The #MeToo Moment and Manhood
"God save us from the modern male."
We have now witnessed a seemingly unending stream of accusations of sexual impropriety—even abuse—against powerful men. There is much for America to learn from the sordid unveiling that #MeToo has wrought. As I’ve reflected on this trend, here is one thread that stands out, and that I’ve rarely seen commented on: there are so very few men who spoke up in defense of apparently wronged women.
It has been heartening to see women bond together in support of one another. But the men who work alongside the women who were targeted, wronged, and preyed upon seem curiously quiet, then and now. Of course, I’m sure there is much we don’t know in the cases yet illumined. But that stated, the nagging query persists: What happened with these guys? Why are they so hard to find in these awful revelations? If you pay attention, and listen closely today, it’s almost as if you can hear an ancient question, asked by a divine voice:
Where are you?
This citation of Genesis 3 makes sense when you think back. The first woman was made from the body of the first man (Genesis 2:21-22). Every time Adam looked at Eve, he was looking at a creation that came from his own form. I believe there was a divine lesson there for Adam (spelled out more in this book). The Lord burned on his brain that the woman depended on his strength, and that he must never harm her. Instead, he should use his body for her. He would need to work hard and provide for her; he would need to lead her; most significantly for our purposes, he would need to protect her. He was the forerunner, after all, of the Messiah, the husband-king, who would give his own life for his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33).
But though the Lord called Adam to this role, Adam abdicated it. The serpent undid the creational order and preyed upon Eve. Adam passively allowed it. He showed that, though wreathed in glory and made by God’s own hand, he was not the true son of God. He did not crush the serpent’s head. He did not rush to Eve’s defense. He did not throw himself between Satan and his wife. He faded into the background, weak, self-focused, abandoning his God-given role.
Yet, though the serpent destabilized divine design, he did not overturn it. After the fall, the Lord did not confront Eve. The Lord came to Adam in the garden and asked him a simple but thundering question: Where are you? (Genesis 3:9). The “you” here is singular in the Hebrew. The point is unmistakable: God held Adam responsible for the fall. Eve was complicit, having acted wickedly and faithlessly, but it was Adam who God approached, and Adam who God indicted.
I thought of this ancient scene many times recently. Over and over again, actresses, journalists, and women of varying backgrounds have come forward, bravely, and given account of harassment and predation. All these accusations must be handled through appropriate channels. But, it surely looks as though many men in many industries have wronged many women for many years, and apparently without recourse. There is so much to sort out and think through here; clearly, America is reaping the bitter fruits of its toxic sexual paradise. But again, one thread that haunts me is this: Where were the men?
Christianity, we remember, does not stand for the abuse of women. Christian men, shaped and formed by the image of Christ, lay their lives down for women. They reverence women. They protect women. They do the awkward stuff no one else wants to do. They hear the couple arguing at great volume in their apartment complex and they knock on the door. They see a father mistreating his child and they put a stop to it, even risking their safety. They hear about terror and they, if necessary, leave their quiet and comfortable life to wage war and keep women and children safe. None of this is fancy. None of it is praised by most. All of it is shaped by gospel faith, driven by a greater joy, fired by the emblem of Christ above everything.
Our culture has lost this vision of manhood. Said better, our culture has cast off this conception. It does not want it. Perversely, our culture attempts to pin the crimes of the sexualized abusers on genuinely noble men. It sees manhood as the problem, not sin. It thus ensures that the problem will never go away. The way to attack the evils men perpetrate, after all, is not to geld men, but to simultaneously deconstruct and reconstruct them. You must call them to account, holding them responsible for their wrongs; then you must show them that, in Christ, they may become something new, something pure, a weapon in the holy hands of God.
We are in the age of the male. We look around us, and we see so many males, and so few men. Having lost any clear sense of what a man is, we now witness the long, gradual undoing of men. Our culture aids and abets this undoing; as a token that I saw recently at Brown University – it offers feminine hygiene products in the men’s room. Think about what this action represents: it tells every man who goes into the bathroom that there is no such thing as manhood, that the lines between man and woman are blurred, and that manhood is nothing more than clothing you wear, an identity you temporarily put on. A society that does so is not in peril; it is already undone, coming apart at the seams.
Of course, there are still vestiges of the old ways. Men (disproportionately from the South and Midwest) still go into the military; men everywhere still like doing typically masculine things. But we are all re-educated now, and the nobility that goes with a big, heroic vision of manhood has largely diminished in our public places. It turns out that modern men—males, I mean—have very little to say in defense of wronged women. It turns out they do not put their careers on the line when a young actress is lured away by a hulking male. It seems they do not have anything to say in such moments—no fiery confrontation, no clear-headed rebuke, no standing-down of evil. Just quiet, passive self-protection, by and large. Nobility never rears its head. The sinful man, acting in glad cooperation with the cultural indoctrination he has so generously received, never makes a peep. Beside him, women smolder and burn, abused and unprotected, but the male barely notices, and if he does notice, he is probably annoyed at her emotional fragility.
God save us from the modern male. God give us back the man. Our culture has done all it can to ensure that this will not happen. It has trained men not to protect women. It places itself in great danger for doing so. Beyond a compromised workplace, the modern male will not go to war. He will not put his life on the line for others. With Islamic terrorism in full flower all over the world, he will put flowers by a memorial and use a hashtag on social media, but he will not rise to defend women and children. Selfishly, he does not want to do so; culturally, he has been told not to do so.
This tragic reversal noted, there is still hope, great and surging hope. As long as there is a church, there is a place where men are remade. As long as there are godly men who care about the next generation, there is hope for the males all around us, for sinners of every kind, every sex, every background, no matter how ruined, no matter how indoctrinated, no matter how selfish. Let us not click on awful headlines, one after another, and despair. Let us return to the old ways, and the old paths. Out of the overflow of the power and example of Christ, let us train young men to be godly, to be heads of their homes, to be the spiritual leaders and protectors of local churches.
This work is not easy. We have to go after men. They are hiding. They are weak. They do not know who they are. With echoes of a much greater summons in mind, let us call to them, and seek their renewal.
Where are you?
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared the Center for Public Theology website and is used with permission.