Metaxas and male heroes only please

entry men women cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Eric Metaxas has written a new book, Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. I can’t talk about the book since I haven’t read it. But he has been interviewed about it by Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review in her article, “Raising Good Men”. I love her opening question: “Why a book about men? Does this prove that there is a Christian disdain for women?” She also asked why he wanted to return to “Father Knows Best”. I think it betrays her suspicion of Metaxas’ theory. I’m suspicious too. I thought I’d run it by you. What do you think?

First, let me give what I think is a fair summary of his thought. Metaxas believes there is a crisis of manhood in our culture and that we are “afraid to talk about what it means to be a man.” We can’t admit, because it has become politically incorrect, that men and women are different. He claims that “in the last 40 years we lost our idea of what a man is.” Every parent knows that young men need to know what it means to be a man. They need heroes for this. Male heroes. We have denigrated the idea of heroes to the point that the only ones available today are in video games. Men should take a bullet for women. Women should be able to dive behind the protection of men. That’s how God made us. God made men to shield women. This is how men are supposed to express their love. Men instinctively want to protect others even if it means dying to do so. Women typically don’t do this because they express their love in different ways. Metaxas insists that we need to be talking about God’s idea of what a man is and celebrating that rather than lazily floating down the cultural river away from true manhood. If men don’t learn how to be real men it will be women who suffer the most.

My first response to this interview is confusion. It leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m all into questions, as you may know. But when someone claims to make claims I think there needs to be some clarity to the claims.

Here are just some of my concerns:

Are all heroes only men? He does claim that women don’t express their love by protecting others, at least in the same way men do. It is more than implied that women are not supposed to protect others at the expense of their own lives. God made men to do that. I’m going to be lazy here and not gather names, but how many females have given their lives for others? We couldn’t even begin to count. Could we?

What is Metaxas’ definition of a hero? He wanted to give the seven men as examples of people “worthy of emulation… who faced monumental difficulties with courage and grace.” I would agree that this is a good definition of a hero, but I certainly don’t confine it to men. Does he? Countless women fit this description. He talks about men who have made sacrifices for political reasons; men who have kept their religious convictions in the face of incredible pressure to forsake them; men who have fought long and hard with integrity to liberate others; and men who have forsaken sexual intimacy in order to serve a higher purpose. I hope he would agree that there are countless women who have done the same. But they are not mentioned because, for some reason, he feels it is important for men to see this as a description of a heroic man.

How do I communicate this idea to my children? I’ve raised three… two boys and a girl, now adults. Never once in my whole career as a parent and father did I consider the need to differentiate between male and female when talking about the inspiring lives of others. We’ve always taught our children that there are many ways to be, many ways to love, many ways to protect, many ways to be courageous, many ways to be a hero. I want all three of our kids to be courageous. But I want my sons to be gentle if need be and I would want my daughter to be fierce if need be. And they are.

I’ve also never said to my sons, “Real men don’t do that” or to my daughter, “Real women don’t do that.” Never. And I never intend to. Would Metaxas, as the interviewer detected, like to return to a much earlier time when men were men and women were women, when it was clear what men’s roles were and what women’s roles were, when men had their place and women had theirs? He replies, “Yes, I want to turn the clock all the way back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, about 6,000 years ago. Is that so wrong?”

He must have been joking. Because, yes, it would be wrong. It would be wrong for me as a man, and it would be wrong for my wife and for my daughter as women. They wouldn’t want to go back. Neither would my sons. Neither do I. Do you? Even though policy is slow to change, I believe we are making some significant advances in gender awareness. I am suspicious that Metaxas’ ideas about gender roles won’t help.

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  • I think there is a difference between returning to what God intended our “roles” to be, and what our roles have been historically. We shouldn’t confuse one for another.

  • Well put, Esther.

  • Your doors say it all David. Not that much has changed in the 21st century.
    Switch doors for a while and let’s see how the men get on!

    🙂 Dylan

  • I know I wouldn’t fit through the right one.

  • Al Cruise

    I can’t add anything to what you said Esther. So true.

  • Gary

    “Yes, I want to turn the clock all the way back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, about 6,000 years ago. Is that so wrong?”

    I think there is much insight into the mind of the man to be gleaned from this statement.

  • Jennifer Stahl

    I happen to agree.

    Anyone who says that there’s a fear to talk about what men’s roles are and jobs available, etc etc – really hasn’t spent much time really paying attention to society, television shows, radio programs and what jobs are available to working men.

    OTOH, if you sit down and slow down long enough, the opposite cannot be said of women. How many television shows, movies, radio programs and books actually would pass the Bechdel test? How many women do we see in prominent jobs that haven’t had to set aside family to do so?
    While we tell our girls “you can be anything you want to be!!” the reality is starkly different – there are so many limitations, especially if you attend a church. The message she hears will be limited, versus the message my sons would hear.

    I’m not encouraged to hear yet another theologian saying “eh, women…. more about great men!!”

  • Chester

    All writings and thoughts as expressed by people are the responsibility of the author. Most writings are based on reliance of information, right or wrong ,fed to them in the process of “maturing “.

    Each person has a reasonable right,from birth, to so express oneself in a manner they choose. Each of the listeners has a right to accept, reject, or consider such. Key is “reasonable” right.

    Unreasonable reliance on the views of another is brainwashing . Far too much reliance is given to too many authors of philosophy, etc.which is so often flawed with inaccuracy.

    What I have just written could fall into any category of what any listener or reader believes. That is their right. Action displayed which leads to no harm is the only sensible view to take on any issue.

    Anything I have said or written can properly be accepted, rejected, or considered.Any listener or reader has that unquestioned right.

    Mayhap, I am wrong about everything. That is your right to believe.

  • klhayes

    Love love love!

  • m. castleberry

    Oy. All these men who worship masculinity drive me nuts. “Men were created to protect women,” hooey.

    In my experience, men who believe that are skeptical (ahem, at least) when a woman approaches them who is suffering some sort of violence from a man. The degree to which the gender hierarchists suffer from blindness to the world around them (“We are COUNTER-culture because we don’t accept women as leaders!”) does not cease to astound, frustrate, and amaze me.

  • While the demise of guys is a real issue as evidenced by violent crime and all kinds of abuse, the common denominator seems to be a lack of empathy. Boys refuse to read books with a female protagonist. How does reading about 7 people who are “just like me” address that problem? Reading can assist in empathy, but not if all my reading is about “me”.

  • Do you think perhaps Protestant disapproval of the worshipping of Our Lady Virgin Mary is perhaps sexism on their part?? (In my experience the disapproval always comes from men.) I hadn’t thought of it like that. Thank you.

  • tanyam

    Thank you. Metaxis may be a smarter version of a complementarian, but he’s on the same track as Driscoll. Why oh why would we want to go there? His biography of Bonhoeffer demonstrates a willingness on his part to mess with biography for his own political points, so I would expect nothing less from this new volume.
    Some Christians just seem deeply attached to some romantic notion of “the way life used to be.” In the 1950’s. Remind them of Deborah, Miriam, — and all the other independent women in the Bible and they’ll find some other reason to say that “roles” are God-ordained. When we start racking up the stories of women’s capabilities as doctors, lawyers, engineers and yes, soldiers — they’ll just dig in deeper. These are men who are threatened by women’s success. And mean to pass it along to their sons.

  • m. castleberry

    I don’t think so. I think it’s related more to the fact that Mary was never identified as God in any form (referring to the Trinity). I do, however, think that because of their discomfort with females, they don’t sort out how she should actually be viewed. So she is downplayed to the point of being, typically, outright ignored.

    A Protestant author wrote a book about Mary, mother of Jesus, a few years back, and I think it did a good job of describing, really, how amazing what she did was. I will of course add the note that she did not seek permission from her betrothed or any male relative before agreeing to God’s plan. I would like to see her talked about more often in church, including all of her life that the Bible tells us about, but of course we’re too busy talking about all the heroic men in the Bible….

  • m. castleberry

    Excellent points! Bingo, unfortunately, about the lack of empathy seeming to be the common denominator.


  • Sarah Fegredo

    On the question about men protecting women, he’s obviously not read Hosea 13:8!

  • Yes, I think you’re right… I’d love to read that book though. 🙂

  • mollyren

    “Just so long as we please don’t make the mistake of saying role models
    cannot be men. Because that’s the message some men really are seeing.”

    If that’s what they’re seeing, I think we need to be more concerned about their literacy than the message they’re reading.

  • Zero

    Well in the bible have female heroes too, but most aren’t talked about the most famous is Esther.

  • We’re “afraid to talk about what it means to be a man”? I have seen no evidence of this. More than any previous time in history, people are now discussing the meaning of manhood publicly, reasonably and frankly. For example:

  • m. castleberry

    The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus
    by Scot McKnight
    Amazon has it at a bargain price right now (unfortunately)

  • Ugh, gender essentialism and binarism.

  • TiggyTiger

    There are many occasions where women have taken a bullet or the equivalent in order to protect a man or children. I don’t like the idea of heroes at all – the truth of heroes will only lead to disillusionment if known. We shouldn’t try to be like someone else in any case. You get all sorts of men and all sorts of women. I don’t think this book would sell very well in the UK as we’re not so into cheesy gender stereotypes.