I have a confession. For a long time, I thought the way to fix things was simply fix the men. In fact I remember a meeting where another guy and I were planning a men’s retreat. We said basically that if we could just fix the men, then the rest would fall in line.
This is the general consensus of a lot of evangelical leaders today. I’ve talked about this ad nauseam here. I’ve talked about blaming men, the man problem, the idea that if only men would ask women out, and on and on.
While I think that there are a few people waking up to this complete over simplification of the problems in our culture, it’s still rampant.
The good husband is almost always the butt of the joke in secular culture media and perhaps worse in a lot of Christian media. Divorce is almost always seen as the guys fault – in the courts and in the church. Men are the sexual sinners, not women. 40% of births in our country are out of wedlock – that’s just the men’s fault – which makes absolutely no logical sense really. Delayed marriage in our culture – men won’t commit. Lack of guys at church or as volunteers – can’t be anything that we are doing wrong – must be the men are worse now. It’s everywhere.
We have a man problem we say. A father problem. An immaturity of men problem. A video game problem.
The solution to this of course it to get men to “man up“. So we create all sorts of web pages and sermons. Some attempt to be encouraging. In other words “come on men – we can help you fulfill all of your societal responsibilities and save everyone else.” Others are more “challenging”. Just beat on the men, yell at them and about them until they “get it”. Of course there is now even a MAN UP APP. No lie. It’s true.
It’s not that some of the thoughts and advice on these sites aren’t good. Some of it is good. But the problem is the premise.
The truth is that we don’t have a man problem. We have a people problem. We have a sin problem. And men are both people and sinners. You know what though? Wait for it. So. Are. Women.
This is true even when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage. Want proof? 40% of births are out of wedlock – up from 10% in 1969. It takes men and women for that to happen. Women can be controlling and aggressive in relationships too. Women are more likely to initiate divorce. Women cheat as well as men and celebrity women think thats ok. I could go on and on. The point here isn’t to bash women. By no means! The point is twofold.
First and foremost we are all sinners. Second, you won’t hear many sermons or websites pointing to that last paragraph and saying we have a woman problem. In fact I would be willing to bet you can’t find one.
There are a bunch of reasons we as the church have fallen into this. Male pastors like being the best man in the room. We want the culture to like us and right now the culture says we have a man problem. We want to be feminist friendly. Many sincerely believe that if men were better that the women would just automatically fall in line (which is actually sort of demeaning to women if you think about it – do they not have moral agency?). Men in the church will either take it or leave. These are just a few of the reasons.
All of this is extremely counter productive.
We have to stop doing this if we want any of the trends we don’t like to change. The singleness and delayed marriage – or total lack of marriage – trend is a prime example. It is not a man problem either. It is a people problem. We have to start addressing it as such.
When it comes to men specifically, maybe, just maybe we should ask ourselves why we are where we are. What I mean is, lack of guy volunteers, lack of guys coming to church, lack of guys asking out our favorite single women etc. Maybe we should resit the urge to look at them, call them names, tell them how bad they are and challenge them to get on board with us. Instead how about we start with this question: What are we doing/have we done to create this?
Here’s what I know. There was no secret men’s meeting where we all got together and said, “Let’s quit volunteering. Let’s quit going to church. Let’s play video games instead. Let’s delay marriage.”
If less men, and for that matter less singles period, go to church, perhaps we should look inward first for why, before calling them out and blaming them. Maybe instead of asking singles to suck it up and men to man up we ought to ask everyone to people up. And maybe, just maybe, we ought to take a good hard look in the mirror and “church up”.