One Aspect of Manhood We Can't Live Without
"The cause doesn't have to be righteous and battle doesn't have to be winnable; but over and over again throughout history, men have chosen to die in battle with their friends rather than to flee on their own and survive."
—Sebastian Junger (War)
What is it about men that they do this? We may as well ask why the following is also exemplary of men:
During the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., four of the twelve victims were young men who died protecting women with their bodies; there no examples of the opposite. (Junger, National Review)
Junger notes that women sometimes will protect children, as did one teacher during the Sandy Hook killings—"but examples of women using their bodies to shield male partners are vanishingly rare."
But not all men risk their lives:
An armed sheriff's deputy working as a security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during [Feb. 14's] mass shooting has resigned amid an investigation that found he did not enter the school during Nikolas Cruz's deadly gun rampage, which killed 17 people. (CrimeOnline)
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel
was visibly angered by the deputy's inaction. "Devastated, sick to my stomach - there are no words," Israel said, adding that [Deputy] Peterson was "clearly" aware of the active shooter situation.
The condemnation of the guard's inaction is nearly universal. Some call it pure cowardice. Some may only say he did not do his job. Didn't he have an obligation to enter the school and risk his life? He was, in fact, carrying a gun for a reason and he didn't use it.
What if it had been a salesman or lawyer who happen to be carrying a gun and heard the shooting? Had he gone in, we would call him a hero. But if a guard had gone in, we might still call him a hero; such heroic policemen or soldiers often say, "I was just doing my job." But we still admire them, for this job uniquely includes the willingness to die.
We admire men who risk their lives when it is their job, and all the more when it's not. The young men who died in Aurora may have felt it was their job—their role as men—to protect women, even if they were not being paid to do it. For willingness to die seems to rise from within such men when the situation calls for protection. But it didn't rise from within the Deputy Peterson, even when it was part of his job.
So here we have a role that is not routine, that is not always taken up, that, when it is embraced, is considered manly, and when it is expected but refused, it is put down to cowardice. Junger writes,
Even in a society such as ours that aspires to gender fairness, harbors differing expectations for the sexes. Both men and women blithely use the phrase "Be a man about it" despite the fact that our vernacular has no female equivalent.
The status of women as adults is simply not in question.
Not so for men. The stubborn persistence of phrases such as "Man up" and "Be a man about it" imply that it's possible to be an adult male and yet fail the societal definition of manhood.
If there is an "add on" to being merely male that we call "being a man," it doesn't seem, then, that is is merely biologically based or acquired (unlike motherhood, biologically speaking), but has to somehow be developed in the man, and must emerge as manhood.
Most societies have had various ways to make boys into men, and have instinctively known that it is a project for the good of society. If the recent demise of the Boy Scouts of America (now accepting girls into what has now been renamed "Scouting BSA") is any indication of our society's interest in manhood, liberal sexual-revolutionized America does not care for men and has forgotten or suppressed what the two sexes are really like.
What has Christ got to do with this? Plenty. With an eye to my opening quotation from Junger, Jesus Christ is the one who laid down his life in full for his friends, in this case, children, women, and men—using his own Body to absorb the deadly arrows of sin. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Moreover, he feeds us with that Body, broken for all. Such love lies at the heart of the cosmos, beats in the heart of every true man, and is admired by all.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.