The face of rape is changing and it looks a lot more like young men we know. (By this, I mean we are no longer assuming rapist are wearing dark jackets with faces covered, lurking in the dark corners of the streets.) The new face of rape comes in groups and may be comprised of upstanding young men, strong members of the community, and, quite frankly, be a part of our youth ministries. When this does occur, the repeated refrain is that this action “seems so out of character.” But does it really, given the manhood being taught in our world, including in some of our churches today?
The headlines regarding rape have been horrific in the last few weeks. Death after a gang rape in India, gang rape from high schoolers in Ohio, and shock over an archaic law allowing rape of single women in California. This is hardly the way anyone hopes to begin a new year, and certainly not how I anticipated beginning a blog post in a season typically filled with hope, resolutions, and a sense of starting over. But maybe this is just what we need to hold out hope to others, to resolve to be about the things of God and to start afresh crying out for (and working toward) God’s kingdom and will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Tim Wright, pastor at Community of Grace, offered a warning and a vision this week on his blog The Heroic Quest for Boys. It was the first time I had seen such a clear upending of the term “warrior” and all that goes with it. This is a popular term in Christian circles for many young men and pastors reaching out to them. But it is also a term so often laced with patriarchal and abusive ideals.
The Warning: In his essay, “The Crisis of Manliness,” Waller Newall laments, “As a culture we have never been more conflicted about what we mean by manhood.” Many of our men suffer from Flight Club syndrome. Newell explains, “Under-fathered young men, many from broken homes, are prone to identify their maleness with aggression because they have no better model to go by…If young men are cut off from the positive tradition of manly pride their manliness will reemerge in crude and retrograde forms.” (The Book of Man, William J. Bennett, p. xxi)
A vision of hope: We need warriors today, not for fighting each other but for fighting hunger, discrimination, pollution, human slavery, and the abduction of children for soldiery, among many other conditions of human and animal suffering. We need warriors who can battle congently and convincingly in boardrooms and in the media, in schools and courtrooms, in forgotten jail cells and in dusty fields long rendered infertile by poverty, pollution, or civil war. And we need leaders among these warriors who can match the nuanced complexions of these kinds of battles with an incisive intelligence, stellar communication skills, and a talent for moving fluidly between competing perspectives and entities.(The Last Boys Picked: Helping Boys Who Don’t Play Sports Survive Bullies and Boyhood, Janet Sasson Edgette adn Beth Margolis Rupp, p. 181)
I would like to call Christian men and women both to enter into the lives of young men and draw them to something greater than the warrior metaphor! Something that God actually intended. My belief is that men have much more to offer than a caricature of manhood and this is NOT in opposition to, or to the detriment of, women.