What does it mean to be a man today?
“[Éomer] let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.” -The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 6, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
One of the most valuable gifts I received as I read the Lord of the Rings as a young man, was the introduction of characters, especially the men, who captured my imagination and admiration. At that time, I was being tossed around in emotionally devastating ways because of my parents divorce and subsequent events that took place. I was having my world dismantled and needed help, hope and healing and I found significant measures of that in Tolkien’s stories. All the meta-narratives in those pages spoke to me on multiple levels. I found light in dark places through the imprint of those adventures.
The power of that existential “I want to be like” idea took root deep in my adolescent psyche. My view of the world, men, women, home, land, virtue and evil was shaped by much of the truth that held the Hobbit’s fantasy world together.
It eventually even helped me embrace the gospel of Jesus. When I discovered the gospels, they resonated within my soul with the truth that had already found a welcomed home in my heart and mind. Tolkien’s works had prepared me in mortal and immortal matters that I had yet to fully understand. Tolkien’s worldview prepared the soil of my innerlife for the seed of God’s word and I came to hear the more full symphony of biblical truth in the songs I had came to know in pages The Lord of the Rings.
To me as a young reader, I learned that men mattered in the cataclysms of life. All kinds of men mattered, there was not just one type of guy in the books. I came to love all the distinctive differences of the races of men with all their particular strengths and weaknesses. Those differences mattered in the story and each man brought something unique and essential to the ‘fellowship’. I came to recognize that even the most unlikely of men, often are the great heroes in the story of life. Classic fantasy literature cultured me in the values of tolerance and diversity but without the insipid deconstructionism of the neo-progressive cultural agenda (read the definition at the end).
The debate in our culture about what’s real masculinity is taking on steam. There are those from certain political, ideological and even religious worldviews that desire to eliminate, redefine or at least minimize gender distinctives, roles and even scientific, biological realities. Here is a current example:
Redefining Masculine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6jz2Jma5-s
From one angle it appears to just be guys trying to help widen the masculine tent by pushing back on narrow definitions of masculinity. But it’s more than that, it’s a Trojan horse that seeks to remake culture in it’s own neo-progressive way. These are purposeful points of a political strategy to achieve a desired end and too many people fall for this social propaganda.
This agenda is being pressed on many fronts even though the cultural problems associated with young boys and men in matters of psychological and behavior development, education challenges, absentee fathering, domestic violence, suicide, and crime all shout to us that men need support, equipping and vision to face this confusing and contradictory world. Families are being deconstructed, redefined and patched together in ways that are leaving generations of men fatherless, without mentors, hopeless, unrighteous and dangerously isolated.
As men who care about other men and their psychological, physiological, relational and spiritual development we must help men answer these ancient and essential questions:
“What does it mean to be good at being a man?”
“What does it mean to be a good man?”
One can succeed at one without the other, but in doing so, they will develop into a lopsided man, not a fully developed one. We all know of men who are traditionally considered ‘manly’ but are not good men or others who are not super macho or whatever and yet are good men. We must go beyond simple stereotypes and help men develop competence and character. They must develop the skills of being good at being a man and build the solid foundations of being a good man. Too many men are good guys but are not succeeding in life, they are nice, but not needed. Other men have solid masculine tactical skills (“Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor) but are failing in relationships, spiritual development, virtue and character. An effective, healthy, holistic approach to building men engages both edges of the masculine spear.
The warrior ethos in the Lord of the Rings is about cultivating virtuous masculinity. It helps develop men who can protect, provide and procreate with an ethical, moral and competent ideological, theological and sociological ethos. The toxic kind of masculinity being lamented today is often a caricature of the worst of masculinity, unmoored from it’s virtuous center.
Masculinity is not toxic, a misunderstanding of what being a good man is toxic and I would say men today don’t need to redefine masculinity but return to its core tactical, ethical, moral and religious convictions.
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.“ -Faramir
Neo-Progressivism Definition: “Beginning in the 1950s, a more radical form of liberalism emerged in the academy that sowed the seeds for the sexual revolution and multiculturalism. Neo-progressivism mobilized the New Left of the 1960s, transformed American politics, and continues to dominate the cultural and political conversation today. It combines what neo-progressives call personal politics (the idea that American citizens have a right to all forms of self-expression) and cultural politics (the idea that cultural groups are entitled to special status) together as the twin pillars of a new identity politics. As a result, citizens today have more, not less, freedom from government in the realm of sexual expression, and the American electorate has been fractured into various groups.”
“The new progressivism divides Americans into categories of race, class, and gender. It renews the specter of race conflict by rejecting the goal of civil rights, in which individuals achieve equality under the law; instead, the goal is political racial solidarity against what is viewed as an inherently racist American system.”–https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/liberalism-radicalized-the-sexual-revolution-multiculturalism-and-the-rise?ac=1
Art: Frank Frazetta: http://frazettamuseum.com/product/LITHO-Atlantis.html