mr. Braudrick, thankfully, does not overwhelm us with statistics; still, he does do well to begin with a few revealing stats on the issue of trustworthiness. According to a 2009 study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, whereas “51% of teenagers 17 and under believe that lying and cheating are necessary to succeed,” only 10% of people over 50 share that belief (12). This shift in attitude has been particularly strong amongst men, rendering them less likely (and able) to live up to God’s call to honesty and integrity.
How quaint it sounds today to praise someone for being a man of his word. Yet that is the biblical ideal from which our culture has fallen. Though it is certainly true that a good man is hard to find, I must agree with Mr. Braudrick that “a reliable man is hard to find” (25). The fault for that lies not only with dishonest men but with a society that no longer expects men to be honest: that, sadly, takes for granted that they will lie and cheat.
This is even more the case, Mr. Braudrick argues, with the lost virtue of focus. We live in “a time and place where males are expected to lose focus and are applauded for being distracted. Our current culture produces male losers greatly because it reinforces lack of focus in men” (34). Then comes the sting in the tail: “Wonderfully, the common culture generally admires the focused woman. Yet the focused male is considered a threat” (34).
Mr. Braudrick notes this irony—that women are celebrated for embodying masculine virtues while men are ridiculed or attacked for doing so—several times throughout his book; but he never does so in a way that denigrates women. His goal is not to “put women in their place,” but to call men to return to their proper, God-given place. Why, he asks, does our culture applaud diversity in everything except the diverse gifts and natures of the sexes?
For too long, our society has allowed men to slip into narcissism, pornography and hurriedness, afflictions which Mr. Braudrick wisely treats as intoxicants. The sirens of self-centeredness, porn, and false urgency cause men to loathe themselves, to lose their capacity to think, and to sacrifice their freedom and their peace. In the end, such insecure, addicted young men become cynical, crotchety old men.
Robbed of their integrity, their focus, and their will to lead and serve, men abdicate their responsibility to be the “point man” and “primary scout” of their family (58). Ceding all control to their wives, they retreat into their “man cave,” leaving their wives not only to fight the battles of the family but the battles of the community as well.
Holding up Boaz from the Book of Ruth as the supreme male role model of a kinsman-redeemer who is both kind and powerful, Mr. Braudrick challenges his fellow men to revive their lost passion to “do justice; love mercy; walk humbly; [and] fight to protect the weak” (99). Let us think of ourselves again as heroes and warriors, but thoughtful ones who act rather than react, who learn from their mistakes, and who know how to put their own lives and actions in the wider perspective of eternity.
Finally, Mr. Braudrick counsels men to invest themselves in committed, intimate male friendships. Rather than give in to the social stigma that labels close male friends as closet homosexuals, we must boldly reclaim the kind of life-changing, courage-enhancing bond that formed between David and Jonathan. Men need strong, fearless men to lift them up, even as they need themselves to lift up men who are younger or weaker or less sure of themselves.
Over a decade before he began his famous collaboration with Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics for a song that, though Mr. Braudrick does not reference it, sums up powerfully his vision for what men can do when they bond with other men and, together, live out the fullness of their God-given masculinity:
Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight for the right they adore.
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.
Oh! Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.
That is the call. Let us pray the church will both invite and challenge men to live up to it. And, by so doing, sweep away the false sitcom stereotypes and destructive educational initiatives that doom would-be stout-hearted men to a perpetual adolescence.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.