Sometimes changes in the culture of a nation can be dramatically illustrated by a single event. Such was the case earlier this year in May when the story of Michael Rotondo briefly grabbed national attention.
Rotondo, a 30-year old man in upstate New York, had moved back into his parents’ home eight years ago after losing a job. After living at home and refusing to pay rent or assist them in any way to keep up the house or pay any expenses, his frustrated parents finally resorted to going to court to have their son evicted. For them, it was the last straw after repeated requests to have him move out failed.
During this time of parent-enabled idleness, Rotondo managed to father a son out of wedlock. That son, now five years old, became the object of a custody battle with the child’s mother, and Rotondo later admitted that his anti-eviction battle with his parents was part of his overall strategy to garner media attention that he hoped would help him win that custody battle.
In court, Rotondo made the outlandish assertion that his parents’ demand that he move out was “outrageous” and that he was entitled to live there. When he demanded six more months of rent-free asylum, the court sided with his parents and ordered him to move out within two weeks. Once evicted, he disappeared into obscurity.
While this ludicrous event grabbed attention in the same manner as tabloid journalism, it also cast the spotlight on yet another aspect of deteriorating national character—the sad decline of the American male.
A far cry from the biblical example
What has happened to men today? A growing tide of books, blogs, lectures, social media posts, and magazine articles points to the growing wimpiness and whiny immaturity of males in America. More and more, men are seen as weak, indecisive, fearful, childish, effeminate, inept creatures, no longer certain of their proper role in society. One hears terms like wuss, sissy, snowflake and others not suitable for print to describe men, especially younger men.
While this new model of maleness can be ascribed to men of all ages, the evidence shows it especially predominates among those in their 20s and 30s.
Before going farther, let’s take note of the first of several biblical passages that bear on masculinity. Ancient Israel’s King David demonstrated aspects of the character and values of maleness that God values. After all, God referred to David as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22 Acts 13:22And when he had removed him, he raised up to them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.
American King James Version×).
The Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Samuel are largely devoted to the life story of this man of great faith who in his youth took on dangerous wild animals and brought down a giant enemy warrior—and who went on to endure many trials, rising from personal failures to continue in God’s ways.
On his deathbed David instructed his son Solomon, who would be the next king, to “be strong and show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2 1 Kings 2:2I go the way of all the earth: be you strong therefore, and show yourself a man;
American King James Version×, English Standard Version). David’s life was a life of action, courage and boldness. He knew his son would need these same qualities to effectively lead the nation.
Surprising measurable lack of manliness
The decline of maleness is widespread. Popular culture derides the limp handshake, yet a recent study shows this to be a growing reality—that millions of men just can’t get the grip on things that men once had!
The results, published in the Journal of Hand Therapy, revealed that men’s hand strength has fallen drastically in recent decades. The North Carolina study of nearly 250 men from millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations showed that hand strength, as measured by gripping force, among men has decreased significantly over the past 30 years (as reported in the Waterloo Region Record, Aug. 28, 2016).
It is telling that the same study found this was not the case among millennial women, whose grip strength was found to be virtually unchanged from 30 years ago. That brings to mind a current TV commercial for a popular motel chain that portrays an attractive, confident young businesswoman giving a firm double handshake to an older male colleague, who appears duly impressed.
Back in 2007 the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that men’s testosterone levels plummeted 17 percent from 1987 to 2004, or about 1 percent per year. The study found that not only were men losing testosterone as they aged, a normal occurrence, but men from later eras had substantially lower testosterone levels than their predecessors at the same age. A man who turned 65 in 2002, for example, had much lower testosterone levels than a man who turned 65 in 1987.
“A majority of this generation consists of formally educated, but spoiled, soft post-adolescents, who will struggle to be self-sustaining as adults.”
The same study showed an overall reduction in men’s reproductive health and cited several factors for this disturbing trend, including sedentary jobs, poor diet and lifestyle choices.
A May 2012 Forbes article titled “A Generation of Sissies” lamented the societal links between our changing culture and the demise of the American middle class.
“In recent decades,” wrote the author John Marriotti, “American parents have raised a ‘Generation of Sissies’—of spoiled, lazy, pampered and over-rated youth, youth who are highly educated, but in things that the world doesn’t value very much (and thus won’t pay for). The top 25% may be as good, as bright, as motivated as ever, and will likely be as successful as ever. The vast majority of this generation consists of formally educated, but spoiled, soft post-adolescents, who will struggle to be self-sustaining as adults …
“Members of this ‘Generation of Sissies’ have been the victims of being coddled, babied, pampered, misled, misguided, and under-educated so badly that their ‘take care of me’ upbringing cannot be sustained as they move into adulthood. The parents, who did this, also share in the responsibility for the failure of America’s educational system.”
Marriotti went on to place blame for the decline in American competitiveness on indulgent parents and an educational system in which “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.” Clearly, the effects of America’s penchant for maintaining children’s tender self-esteem over everything else are finally coming home to roost.
Education and entertainment lead the war against men
Further evidence of the changing role of younger American males can be found in the steadily declining enrollments of college-age men. Many sources verify what every college instructor knows: Men are avoiding the classroom.
An August 2017 article in The Atlantic cited U.S. Department of Education figures showing that men now make up only 44 percent of students in American colleges and universities, a major reversal from the late 1970s when men made up 58 percent of college enrollments. Currently men make up slightly more than one third of college graduates, and the percentage has been dropping nearly every year.
And while it’s true that college is no longer seen as the sure route to a successful career it once was, it’s also true that a nation’s leaders tend to come from the ranks of the more highly educated. What, then, does this say about men’s roles in leading America in the future?
It might say what God told His people more than 2,700 years ago through the prophet Isaiah: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people, those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12 Isaiah 3:12As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.
American King James Version×)
Entertainment also comes in for its share of the blame, and the portrayal of men in television and other media has shown a marked change over the past 40 years. Gone are rugged male roles such as those portrayed in TV Westerns, or portrayals of caring, wise, decisive fathers popularized in 1960s-era TV programs such as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver.
Well before the end of the 90s those types were replaced by softer, gentler types, or roles that portrayed men—especially fathers—as inept bumblers, lovable idiots who, without the influence of their smart, decisive and efficient wives, would wreak havoc in their own households. Sensitivity became the watchword—John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were out.
TV does influence society, and who knows to what extent various popular programs provided role models for today’s younger men?
Certainly one of the most insidious evils of our time is the widespread belief in educational circles that there are no significant differences in the mental and emotional makeup of boys and girls. Modern education has swallowed this fallacy hook, line and sinker, and it too has contributed to the de-masculinization of males.
Today in many school systems boys undergo indoctrination that begins as early as kindergarten that they should be more like girls, and vice versa. In the most recent edition of her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Young Men, author Christina Sommers ties these efforts to the culture of denial about the lack of male academic achievement that pervades American schools.
“Although many educators recognize that boys have fallen far behind girls in school, few address the problem in a serious way,” says Sommers. “Schools that try to stop the trend, through boy-friendly pedagogy [or teaching method], literacy interventions, vocational training, or same-sex classes, are often thwarted. Women’s lobbying groups still call such projects evidence of a ‘backlash’ against girls’ achievements and believe they are part of a campaign to slow further female progress.”
She discusses how the myth of “gender sameness” works to systematically deny boys the help they need to progress in an educational culture that is increasingly stacked against them.
“To address the problem, we must acknowledge the plain truth: boys and girls are different. Yet in many educational and government circles, it remains taboo to even broach the topic of sex differences. Gender scholars and experts still insist that the sexes are the same and argue that any talk of difference only encourages sexism and stereotypes. In the current environment, to speak of difference invites opprobrium [or denunciation], and to speak of boys’ special needs invites passionate, organized opposition” (2015, pp. 1-2, emphasis added throughout).
Some areas carry this attitude to absurd lengths, such as Wisconsin’s new law that seeks to indoctrinate kindergarten age boys about the dangers of “toxic masculinity.” Boys are taught there are no differences in the sexes and that what is important is sensitivity training and greater appreciation of the feminine side of life.
Across the nation in schools everywhere, boys are taught that feelings of aggressiveness, assertiveness and decisiveness are wrong. But let us ask: Was Jesus Christ acting “overly masculine” when, angered at the crass commercialism taking place in the Jerusalem temple, He quickly made a whip of cords and drove out the moneychangers? “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” He thundered (John 2:16 John 2:16And said to them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
American King James Version×, New International Version). One can almost see His face contorted in righteous anger as He flailed away, frightening the livestock and their greedy sellers.
Was Jesus Christ in need of “sensitivity training”? No doubt many today would think so!
Proper biblical examples
We could go on and on in describing the problem, but let’s stop and turn to what the Creator of human beings says about masculinity.
God’s Word is replete with examples of men who lived masculine lives. While probably only a teenager David wasn’t afraid to take on the giant Goliath.
His instructions began at creation, when God told the first man to have dominion over the earth and all its creatures and to tend and keep his environment (Genesis 1:26-28 Genesis 1:26-28 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
American King James Version×; Genesis 2:15 Genesis 2:15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
American King James Version×). At creation, man was told to subdue, to oversee, to administer, to rule, to care for and protect. The fact that man has corrupted this role throughout human history is certainly true, but it cannot be denied that Adam and his descendants were told to be decisive, assertive and to rule over the earth.
As a chronicle of thousands of years of human history, God’s Word is replete with examples of men who lived masculine lives. While probably only a teenager, David wasn’t afraid to take on the giant Goliath. Noah defied his neighbors and friends for 120 years to build the ark in which he and his family were saved. Abraham showed courage and determination as he followed God’s instruction to uproot his household and relocate to Canaan. He later led a private army to rescue his captured nephew Lot.
Moses, educated in the pharaoh’s court, according to ancient sources became not only a scholar but a general commanding the Egyptian army. God used his talents to defy the pharaoh and lead ancient Israel out of Egyptian slavery.
Moses, coming to the end of his time to lead the nation of Israel, anointed Joshua to be his successor. Notice his instructions to the younger man: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:7 Deuteronomy 31:7And Moses called to Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it.
American King James Version×, NIV)
The apostle Paul’s instructions to the elders of the Church at Corinth included this telling passage: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 1 Corinthians 16:13Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
American King James Version×, ESV). Paul, who himself endured beatings and stoning for the faith, knew it took courage and fortitude to be a follower of Christ in the early days of the Church within the Roman Empire.
These are proper manly examples that young men need to learn to emulate.
The war against males is now far advanced, and the forces promoting it are close to declaring victory. It has changed society, but it does not need to change us. Nowhere in God’s Word can we find support for the widespread modern belief that men need to be softer, more effeminate, more in touch with their “inner child” and similar nonsense. Today’s younger men should take David’s advice to Solomon: “Be strong and show yourself a man!”