Real Men

Recently I have stumbled across the show Man vs. the Wilderness.  If you haven’t heard of the show before let me explain it.  In each episode ex-special forces Bear Grylls is dropped into a remote location with the bare essentials and survives for a week until he makes his way to civilization.  His week consists of navigating dangerous terrain, locating sources of water, and finding food.  I was particularly struck by a segment in the American South in which he comes upon an alligator in the swamp.  Carefully circling the creature in the muddy water he suddenly jumps upon its back.  Wrestling with the alligator he pins its front legs back and forces its head on top of a log, while pinning its mouth shut.  Then Bear takes a knife and plunges it into the back of the head of the gator, all the while providing colorful commentary of what he is doing.  With the dead alligator hanging from his back Bear then walks off to find a place to cook the meat.

Something about that segment made me think, “Now there’s a really man.”  Of course in thinking this made an assumption about what it means to be a man.  The coming of age story is a common theme in literature and movies.  It’s something that fascinates us.  Many a young man has struggled with what it means to be a man.  If there the same king of struggle with womanhood, I haven’t noticed it.  I don’t know because I am not a woman and am not qualified to comment on.

There are many opinions on what it means to be a man, which can be quite confusing to a young male trying to understand what it means to be an adult.  At my church there is a car I often end up parking near with a bumper sticker that says, “Real Men Love Jesus.”  Being a “Real Man” is dependent on loving Jesus.  I have to confess that I find this to be a stupid bumper sticker.  If the owner of that car is reading this then I apologize to you, but you sticker is still dumb.  I believe that God’s view of whether a person is a man or a woman depends much more on anatomy and biology than whether they love Jesus or not.  You may think I am trying to make a cheap joke, but I say this with sacred seriousness.

God creating man in his own image made him human; being a man was a consequence of being designed a certain way.  The only condition for being a man was being made of dirt.  Obviously there are certain characteristics that are usually associated with being a man.  Men like explosions, fast cars, and are attracted to women.  We like to compete and test our strength.  Many a female has tried to understand why we are like this.  My only explanation is that our brains were pickled by testosterone before birth.  Yet lacking these characteristics, testosterone one excluded, doesn’t mean a man is not a man.  Attraction to women and killing animals for food are God designed expression of manhood, not the thing itself.  Realizing this was a great encouragement to me as wrestled over the question.  Instead of having to prove something or act a certain way to be considered a man, I already had what was needed.

The real question should be; what kind of man do you want to be?  Notice that after man was created, God had a certain way he wanted man to live so that he would function best.  God put man in a garden, provided him with a woman, and told him not each from a certain tree.  Otherwise, the man had free range to name the animals and shape bushes to look like unicorns if he felt like it.  Each man has to decide what kind of man he is going to be and what to do with what he has already been given.

Back to Man vs. the Wilderness.  I am guessing that the majority of men watching the segment that I described at the beginning enjoyed what they saw.  Something surged inside at watching the display of strength in the face of danger.  As for women, I am guessing that the majority were trying to understand what was so entertaining about it or why this guy was even wrestling with an alligator in the first place.  Both are good expression of how God created males and females and should be enjoyed.  If you didn’t respond along the lines I describe, God has probably created you to express your manhood or womanhood in a different way.  His guidelines are strict, but within them there is great variety and freedom.

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3 comments

  1. Ben Funkhouser · August 13, 2010

    I think you raise an important question here. I heard a podcast where they were talking about the same subject, and one guy said that the characteristics that make someone “a man” should be universally found among all cultures and places of the world. I thought this was a good point. What are universal traits found in men around the world? Not just our American view of manhood.

    While most of what you said was good, I think your argument against the bumper sticker was a little narrow. I don’t think saying “Real Men Love Jesus” is saying that is the only thing that makes a man a man. If there was a bumper sticker that said “Real men like hunting” you wouldn’t think that this was their only definition of a man would you? It is true that God created man to love Him and this is more than an emotional response our lovesong. A man may “Love Jesus” by going to Cambodia and rescuing sex slaves or working three jobs to support his family.
    Loving God makes us more human, more alive, whether we are men or women.

    Let me know if I misunderstood your meaning there. Otherwise, good post as always.

    -Ben

  2. roadgeon · August 14, 2010

    I think man is ultimately designed to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Still someone denying that God exists doesn’t take away the gender identity that God has given them. This may be a digression, but I think certain groups of Christians consider the spiritual more holier than the physical. It was one of the problems of the ancient Gnostics. Rather the spiritual is not necessarily better, but greater. Animals, which are purely physical, when they are go bad cause little evil. A bad human, a spiritual and physical being, going bad can cause much greater evil and when a purely spiritual being goes bad, incomparable evil can result. The acts of violence we term savage and animal are often the most human ones.

    Our physical bodies can be holy too and are important to God. God created all our senses to be full enjoyed, in his way. Think of what Adam and Eve’s bodies must have been like before the fall. For this reason I there is something important in defining manhood and womanhood in almost purely physical terms.

    The bumper sticker is a tricky one. Most bumper stickers are statements without context, like a sign saying Beware of Man Eating Chicken. My interpreted meaning of the sticker “Real Men Love Jesus” is probably different from what the owner of the car is trying to communicate.

  3. Ben Funkhouser · August 15, 2010

    You make a good point in that whether a person denies or accepts God does not change who they are as a physical human being. I recently heard an interview with a musician named Andrew Peterson (whom I know nothing about) and he kept referring to people as “image bearers.” Whether or not they believe in God, he made the point that all people bear the image of God. Those who know God in addition to this bear also bear the Holy Spirit.

    I also agree that bumper stickers are hard to put a finger on. Actually I’ve been reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and he argues that our society today is largely made up of information without relevance or context. It’s a very fascinating bookI’m sure you’ve heard of it.

    By the way, I’ve been wrestling with the decision to put a certain bumper sticker on my car. The problem is, it’s an anti-abortion bumper sticker (such as those on abort73.com). I want to support the lives of innocent children but I also don’t want to overly offend someone. What do you think?

    Thanks for these blog posts. You have a gift here- keep using it!

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