I'm very aware that the main reason this gives me so much satisfaction is because I believe that being hairy makes me manly. What's more manly than a beard? Being hairy is up there with driving a Jeep, eating steak and Colin Meads.
Once you really start giving it some thought, there is an incredibly prescriptive script in New Zealand directing us humans of the male genre in our behaviour. We're supposed to be the quiet fixer-uppers, the rural pioneer blokes, the doers rather than the thinkers, the breadwinners, the agricultural heroes, the rugby players. The practical guys. The outdoorsmen. For all our societal change, being a man in our country is still dominated by a culture of the body, not of the mind. We've even got a yoghurt marketed as "Real man food, man." Get a grip, Mammoth Supply Co.
This is typical of the West, and echoes what Richard Brannon concluded is 'our culture's blueprint of manhood': No Sissy Stuff, The Big Wheel, The Sturdy Oak and Give 'em Hell. And that's fine for those that fit within this Bruce Willis loving definition. But for everyone else, this picture is marginalising, promotes subordination and diminishes the amazing pluralism of humanity for half of the population. So yippee ki yay.
The "Christian Dude"
I would love to be able to report that the church is doing a great job of subverting this patriarchal and oppressive version of manhood, but it seems that most voices from within Christendom are unaware of just how conditioned they are by the culture around them. Go to your local Christian bookstore and next to the Hillsong catalogue and inspirational posters of bible verses and cute cats you will find that books about being a godly man have become hugely popular. R.W. Connell notes that most of this is "a mixture of pop-psychology, amateur history and ill-tempered myth-making."
Perhaps the most nauseating of the lot is the self-professed wild man himself, John Elderidge, author of 'Wild At Heart'. I was given this book for Christmas one year and I read it. Once. I'll never get that time back. Elderidge is convinced that a real man is a wild risk taker and that Jesus "sounds a lot more like William Wallace than Mother Theresa". He insists that every man needs a "great battle in which a man can live and die" and says masculinity is "bestowed" from father to son, apparently through such activities as rock climbing, elk hunting and sport.
Elderidge is embarrassingly symptomatic of the tendency to link the Christian male sex role to power.
Why link the idea of masculinity to pictures like this when it only pertains to such a small percentage of the population? Connell goes on to ask some important questions: "What is 'normative' about a norm that hardly anyone meets? Are we to say the majority of men are unmasculine? How do we assay the toughness needed to resist the norm of toughness, or the heroism needed to come out as gay?"
Jesus: Behold the Man
What is most alarming about all of this is that these claims are made completely independent of what Jesus revealed through his humanity. It is to make God in Bloke's image. There is no freedom in this. It puts pressure on men to conform to a stereotype and disregard authenticity.
Jesus came as a man and didn't seem that interested in being a bloke, in exerting His 'wild power'. He didn't seem to feel the need to assert His dominance or encourage systems that forced women into submission. The Kiwi Bloke construct is a world away from the Jesus that Paul described in Philippians 2:
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!"
Wait. Jesus was obedient? Did that mean he submitted? Sounds a bit feminine to me. Let's start our conversations of masculinity, and actually, humanity here. Let's liberate ourselves from narratives placing men and women in a power struggle and resist the compulsion to have to be Hugh Jackman.
And just so you know, I have written this whole article sitting in public drinking a large moccacino with two marshmallows, and I refuse to be ashamed. I might even eat a salad next.
Sam Burrows is an ex-Middle School teacher (he made it out alive) who is currently working in Young Adult ministry while completing a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. In his spare time he likes to pretend to be a rock star and writes for enjoyment and in order to impress a potential wife.
Sam Burrows previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-burrows.html