Forgive me if I indulge in a little cynicism. For your viewing entertainment, behold; a list of acceptable and unacceptable types of Christian men. First, the acceptable:
1. The Mighty Man of Valor
How to describe him? The mighty man of valor oozes masculinity. He always has a masculine job. Coaches are big, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, athletes, powerful businessmen, or any other career which 1. isn’t too intellectual 2. Focuses on team and character building and 3. Is a salt-of-the-earth kind of thing. Depending on your branch of Christianity, he may have a beard (if you have reformed/patriarch leanings) or he may be clean shaven. He is distant, but only in the sense that you aren’t buddy-buddy with a coach or a friendly boss or co-worker. Promise Keepers want to be this guy and fail, mostly because you cannot fake this; you’ll go mad if you don’t actually like team sports, or working on your own car.
The MMOV’s purpose is to be the kind of guy every Christian man should be, with the exceptions of the later types. This is due to the legacy of what’s called muscular Christianity, which is an odd hybrid of Christian and spartan values. It’s also liked vastly by wives, because the MMOV usually is wealthy, emotionally stable, and embodies masculine ideas while still having (sometimes nominal) Christianity. Plus, they can fix things and have an awesome six-pack. Not many people ever say “I really don’t like that guy. He’s too rich and too well in shape.”
2. Brother Teacher.
Where MMOV exudes masculinity, BT exudes gravitas. Ironically, BT can exude it in almost every socioeconomic class in the USA. In the lower classes, BT hosts his own radio show or webcast in which he deciphers Bible Prophecy with a side order of conspiracy theory. This guy will look like a used car salesman, but a wholesome one. You can’t help but like him. In the middle, expect an engineer who tends to the more obscure areas of conservative religion, and who knows the meaning of words like sedavacantist or has seriously considered being Russian Orthodox. The high end BTs congregate in think-tanks and salons, and go for ideologies which have absolutely no chance of ever getting followed, like distributism, agrarianism, or the end of democratic politics. They actually convert to Orthodoxy, and when threatened, can recite large passages of Aquinas to stun their assailant and escape.
Keep in mind, all of the Brother Teachers are laymen. They may flirt with seminary, but most have a strong anti-authoritarian streak and tend to be too passionate about their area of expertise to be a pastor. These are the guys who will corner you after church and talk about Obummers, the Theology of the Body, or that time they met Richard John Neuhaus while wintering in Boston.
3. Go Go Worship Ranger!
I will sing of yourrrrrrr looooooove forrrrrrreverrrrr….
Yeah, you know these guys. They exude wholesome squeaky-clean service to God with just the right amount of tattoos. They combine earnestness with being non-threatening and devoted to God. They are also color-coded for your convenience:
- Red Worship Ranger: This guy is the leader. He’s always the leader. Girls swoon over his wholesome, earnest charm. Guys tend to like him, because he’s handsome and manly, but not too much. He’s the boy your mama wants you to bring home for dinner, when he stops kissing dating goodbye. Tends to break a lot of hearts, and may not know about it.
- Black Worship Ranger: He’s the perpetual second in command. He also is perpetually married, as women realize that less people fawn over him than the Red Worship Ranger, and there’s less chance of Black actually getting a record contract and going on the road or becoming a real pastor instead of a youth pastor. He secretly longs to shine, but rarely ever does. He’s okay with that though, well, unless he snaps.
- Blue Worship Ranger: The wholesome geek. You know the sound room guy? Or the Tolkien-loving, Lewis quoting youth pastor who takes the group out to see the Matrix and then has a Bible study on it? That’s him. He’s geek enough to be interesting, but not geek enough to scare you, get addicted to MMORPG games, be un-marriageable, or start teaching the kids to play Dungeons & Dragons or start a guild. Also known as the Blue Worship Unicorn since geek girls hunt him for his horn, and he’s often as rare as one.
- Yellow Worship Ranger: The loveable lunk. Once in awhile, you will get a man who truly has a passion for ministry, but is far too rough to be any of the other types. The youth minister who used to be an ex-con before he (legitimately) sought Christ and was saved. The minor rock star or seedy band member who found Jesus at the end of a bottle or needle, and is now playing Worship influenced heavily by Skynrd. He manages to be wholesome and awesome at the same time, and is often the guy you get when you need the muscle to toss someone out of church or confront a mean scary person.
- Pink Worship Ranger: The gay guy. Often serious, studious, and excellent at his job, he however is dealing with his orientation and reconciling it with his faith and the commands of God. There’s a debate on how acceptable this type is, but for all the stereotypes of fundamentalist Christians, most really aren’t oppose to the Pink Ranger as long as he follows the Word of God. It’s when he doesn’t, and suddenly divorces his wife to head to San Franscisco to DJ for clubs and come out of the closet that people get shocked.
The worship rangers tend to combine the advantages of being a musician with that of being an earnest Christian. You tend to see one Red, Pink, or Blue one per church, with Black and Yellow supporting them as band members, assistant youth pastors, prayer warriors, or what have you. The key trait of all of them is that they embody many desirable traits of the secular world (leadership, geekery, beta male-dom, badassery, and sensitivity) without any of the corresponding disadvantages (thoughtlessness, social mal-adaptism, resentment, violence, and wimpiness.)
4. Unsaved Man
from the buffy wiki
Wait, aren’t we talking about Christians?
Well, yes, but this guy is in the church, and technically he’s an acceptable Christian…in the future. And surprisingly, he is more acceptable than the types of non-accepted men that will follow after.
You see, since women are the more spiritual sex according to many, and outnumber men in churches in a 3 to 2 ratio, there’s probably a fair amount of unsaved guys to go with them. Partly because women marry more than men, and convert to faith first, or partly because after a long enough time, they are willing to risk intermarriage if just to be wed. I can’t blame them on that, and this is a complex issue that needs to be addressed in a reasonable manner. The point however, is that I’m betting a fair number of guys in the pews? They are unsaved men.
Either they go because they are culturally religious (Catholic and Orthodox) or they want to please the wife now and then, or they want the kids to get raised right, and that means church. The latter is getting rarer, as it’s a very old-school mindset. They may go every week, or now and them or during holidays.
And surprisingly, people are okay with this.
There’s always hope they will convert, and unsaved men tend to not have the baggage that the unaccepted types have. By being married already, they have a pass, because the modern church has made marriage a sacrament with a weight higher than others. Depending on how squishy the church is, they may even wind up running sports teams or events where they don’t need to talk about the religion the church espouses.
You wonder, “how on earth can there be Christian men lower on the totem pole than unsaved man?” It’s time to list them, and show you.
Unacceptable Christian Men
1. Broken Guy
The one thing that the four above types have is that they have everything together.
Surprisingly, some guys come to the Christian faith because they have serious issues in their lives. I don’t mean sexy serious issues, either. No one asks them for their testimony. They don’t talk to many people either, because it tends to be one sided “pray for sister Eartha’s lumbago” stuff or pitches for volunteering when they are dealing with things like a harsh divorce, physical pain, personality factors that isolate them from others, or many other issues that cause them to find and cling to Jesus.
These guys are broken in fundamental ways, and the church isn’t sure what to do with them. It’s not a cultural thing to realize that guys can be such; the four types above are so prevalent because they are all what we want men to be like, and revolve around physical and emotional strength. A weak man people have no idea what to do with.
Yet it’s those weak men who turn to Christ. Even then it’s not sexy, unshakable faith. Guys like these are god-haunted and may struggle with things for the rest of their lives. No, they aren’t always nice or “praise the lord.” When you deal with things, sometimes all you can strive for is being normal, or less mean. Someone once said that the problem with judging a Christian’s fruit is that we don’t know the raw material they had to work with. I think it was C.S. Lewis. Some men have a good nature and some men have a bad one. The good natured man may seem to have great fruit, but it might be easy for him. The bad man who stops being surly might be showing a minor miracle. But again, broken guy is not big on the acceptable list.
2. Cradle Man
So, you’ve managed to stay in the same church that you grew up in.
Notice how people have no idea what to do with you?
Notice if you seriously believe that you should be a virgin before marriage, you are seen as creepy? Or how women seem more about marrying outside the faith and outside your church in college? Or that people in general seem to like flashy, showy converts rather than guys who actually don’t fall away and believed the stuff they were taught?
Do you think the older brother in the parable had a point?
Grats, you might be a cradle man. It’s an odd thing to be. The Christian faith cares about rescuing the one that walked away, but if we aren’t careful, we can actually penalize people for not running away. The prodigal son is one thing, but the expectation that a decent young man must sow his oats at some point, and one who actually obeys the teachings is passive and doesn’t show moxie can be a particularly cankerous acid to pour on people.
It doesn’t help also that you wonder if it might be true. If it’s really passivity and not devoutness that drives you. That’s the danger of focusing on showy grand repentance without also on the need for constant, persevering faith. You can’t know. You’re taken for granted.
3. Poor Man
Another thing that links the four acceptable types is money. As men, we’re always judged on our job and our wealth, and if we don’t have the latter long enough, we become invisible. The difference between a Brother Teacher and a crank usually is that one works as an engineer or runs his own electrician business, while the other works retail or is unemployed.
I know James wrote about showing favoritism to the rich man, and to be honest, we don’t, openly. But like it or not, manliness and earning are tied to what we think a successful man is, even in the body of Christ. This is why Duck Dynasty is so compelling; if they were just the average family, would we even pay attention to them?
It’s also odd because it seems we either minister to the completely destitute through soup kitchens, or offer self-help and Dave Ramsey to everyone else. While Dave Ramsey has a point and a lot of poorness is due to bad choices or not enough resolve, there’s a lot of men who exist in an odd spectrum between poor and wealthy. Not many ministers talk about how to keep your self-image in a job that pays little in both cash and self-worth, or gives hams to the single brother sleeping in his car or at the Y due to divorce.
4. Old, Single Men.
Do you honestly want to know the most dangerous time of your life for your average man? It’s at age 40.
That’s the time when behaviors that men have had no trouble with in the past start to hit home. Social isolation is one of them. A tremendous amount of studies show them unmarried or isolated men have more health risks and are prone to mental illnesses at far higher rates than married. Suicide is a high risk then, and men at those ages seem to manifest or risk a lot of social pathology.
If anything, modern culture seems to think any man unattached at age 40 is odd at best, dangerous at worst. The bonus is if you can survive this decade, the risks start going back to normal. But when have you ever seen churches address or care about the older, non grandpa brothers? Aren’t they invisible at best, annoying at worst?
Being a Christian guy is rougher than it seems. There’s a ton of noise about women’s problems in society and in general, but increasingly men are suffering under their own burdens. Even among Christians, there are invisible types that bind what we expect men to be, and people harshly punish men who deviate from them. Even unconsciously, because many people simply don’t know what to do when men don’t fulfill their roles.
I’ve worked over this post several times. I could have been a lot harsher, actually. Men are taken for granted in life and in church, and in many ways are far more limited than women in what they can be or do. It doesn’t seem like this, because feminism tends to suffer from what’s called the apex fallacy-a focus on the very top men and ignoring the rest. Yes, more men are CEOs, but a LOT of us suffer things like homelessness, mental illness, isolation, and health issues at the bottom, and things about male privilege can be cruel ironies when college educated women lecture high school dropouts or service workers on how society benefits them. But bitterness can’t be a response, because the point is to balance this and fix it. Men need to be reintegrated into things, but the more bitter you hold to things like this, the more likely you are going to say “to hell with it,” go your own way, and enjoy the decline as much as possible. I hope this sparks some conversation about male gender roles that is’t all feminist rants on male privilege, but actual men talking about things. Mansplaining is bad? Femsplaining is just as bad.