Toxic Submarines…?

I really love a good submarine movie, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a guy…

As a matter of fact, the first movie I ever saw (1990) in a theater was “The Hunt for Red October” starring Sean Connery – I was in high school at the time. (Our family was not a theater going bunch!)

I still remember the experience of being amazed and overwhelmed at the big screen and big sound. The slow burning, tense plot in that underwater environment was fantastic.

There haven’t been many really good sub movies in awhile, but not too long ago I watched “Hunter Killer”. (Spoiler alerts coming up… Sorry!)

It reminded me of the Hunt for Red October, but it had a variety of settings -on land (with Black Ops type of soldiers) and political arenas in Washington, with generals, leaders, bureaucrats and etc… (So there was something for those who wanted more than just an underwater adventure – mind you, I wouldn’t have minded if that was all there was!)

In the movie there were quite few moments that appealed to me on a very intensely masculine level. There were scenes of respect between the American and Russian submarine captains – man to man.

There was admirable stoicism shown by the injured American soldier -who took the pain and did his job, even if that meant to the death.

There was the brotherly love and comradery with the small band of soldiers who would risk their lives for each other and left no man alone or behind.

There was the aggression and breath taking admiration of weapons -for example, in one of the final scenes the American submarine is being fired on by Russian military coup leaders. Just before we think the submarine has had it, a Russian destroy unleashes a hail of explosive counter measures that shreds every missile!  It was amazing! (Now, I’m not in favour of weapons -I don’t like conflict… but there was something appealing about the whole scenario.)

 

But the American Psychological Association has set its site on understanding masculinity, and proclaimed that “Traditional masculinity” is dangerous to our health in its “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. (By “traditional” they mean qualities of competition, stoicism, violence and aggression).

“Traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful,” says a summary commentary on the APA’s website. This explains why men are responsible for the vast majority of violence in society.”

Read the Article.

 

Furthermore, the buzz words that has been forced into our intellectual consciousness is “Toxic Masculinity”.  Here are a few titles that have recently surfaced on the internet: “Australian study reveals the dangers of ‘toxic masculinity’ to men and those around them”, “Shaving Away Toxic Masculinity”, “Toxic masculinity impacts men as well as women”, “Gillette’s Close Shave: A Victory For #MeToo Or Toxic Masculinity?”  (That’s just to name a few...)

 

Interestingly enough, those same targeted elements or qualities were all things I observed in the movie Hunter Killer- which I thought to be neither negative or toxic.

I believe there is a problem with labeling half the population with a label. Maybe the real issue is the need for a basic, core understanding of maleness as opposed to a variety of hyphenated masculinities.  (For example the APA splinters masculinity into the descriptions of “diverse, dominant, traditional, contextual, expressive, rigid and so forth.”)

 

Males who are negatively aggressive, unable to have genuine relationships with other men, and are homophobic, (all qualities liberally and unfairly attached to “traditional masculinity”)… well those guys are jerks, (and it should be noted that the playing field for bad behaviour is level despite gender… male or female…)

So, this was the insight I gained from watching Hunter Killer. In my opinion, this submarine movie was traditionally admirable and definitely non-toxic.

What do you think?

Me Too…

Lately, some big names have been caught up in situations and allegations of sexual assault and there appears to be no statute of limitation for bad behaviour. There is (almost) no glass ceiling that can not be broken, touched or at least smudged in this current ethos of retroactive justice.

For those guys wondering what the fuss is all about… What about, “sowing wild oats” or “boys will be boys”? Well, youthfulness, hormones and alcohol (an unholy cocktail) is a hollow justification for assault and abuse. Marinate all of that in astonishing amounts poor judgement -that’s just a recipe for disaster regardless of gender.

Why do some men, behave in such a sexually cavalier manner? Apparently, if she’s not your mother or your sister, any other female is “fair game”. But the rules of the game are being rewritten, and if I could squeeze one more metaphor, the chickens are coming home to roost -allegedly. I fear however, that the wrong message is being digested. Young men might be hearing, “Be careful what you do, it may come back to haunt you.”

If that is the focus when it comes to behaviours of youthful hormonal exploits, sexual assault or sexual abuse, then the goal is to make sure that those ghosts don’t come back. Furthermore, there are those who have escaped and live in exile from justice, finding a way to exorcise those spirits using money, distance and exploiting the right vulnerabilities.

So, if the focus is about “not ever getting caught”, what’s the point? Is any of this significant, does any of this matter? If the threat of being outed can be successfully managed, this is all meaningless.

The behaviour and mindset are the essential ingredient to be addressed and changed. The real issue is how men are to treat women.

We need to be teaching our boys and our young men how they should treat women. I feel the Biblical mandate is the most poignant.

In Ephesians 5:28, husbands (men) are instructed to loved their wives as they would their own bodies. In other words, the way how you respect, feel and care about your body is template for treating women. Our body parts are more than just body parts, and items to be used and discarded. It’s a much more meaningful and intimate Golden Rule.

One more thing is concerning to me… Does the execution of offenders need to be accomplished with such virulence against masculinity? Some men might interpret this frontier justice as hostility, and women risk losing the most significant ally in their struggle.

I understand and see the necessity for the “Me Too Movement”, but personally, I wish it came from the other direction.

Men, what if the standard and reality was “I care about and respect women”? Then we could all stand up one at a time and agree… #Me too

High Heels & Masculinity

Not long ago I heard on the radio that some men would be wearing high heel shoes in a special walk sponsored by the White Ribbon Campaign Organization…

I’ve often joked about wearing stilettos, but only in the context of explaining how the German army used tanks in their Blitzkrieg military strategy during WW2…   (They lined them up one in front of the other -as opposed to advancing side by side.)  I’d then explain further that if one’s foot was stepped on with running shoes as opposed to heels, the latter would be more damaging.   (That’s how the Germans were able to perform the “break through” of their enemies’ defenses with their tanks exerting the pressure like the tip of this female footwear…)   I may have totally lost you, but then again this was not supposed to be about grade 10 history.

Back to the point…  The White Ribbon Campaign is an organization that has the primary goal of ending gender-based violence and promoting gender equality.   (This is an extremely important agenda.) 

The other night I was catching up on “Timeless” (that television show that time travels through history) and it centered on the episode of women suffrage (the right to vote) in 1919.  I was horrified at the brutality and violence of the male police officers against the female protesters, and it seemed reminiscent of what occurs with domestic and other forms of gender violence.  Yet, how does the Campaign wage war against these behaviors? 

One of the primary values of the organization is to promote a “new vision of masculinity”.  The idea focuses on men taking responsibility and leading the charge against gender-based violence.  Men wearing high heels paints the metaphor of walking in another person’s shoes.  (Although,  I bet some women might argue about the cruelty of such uncomfortable footwear and rant against this representation of femininity…)

On their website they state the following:

Through education, awareness-raising, outreach, technical assistance, capacity building, and partnerships, White Ribbon’s programming challenges negative, outdated concepts of manhood and inspires men to understand and embrace the incredible potential they have to be a part of positive change.

Toxic masculinity hurts everyone.

How can manhood in all of it’s importance, depth and nuances be labelled as ‘negative’, and masculinity as ‘toxic’?  Those negative and toxic elements are not a holistic nor definitive  representation of all it is.  Masculinity and manhood represents nearly half the people on this planet.  So, what if I were to describe a large group of people by their worst offenders?  Furthermore, where does one find up-to-date concepts of manhood?

Interestingly enough, this ‘new vision of masculinity’ is actually an old vision -minus the high heels (which I suspect panders to the gender fluid ethos of our contemporary culture).

The first man (Adam -who appears to be an obvious template of masculinity) became “one flesh” with his wife.  Upon their introduction he declared words of comfort and care, meanwhile underscoring the depth and connection between a man and woman.  He said, “You are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…”  (Genesis 2:23)  He acknowledges his love and recognition for Eve by declaring how interconnected and intertwined they were on the most fundamental level.

In the New Testament the understanding is expressed further as males (husbands) are commanded to treat females (wives) as their own flesh (or bodies), which is a call to love, nurture and care.  (Ephesians 5:28)

Typically, we love our bodies and don’t demean, discriminate or are violent towards ourselves.  We take responsibility of this attitude, and the way we treat ourselves is the way men should treat women.  That has been the oldest and truest vision of masculinity. 

Stats about violence against women are unacceptable, alarming and sad, but masculinity is not toxic, nor does manhood require new vision.  We need to more clearly see the old one. 

What do you think?  Your thoughts and comments are welcome. 

In Search of a Cause? 

I’m not a big admirer of classic movies, but there are some that have made an indelible impact on our culture.

Take for instance the 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause, (which I recently got the chance to watch).  I’ve associated the film with James Dean, even though I was unfamiliar with it. His characterization of Jim Stark (not to be confused with Tony Stark – different franchise), a troubled socially isolated teenager was apparently quite identifiable to youth of the 1950s. He seemed to embody the pulse of adolescent angst against the stiff and stuffy establishment, as well as the misaligned relatability and tension between the young and the old.

The driving force behind the movie was the larger than life James Dean whose untimely, tragic accidental death may have catapulted the film further into the realm of legend. (I read somewhere that he became the first to receive an academy award nomination after death.)

Mind you, I’m not sure if the movie aged well (in terms of acting techniques) but I was fascinated at the depiction of male characters, and pondered on its (perhaps) timeless relevance.

There was the absent father of psychologically troubled teen Plato – who wound up with gun in hand in trouble with the law.  (Was it my imagination, or did he seem to have a man crush on Jim?) 

There was the ineffectual father, who awkwardly caused his daughter (Judy) to feel socially isolated, and was unable to deal with her developing sexuality. (I found those scenes uncomfortably weird…)

Finally, there was the imasculated father of Jim (cowed by a dominerring wife) who seemed to fail his son in masculine identity and leadership.

All three main characters (Plato, Judy and Jim)  experienced sad, chronic suffering due the lack of an effect masculine presence.

Despite the movie’s poor depictions,  James Dean became a familiar template of masculine coolness in our culture. You don’t have to look very far to see his replicated style and influence in many male characters in contemporary media. 

Ebert (the famous film critic) made a profoundly relevant comment saying that James Dean (along with Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley) changed masculinity in the popular culture. Men could be more “feminine, sexier, confused and ambiguous.”

Now, I’m not naively stapling the crisis of male identity solely on the backs of these sex symbols, because we are all involved in the process of change (whether actively or passively…) 

I do propose that there is a desperate need to search and shine the light on the immutable, unwavering qualities of masculinity.

If you striped it down to essentials, what are the “just the facts ma’am” of masculinity?  Or, better still, is culture the cause of masculine uncertainty? 

I would welcome your thoughts towards this discussion. 

Who is Good Enough for my Daughter?

Who is good enough for my daughter?

As I reflect on this question, I’m reminded of that scene from that old movie Uncle Buck where he (the late John Candy) goes to pick up his 16 years old niece from a party.  Being rather protective he tells a shady looking boyfriend to “hold on a sec” while he goes to get an axe from the trunk that’s “sharp enough to circumcise a gnat…”   It was quite funny to watch the response of the young man…

You’d think with my having three daughters I’d carry around three axes, or at least one shotgun, but who am I kidding, I’m not a violent person.  Furthermore, I’m not one of those guys where “no one is good enough for his princess…”  Nonetheless, I have a very clear description of the type of young man who is not good enough.

The story of Jephthah (in Judges 11 in the Old Testament) is one of my favorites.  He was a young man whose purpose came off the rails, and was misaligned -largely through no fault of his own.   This young man was “illegitimate” meaning that his father conceived him with another woman that was not his wife.  When daddy died, he was no longer welcomed in the family by his brothers and was unceremoniously expelled from his community.   (Culturally, for that time period, family was everything and he became homeless in the biggest way.)

Jephthah chose then to go a place named Tob.  Although the name of this place meant “to be pleasing, or a good thing” it was far from that.  He fell among (and I quote)worthless men“.  No, this is not a Biblical mandate to confirm what you have suspect all along that men are dogs…  (But that’s not true…dogs are actually quite nice animals…)   All joking aside, Jephthah began an Old Testament thug lifestyle of stealing and killing to make a living – “raiding” for personal gain, as opposed to being a mighty man of valor God had created him to be.

Going back to the point, the Bible identified that there are some men who are “worthless”.   What a harsh thing to say!   But, this idea is not about being no good because of personal baggage, issues, or even merely “bad behaviour.”  Jephthah had all of these, but he was not a “worthless” man -although he wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice of suitors…

Worthlessness, as I understand it does not mean that they had no value as human beings -for God loves sinners, but they were worthless in the sense that they brought no value or worth to those that they were around.  They brought negative value, pain, addiction, and waywardness.  They had no investment in the well-being of Jephthah, nor were they a positive voice to guide him back to his true identity and purpose.  Those guys were takers, not givers. They just wanted to use Jephthah for what he was – muscle, a good fighter, and a good source of income.

As a father, I don’t want anyone that brings no value attached to the life of my children (male or female).

Obviously, we as men and teenaged boys aren’t perfect, (I get it, I know that I’m not), therefore, will I cut some young men a break when it comes to my daughters?  Probably not.  Jesus preaches, come as you are, and he’ll fix you, but my daughter isn’t Jesus.   It’s not their job to fix any worthless man (or boy).  Besides, it’s hard to be connected with someone else when one does not know who or what they are.

To any young men out there (or parents of young men), I think that they may need to work on discovering, developing and living in their true identities.  They’ll definitely need to “Let Sleeping Giants Lie” (take a look at that post if you haven’t already.)  And, when Jesus says that he’s worked on them enough, maybe that’s when it’s time to get into a relationship.

Do you agree or disagree?  Am I way off base?  Your comments and thoughts are welcomed.

 

Israel

It’s Not a Good Time… 

​It’s not a good time to be a man who has sexually assaulted a woman, (nor should it have ever been).  Unfortunately, there has been (what seems like) an eon of bad and criminal behavior that has been sanctioned or largely ignored by my male influenced society… But no more, it would seem in our current cultural  context.

Mighty men are falling (be it on the left, right or center) by the judge, jury, and executioner of public opinion.

Let’s be honest, for some men we kind of like seeing their chickens coming home to roost. (We never liked those roosters to begin with…) Others, well… we’re kind of disappointed to hear of the accusations.

As a matter of fact, we hear of men being involved in sexual discrimination, assault and violence so frequently  that it borders on the commonplace.  However, this behavior is not characteristic of authentic masculinity.  (I think that needs to be said.)  

Masculinity has no room for chauvinism, sexism, misogyny, abusiveness of any kind,  and gender-based violence.  (It seems hard at times to grasp this truth, especially when one listens to the lyrics of what passes for popular music.) 

Young men, it’s not cool, nor ethical to disrespect women.  (In spite of whatever your favorite rapper or hip hop artists says.) 
Furthermore, your actions follow you and will eventually catch up with you – even if they are hormonally induced or youth influenced.  (There is no Young Offenders pass that will stop the consequences of bad behavior.)
Moreover, nowadays, dying is probably  the only way to truly get away with any thing… (but then there is a Divine judge to deal with at that point…) 

Males are called to treat women as how they would treat their own bodies.  It’s a wise,  old directive, but a true one, and it’s a good time reflect on it.

God Loves Bad Men and… 

God loves men who are addicted to pornography, and God loves men who are not. God loves men who are good and loving to their wives, and God loves men who are not. The uncomfortable reality (to those who are slightly self righteous) is that God loves good guys and bad guys…

In light of this opening statements, one must wonder… Is God conflicted? Of course not. But, wherever your theological paths may originate, it leads us to the larger truth which is that God loves men.

So, does your behavior matter? (Hold that thought for a second.)

God identified David as a man “after His own heart…” But David was guilty of marital infidelity- he saw a naked woman, lusted after her, and found a way to get her into his bed.

He was guilty of a murder conspiracy- he found a way to get Bathsheba’s husband killed so that he would be unintangled by loose ends.

He was guilty of being a poor, ineffectual father who let too many things slide which ultimately ripped his family apart… (Those are the plain, ugly facts.)
“After God’s own heart”?
Does that mean that God was “fine” with his behavior?

No, actually, what is meant was that David had a heart towards God, he sought after God’s heart, in spite of his short comings.

The overlooked and uncomfortable reality is that having one’s heart towards God ultimately bears more fruit than one’s action.

Track with me here a second before you pick up stones…

Having your heart’s desire towards God is a path way to redemption, forgiveness and transformation.

When we read the book of Psalms, we don’t think about martial infedelity, murder or bad parenting… We see a book (so beloved by believers) that lifts our hearts and minds towards God.

Yes, bad behavior does matter, there must and will be a payment, but if you’re a believer, Jesus balanced that ledger some time ago.

Song number 12 on my Life Sound Track is called “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North, and it has a chorus that really resonates with me:

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,

You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

You are more than the problems you create,

You’ve been remade.”

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog? Well, if you are less than perfect, if you struggle with hurts, hang up and addictions, if you’re not a good man, God loves you. There is hope for whoever you are, and wherever you’re from. You just need to start with turning your heart towards God.

This idea of focusing or not focusing on behaviour is probably an uncomfortable slippery slope…

I’m not trying to divorce behaviour from choices or consequences. What I’m getting at, however, is that pointing out or focusing on behaviour rarely ever changes it. You see that with the Old Testament “Law”, right? (The Law couldn’t save, it could only highlight sin…)

We know that behaviour is important because it’s all part of living out meaning. You live out meaning based on how you behave, and that comes about by the way you think, (conscious and sometimes unconscious). Addressing the thinking, as the foundation underneath, is important.

When I’m writing these blogs to reach men and young men, there are some young men who are engaged in bad behaviour, and instead of pointing that out, I want to make the focus about the thinking and what it means to be masculine. Maybe that is a more relevant conversation to be had. If we can turn our hearts to God, our behaviour will follow. (Do you remember the movie “Field of Dreams”? “If you build it, they will come!”)

Yes, I was trying to drum up a little bit of “shock and awe” with the topic. However, the theological point that underscores this entire discourse is that of grace and love. God loves all people, and he wants them to become his sons and daughters. The fact that God loves good and bad men really focuses on the importance of relationship. It brings hope to guys, no matter where you are… you can still approach and explore that spiritual aspect of your masculinity.

Masculinity is about living in relationship with God as He helps you (and me) live above mere motions, reactions or the “nature or nurture” of life…

Know this, we are not shackled to bad behaviour. On the other hand, we are not self righteous saints without spot or wrinkle. Rather, as we live with God, that relationship can and will effect you and shape your own choices and actions…

You will find yourself living in your purpose, and living in the meaning and roles of manhood, and living in relationship with God in the physical, social, and spiritual arenas of your masculinity.