Kevin is a theology student at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. He has a BA in Philosophy, dabbles in art, and has a passion for all things sci-fi. He’s also a High Church Anglican with a Pentecostal past that he’s sometimes proud of. When not writing guest posts for Political Jesus, he blogs over at Many Horizons
Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence
We have a crisis of masculinity, but it’s probably not the one you think. If you’re a complementarian, or hang out around complementarian circles, then you’ve probably heard the notion that the church has a masculinity crisis: our version of Christianity isn’t ‘manly’ enough. Our wider world, however, is awash with hopped up masculinity, reveling in myths of men who get it done with fists and fortitude. From Hollywood films where a good-hearted bad-ass (often Liam Neeson) plays a husband/father/other who gets revenge and saves the day, to the rhetoric of blood and honor on the sports field, we revel in the notion of man as warrior. This is the true crisis of masculinity.
Let me tell you two stories, both true.
The first you’ve probably at least caught wind of. On Febuary 15, 2014, NFL running back Ray Rice beat his fiancée unconscious. Initial video showed her being dragged out of an elevator. Before the full video was released, a lot of voices came out calling for caution in judgment. After all, they said, we don’t have the whole story; she might have done something to provoke it.(1) Even the NFL itself acted, until the full video was released to the public, as if there might be some extenuating circumstances
The other story comes from a year ago. On the 26th of April, 2013, a man by the name of Earl Silverman committed suicide. Silverman had been an advocate for men’s rights, and ran the only shelter in Canada for male victims of domestic abuse. He had run it out of his own pocket, unable to get funding from either government or private donations.(2) This lack of shelters for male victims of violence is despite the fact that men and women are almost equally likely to face domestic abuse and violence.(3) Male victims also underreport violence (7% report it versus 23% of women who do).
These two events have something in common. On the one hand, we have a man committing a horrible act of violence, with the reaction in some quarters being to justify his abuse. On the other hand, you have male victims of domestic abuse, who society fails to provide support for, and who often themselves fail to seek help. At the root of both of these problems is the same twisted notion of masculinity.
If men are warriors, rugged creatures of fortitude who fight to make the world right, then it is reasonable for us to expect them to fight. The only moral question is how they deploy that violence (so that the question becomes “Was he justified in beating his fiancée unconscious?”). Conversely, funding is unavailable to help male victims because men who suffer abuse are mocked or discounted because of the expectation that they should be warriors who can overcome this problem themselves. Even the victims have bought into this picture and so fail in massive numbers to seek help.
This is truly a crisis of masculinity, and the crisis is that our culture has perverse and wicked vision of what men should be. It is certainly not the vision of the victorious man we see on the cross. Our God and savior hung there naked and ashamed for the salvation of us all. In contrast, think of Peter, who like the Hollywood bad-ass took up a sword to protect his own, and was rebuked by Jesus. The contrast is telling.
There is great danger in taking on our culture’s perverse vision of masculinity and Christianizing it. Too often, we are deeply concerned to appeal to the masculinity of men who are leaving the church, rather than being willing to challenge the sin masquerading as manhood. In a culture that glorifies male violence, we ought to be very cautious about using images like warrior knights to describe what we think men ought to be.
Men should be allowed to be victims who need rescue (we all, after all, needing rescue from sin by our God), and perhaps we should be okay with women sometimes be the rescuers.
(1) Matt Saccaro, “‘It Wasn’t Ray Rice’s Fault’: The Sick, Twisted Logic of Men’s Rights Activists on Domestic Violence,” last modified September 9, 2014, accessed September 25, 2014,
(2) The Huffington Post Canada, “Earl Silverman Dead: Owner Of Shelter For Male Domestic Abuse Victims In Apparent Suicide,” The Huffington Post, last modified April 29, 2013, accessed September 25, 2014 .
(3) Statistics Canada, “Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile,” last modified January 9, 2013, accessed September 25, 2014.