I am an educator. I believe in the power of a robust educational process for shaping minds and culture. Places like colleges and universities should be the center of productive dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Alas, sometimes, these institutions wade into waters and only muddy the issues. True-to-form, some colleges have initiated a program for “male-identified” students to explore their “toxic masculinity.” The message: being a man is bad, so let us show you how to mitigate that "problem" you have.
Dartmouth, Duke, and others are modeling a 2013 University of North Carolina program called the “UNC Men’s Project”. It's designed to create “opportunities…to learn, listen, reflect and work together to increase men’s involvement in gender equity and violence prevention efforts…to promote healthier masculinities…”
The core of this project asks an essential question, “What does it mean to be a man?”
- “How does masculinity serve as a beneficial and/or harmful influence? How does it affect our relationships with...people of all gender expressions?”
- “How has the concept of masculinity contributed to the perpetuation of violence?”
- “How do we create spaces for men to talk honestly with other men and to practice healthier, more positive masculinities?”
This project recognizes that masculinity is integral to proper manhood, but also implies other notions:
- that 18-24 year old males don’t know how to be men
- that a definition of manhood should be relative to the culture
- that men are the inertia behind healthy (and unhealthy) relationships
The problem’s progression is legitimate: rob a man of masculinity and you hijack manhood. Marriage is the next victim, then family, the Church, the community - and soon entire countries. The error however, is that colleges seek a worldly solution to a spiritual problem.
Yes - masculinity, when defined by the culture, becomes toxic! So, does everything else we allow culture to define. Do we want our college campuses to redefine manhood? Our Creator already did this. In fact, He embodies it.
These questions are simply answered when we use the Bible as our guide:
- God created males and females (on purpose) to share in his love, and He intends for their designed differences to enhance one another. The benefit of being different is not for a will to be forced upon, but rather to offer God’s grace to one another “in its various forms.” (1 Pet 4:10)
- Masculinity does not perpetuate violence, sin does. Men and women are sinful. Their selfish desires can lead to violent conflict. But, when men allow their masculinity to be defined by God's standard, they can sacrificially love others in a way that builds and does not destroy.
- An easy way to create space is indeed to talk with other men, but we must not forget to consult the One who created us. God made men (and women) in His image. Together, let’s consult him and his Word to define real masculinity and manhood.
A key weapon in this fight is an engaged father. Let’s help fathers and their sons explore biblical masculinity and manhood. Let’s pass on God’s design of manhood, love, and purpose to the next generation. This is our best hope against violence and unhealthy relationships.
With God’s grace, these young men will embrace a Biblical model of manhood long before they arrive on a college campus.
If you'd like to join us in reinforcing biblical manhood, consider starting a Manhood Journey group. Help fathers and sons study God’s design and purpose for biblical manhood.