Biblical masculinity is rapidly eroding among professing Christian men. In fact, let’s just say that masculinity in general is eroding in our society because it’s now viewed as socially aberrant.
Weakness among men is now promoted as a social virtue. Being “soft” is the new ideal. During the Rio Olympics, corporate sponsors spent millions promoting transgendered and androgynous users of their products.
This has become the new “normal.” But the erosion goes deeper than just a new emphasis on gender confusion and sexual ambiguity. It’s even as basic as declining strength among men.
Last month, The Washington Post published a study showing that the grip strength of a sample of college men had declined significantly between 1985 and 2016.
The grip strength of the average college male had declined so much — from 117 pounds of force to 98 — that it now matched that of older Millennial women. In other words, the average college male had no more hand strength than a 30-year-old mom.
In The National Review, David French begins his article on the subject with this provocative sentence: “If you’re a Millennial male, your dad is stronger than you are.”
It’s an ominous trend. For centuries, fathers have taught their sons to be strong and to protect their honor. But they also expected their sons to defend those who were weak.
This is not merely a cultural value; it’s a biblical value that godly men defend the weak.
For any man to defend the weak, he needs a combination of requisite strength and courage… but mostly courage. Yet the social trajectory among American Millennials is moving in the opposite direction. Diminished strength is resulting in diminished courage.
And it’s not just Millennial males. The average male in general today is more likely to watch a person get attacked (like a spectator watching a movie or video game), than he is to physically intervene to stop the attack.
This reality, as told in The Washington Post, tragically illustrated the crisis I’m describing more than a year ago on a crowded Washington D.C. metro subway on July 4, 2015.
The young victim, Kevin Sutherland, was repeatedly stabbed while his fellow passengers remained “huddled at both ends of the car,” watching but doing nothing to intervene.
Among the spectators on that subway were many able-bodied men of various ages and sizes; but they all stood-by in silence as the attack went on, watching but doing nothing.
In the heart of most men, we intuitively know this is not the way it should be. Inactivity in the face of such brutality may be rationalized, but it is not excusable.
Ronald Reagan’s adage of “peace through strength” is as true on a D.C. subway as it is on the playground as it is on the battlefield. As a father, I want to instill in my sons a vision for biblical masculinity.
These components include a cultivation of physical strength through service and exercise; a sense of dignity, honor and respect, for themselves and for others; and an intentional focus on intervening to protect the weak in our society – physically, spiritually, and otherwise. Don’t adopt a “victim mentality;” but cultivate a good defense strategy.
One of the small ways I’ve started doing this with my children is through our nightly family Bible studies. It’s part of our family bedtime routine.
My wife and I alternate, but when I’m the one leading the Bible story, whatever the narrative is about, I’ll usually look for something good or bad relating to masculine honor that I can emphasize in one of the characters. Either way, they see an inspired example that illustrates godly masculinity… or its absence.
This allows our children to see real-life examples in God’s Word of what traits we want to develop in ourselves – as well as the negative traits we want to avoid.
We want our sons to defend the weak and never be an attacker who bullies or belittles. We want them to have an attitude of joyful service to assist others in an honorable way. We want them to conduct themselves with dignity and respect, both in our presence and behind our backs; both publicly and privately. This curriculum will last for years.
I groan to consider the many ways I’ve failed to be more intentional as a father, thinking that my children would automatically grow up to be living demonstrations of biblical masculinity and biblical femininity. But these rare traits must be taught and cultivated.
My prayer is that we will raise strong warriors for Christ and that God will use those of us who care deeply about these qualities to stem the tide of our society that is running headlong in the opposite direction.