At Sunshine Mary’s, commenter Ephirius linked to an article that epitomizes why the current feminized version of Christianity (and everything else for that matter) is simply not up to the challenges we face today. Megan Hill obviously cares very deeply for her sons, including her youngest who “doesn’t much care about winning and sometimes wanders away from the backyard ball game by the second inning.” Unfortunately–
Baby, sometimes love just ain’t enough
–Glen Burtnik/Patty Smyth, Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough
She cites C.S. Lewis’s as an example of “an imaginative and artistic boy” who would fall short of the “narrow standard that may be gaining popularity among Christians”: [emphasis mine]
Sent to English boarding schools from the age of 10, Lewis “does not seem to have fitted into the public school culture of the Edwardian age.” Instead of participating in the athletic competitions, Lewis listened to opera and read poetry.
And his differentness caused him trouble. “Boys who were not good at games,” McGrath writes, “were ridiculed and bullied by their peers. Athleticism devalued intellectual and artistic achievement and turned many schools into little more than training camps for the glorification of physicality. Yet the cultivation of manliness was seen as integral to the development of character.”
As traumatizing as I’m certain the young, sensitive Lewis must have felt in those “training camps for the glorification of physicality”, the most rudimentary search on Lewis’s biography reveals that he survived trench warfare in World War I at the Somme. I suspect he found that even more harrowing that whatever wedgies he might have gotten at boarding school.
Furthermore, as much as the hostile culture around him may have “devalued intellectual and artistic achievement”, somehow the meek little Lewis managed to go his own way and become a world-renowned intellectual and artist.
Yet all that Miller wants us to glean from her article regarding Lewis is that he was a sensitive boy and did great things for Christ, so we should refrain from “over-defining and forcing our young people to prove what does not need to be proven” by making effete boys feel uncomfortable.
It never occurs to her that regarding Lewis, she might not be dealing injustice but instead with a mere case of cause and effect.
Women want to be protected, and they want to protect their children. She sees discomfort in a negative light, and she assumes that discomfort is necessarily bad. Rare is the woman who understands that Raising a Man is something about which she knows almost nothing. In fact her instincts may run directly contrary to what must be done:
It can be scary as a mother watching this, but if we want our boys to grow up into strong and masculine Men, this is what will bring the confidence that comes along with accomplishing something for real. It’s not a trophy that everyone wins for participating. It’s a real and true task that was learned and learned well by the boy himself. That cannot be replaced by false words of praise. Kids do know better. Much better.
Stingray is wise enough to recognize that although “[I]t can be scary”, it might still be necessary. Unfortunately she’s an exception.
For although Miller identifies a (small) part of what boys need to learn:
Boys are, little by little, training to be heads of households as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23).
she also believes that:
…these skills, like any of our other holy duties, are harder for some individuals to learn than for others. It is unloving and unbiblical to assume that every Christian boy will naturally take on leadership roles or every Christian girl will immediately enjoy homemaking duties. Just as each one of us struggles to put on certain requirements of the Lord (say, patience and contentment) the personalities of some young people will make mastering their gender responsibilities hard work. We ought not to make easy facility in these tasks a test for true piety.
while forgetting that if something is “harder for some individuals to learn than for others”, then some people have to work harder to get it done. Some people might even have to be pushed.
Doing What Comes Unnaturally
On one hand, Miller recognizes that certain things must be learned. On the other hand, she implies that a boy without “easy facility” at being masculine somehow doesn’t need to be masculine.
Or more accurately, anything that needs to be done will sort of take care of itself. A boy like her son who defies those narrowly constrained gender roles will somehow succeed despite his propensity to wander away from the baseball game when he gets bored, that somehow it’s okay for him to just do what he wants to do.
Yet she uses Lewis as her example, a man who was undoubtedly teased and bullied to a far greater extent than her son will ever be. Perhaps living in such a hostile environment enabled him to survive the infinitely more hostile environment of the Western Front where he couldn’t just walk away because he’s not into fitness. Maybe the horrors of World War I gave him the type of strength that any man needs to be able to go toe-to-toe with Satan on a regular basis like Lewis did.
Lewis preferred poetry to boxing as a child and suffered for it. Some kids drop their passions under such pressure, Lewis didn’t and became a great man of letters. He made it through a school that attempted to “over-define” masculinity, yet although he rejected much of what that school wanted him to become, he still became a man.
And if C.S. Lewis were raised the way Miller wants us to raise her son and others like him, that may not have happened.
If his own inability to confront challenges didn’t break him, World War I certainly would have.
Everything to Prove
Christian young people—thinkers and feelers, musicians and rock-climbers, wrestlers and poets alike—have nothing to prove.
Pardonez-vous le français, but BULLSHIT. I won’t go into girlhood, but the purpose of boyhood is to prove you’re becoming a man. You’ve got to prove you can make it through experiences you find unpleasant, you’ve got to prove you can win at things in which you’ve no “easy facility”, and even if you hate sports, you’ve got to prove that you can earn respect in a world that admires athletes.
You’ve got to prove that you can handle being made fun of, you’ve got to prove you’re a leader and that you merit respect. Even poets can earn respect from athletes (not easy, but doable), but that’s only if he proves to them that he deserves their respect. The pleading blog posts of his mother isn’t going to cut it.
Things are getting rough out there, and if Ms. Miller’s young and sensitive son can’t prove to himself that he can take care of himself physically, he’ll probably always feel inadequate, and he may well get eaten alive by an unethical man who isn’t quite so inclined towards “snuggling”.
It’s harder for her son that other kids; I get it. That means it’ll be harder for him and even harder than that for his mom. Tough shit.
We’re under assault from every angle (she makes a great point about the prevalence of homosexuality putting extra pressure on boys), and it’s going to take tough men to fight back. Not all of them necessarily need to be physically tough, but each needs to be a mental badass.
And one of the best ways to become strong on the inside is to pop right back up after getting flattened on the football field.
You think you’re son’s going to do okay in a world like this without finding that sort of strength?
Ms. Miller, both you and my son have my prayers. You each have some challenges ahead.
But please, even though it’s not your job to throw him in the lake like John Wayne in Stingray’s video, it is your job to get the hell out of the way and let other men turn him into a man.
His very life, and perhaps his very soul, depend on it.