There are loads of brightly colored books out there for men about being a man, many of them written by evangelicals. I’m sorry, but I don’t read many of them. (Since liberal Protestants don’t even write them, there’s nothing there not to read.)
What follows is a list of reasons.
Before I begin, I’m open to your suggestions for good books for men I should read. That’s why I’ve left the comments section open.
(Generally I don’t leave it open because I think the right to voice an opinion should be limited to people with skin in the game. If comments sections required people to use their real names and provide verifiable physical mailing addresses (email doesn’t count), I might think differently. Me? Since I’m a very minor league public intellectual. I’m easy to find. I’ve got the hate mail to prove it.)
To the list!
Most books for men conform to the expectations of the modern world.
You may protest. Wait! (you say), just publishing a book for men is politically incorrect! Yes. That’s true. But the books fail to get at the roots of political correctness.
Usually the critique of political correctness is based on nothing more than common sense–and I mean that in a strictest sense–the sense of things common. But that sense is eroding and these books are already losing their appeal to anyone that didn’t grow up in a traditional household. The following points follow on this.
When the books address fathers, the dichotomy of work and family-life is taken for granted.
The modern world tends to divide things up in the interest of efficiency–you know, division of labor, economies of scale, etc.. Now we have “the workplace” for work and home for time off.
Before we had an economy. That meant the household was a place for productive work. The word economy is a compound one, made up of the Greek words for house and management. Today we think of the economy differently. It is out there in the “real world”. Households have been reduced to centers for consumption. (Google “household” and you’ll see that it is primarily a term used by marketers.)
But it is precisely this dichotomy that has sidelined fathers at home. There is “take your daughter to work day” but we all know that’s not about dad does, it’s all about turing daughters into cogs in a global economy.
The nature of masculinity is discussed in largely psychological terms.
Men are told that they need to meet the needs of their children for love and attention, that goes for their wives, too. It is usually assumed that children need these things from their biological fathers (because this leaves step-fathers out of the picture, is isn’t always assumed). Why this shouldn’t apply to the ex-wife’s new lesbian housemate is unclear. And that’s the point, when tasks are reduced to psychology it is difficult to credibly say it is a man’s job to do them.
I’m all for men keeping their promises, I just want to know why that’s something we need to stress for men. Shouldn’t women and children keep promises, too?
Masculinity is treated as if it were a matter of taste.
The reason this is the case is there’s really no place for functional masculinity in the modern world. In the interests of the corporate economy men and women are believed to be interchangeable.
Masculinity is turned into a preference. Perhaps it is unintended, but manhood is reduced to a lifestyle enclave. If you’re into wearing football jerseys, or grunting in the woods, good for you–just so long as you don’t push it on anybody. Manliness is a taste, a preference.
Then there are all the extra-biblical metaphors and nomenclature–wingman, wild at heart, and so forth.
Again, because we’ve lost a sense of functional masculinity, we must find new sources of meaning. Because the military, or sports teams, or back to nature stuff are largely made up of men, this is understandable. But it is also pitiful. It more or less means men as men don’t have a place in the everyday work world. There is essentially no difference there between men and women. To even suggest so is to invite litigation.
Finally, they don’t really appear to contain a biblical worldview.
Worldview talk is de rigueur, I know. But what I’m getting at is something more than what typically goes by that term. I’m talking about really seeing the world the way Christians in the first century did.
If you did that, your cosmology would change. You would know that a household not only has roots in the Garden of Eden, it points to the Kingdom of God. In this way of looking at things, men have responsibilities that only they can meet in this world, and their roles as husbands and fathers serve as signs for the next.
None of the stuff I’ve seen from evangelical presses has this. Instead there are “biblical principles” which tend to leave the most basics assumptions of modernity unchallenged. These “principles” are abstracted from scripture and and then inserted into an otherwise very modern life.
Am I missing something? If so, please let me know. (Feel free to add to the list. If comments go off-topic, they will be cut.)