Reality Check for Real Men

All my life I have heard society sat what “real” men do.
My Dad lived it out for me, but society often said something very different than what he taught me.
So society, let’s take a “real” look at being a “real” man.
Real means “actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”
Opinion are important, but not always real. Facts are always real.
Real men do not go around flaunting their opinion and call it “being real.”
Real men know the difference between fact and opinion.
Real men are not afraid to admit their ideas are opinion.
Real men are not afraid to admit to being wrong.
Because the fact is, we are all wrong more than we realize. That is real.
Real men listen more than they talk, because they might learn something true.

Real men do not blame women for their marital problems.
Because you made a vow saying you would love no matter what. That is real.
And real men keep their word. They don’t blame others when they fail to.
Real men do not blame women for being upset that they have been belittled for so many decades, because a real man would be upset at any human being treated less than another.

Real men do not blame gays for their marital problems.
Real men do not blame feminists, gays, or liberals for societal problems.
Society will always have complex problems that can’t be blamed on one group. That is real.

Real men take responsibility for their own problems and don’t blame others. That is real.

Real men do not talk about how women should respond to inequality issues.
Real men do not blame rape victims for the way they dress, the way they act, or any other factors.
Rapists committed a crime. They were not coerced. That is real.
Real men don’t blame the victim. Spineless punks blame victims.

Real men are not afraid of women that lead, that speak their mind, that take initiative.
Because if it is okay for you, it is okay for all. That is real.

Real men do not force everyone around them to follow their religious beliefs on every issue.
Because that would be forcing legalism on people that don’t believe.
Legalism is bad in all religions. That is real.

Real men do not pick on people that are different than them.
Real men stand up for people, even if those people believe differently than them.
Because real men believe in respect. That is real.
Real men stand against bullying of gays, even if it means they get ridiculed themselves.
Because suicide is real. And it needs to stop.

Real men are humble. When corrected, they don’t return with snark.
When questioned, they do not start an argument.
When rebuked, they do not set out to prove the other wrong.
Because the other person could have a true point if you just listen. That is real.

Real men don’t just treat others how they want to be treated themselves.
Real men treat others in the way that the other want to be treated.
Because sometimes we really suck at how we treat ourselves and don’t realize it.
Real men don’t want to suck at how they treat others. That is real.

Real men don’t get everything right.
Real men don’t give vague apologies and say “oh, I am imperfect like everyone else.”
Real men get real and specific about how they mess up.

Real men raise questions and make people think – not just preach at them.
Because that is the way the realest Man of all did it.
Real men realize that all human beings have value.
Because that is what God said, and that is real.

Real men are bold, but not for themselves or their opinion.
Because they know their opinion is not always real.
Real men are bold for love. Because God is Love. That is real.
Real men are patient.
Real men are kind.
Real men do not envy.
Real men do not boast.
Real men are not proud.
Real men do not dishonor others.
Real men are not self-seeking.
Real men are not easily angered.
Real men keep no record of wrongs.
Real men do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.
Real men always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.

God is love. Love is real.

Boldly Going Where No Evangelical Has Gone Before

Boldness. One of those concepts that is thrown around in evangelical circles, often used as one of the top measurements to rate a person’s spiritual maturity. The more “bold” you are for certain topics, or by standing up on street corners to preach the Gospel, or by attending rallies at Planned Parenthood and holding signs, then the closer to Jesus you are.

But after a few years, this system starts to unravel a bit at the seams. All of the people you boldly witnessed to are no longer attending church. You stumble upon some teachings that bring those bold stances on political issues into question. You drive by a street corner preacher one night in a hurry to run an errand and it hits you – that little snippet of his “bold” sermon you were able to catch makes absolutely no sense outside of the context of the whole 20 minute sermon. So who was it that listened the whole time to you the last time you did that anyways?

Oh, yeah. It was those people that “accepted Jesus” on the spot that are no longer going to church.

I still remember going on a “Jericho Walk” around a local strip club (during the daytime, of course) once in college. The (obviously drunk) owner came out and wanted to see what on Earth we were up to. Our leader told him that we were praying for his establishment and asked him what he thought of Jesus. The owner blurted out “I love Jesus – He changed my life” and then stumbled back inside.

I wish this was an isolated incident, but it seemed like, over time, so much of the “boldness” that I forced out of myself ended up with the same story at the end.

Lately there seems to have been an increase in the number of Christian leaders, artists and others that are going for a shocking and controversial “boldness”: hard line messages that make everyone but the most right-leaning Church members mad. They argue that they are called to be controversial and to shock people, especially in the Church.

After years and years of being a bold, controversial Christian, can I be honest? The bold controversial stuff was easy. Way too easy.

Look, anyone can piss others off. As an artist myself, can I tell you how easy it is to come up with offensive artwork, lyrics, messages, etc. Cussing in a song to get a point across ala Tony Campolo? Easy. Racy artwork to make people uncomfortable and reconsider what they do with their thought life? Too easy. Ranting sermons that take hot button topics head on? So, so, so easy.

What makes them so easy? Sure, you get nervous in the minutes leading up to it. But you know that it will be over soon. You can preach against the sins of the world, hop in your car, and head home. You record a song, but never have to face what people say most of the time – and when you do, once again, it will be a quick confrontation and then it is over.

People like to point at the “fruit” of such methods. Yes, people do respond. There are some people that are just wired to respond to being scared silly. But fear, condemnation, shock, and irritation are all poor motivators for long-term attitude change. That is why you see people respond quickly to “boldness” and disappear as quickly as they came along. Once they start thinking about what happened, they realize they made a rash, emotional response that may not be what they really wanted.

So, ultimately, boldness is not about changing the world, but about changing the one being bold. Or maybe even just about making them feel better about themselves: more spiritual, more holy, or something along those line. And we all need that – we need to grow closer to God and and go deeper in holiness.

But we have to be honest that it is a lousy way to change the world. Because the church is losing ground in what is arguably the nation with the greatest number of bold Christians anywhere.

One day it dawned on me that its really not all that hard to be bold and in your face in a way that offends and scares someone into a temporary change of mind. But it takes a lot of time and talent to ask the right vague open-ended questions that gets people thinking and eventually making a permanent change of heart. But its the model you see Jesus taking with the unbelieving masses. He saved the hell fire and brimstone for religious leaders of the day.

Anyone can be bold and controversial. But it takes quite a bit of talent and insight to do something that makes people think and reconsider their lives to the point that they make long-term, lasting changes. Or even more specifically, it takes a good dose of an area that few evangelicals seem interested in going: educational theory.

Education is really about changing people’s knowledge and attitudes over the long term. But it requires a lot of effort to make people think. It takes a long time, and often requires that you allow people to get it wrong before they can get it right. It also means sometimes asking the vague questions more often than preaching the bold words. Do you want people to take your word for it and never really know why they should, or to figure it out for themselves and know why they should believe it?

metamodern-faith-avatarSo, if we are looking to reach people and change the world, why not look to the field of education for research and strategies? We only seem to look to theology for quick, easy answers to everything, and then when that fails to connect with people we usually blame the people for being “hard-hearted” rather than look at our approach. I say it is time to re-examine the approach and quit blaming the world around us.