Understanding Male Homosexuality – God’s Power to Change Lives, Part 2
When a child learns to crawl, it is usually from Mom to Dad. It is Dad’s masculine strength that equips the child to encounter the world. Dad uniquely gives his child identity separate from Mom. … The true masculine involves the power to prevail in the face of adversity – to stand strong and not compromise oneself or the truth. Radical obedience involves the true masculine. … Men uniquely reveal and impart this masculinity. It looks very different depending upon a man’s personality, interests, talents and upbringing. Within this wonderful diversity, men need to be strengthened in their masculinity and in their identities as men. Cathy Morrill(1)
God designed men and women to be different and to complement one another. This is probably most obvious in human bodies and in their reproductive physiology. Aside from this, however, there are many other physical, psychological and emotional ways in which men and women differ and also complement each other.(2)
While there are differences among men and among women, the differences between the sexes are far greater. In fact, our language recognizes that division, in that the word “sex” comes from the Latin word “secus” or “sexus,” which means to cut, to sever or to separate.(3) The separation of humanity into male and female has been recognized by every human culture, although various societies have had different roles for men and women, and different cultural ways of expressing the uniqueness of male and female.
But both of these – our bodies and cultural expression – point to something deeper: the concepts or qualities of masculinity and femininity. For men with unwanted same-sex attractions, an understanding of masculinity is critical.
One writer who gives us a good understanding of masculinity is Anthony Esolen, who writes that masculinity involves danger and risk, that it requires men to be willing to lay down their lives for others, to be ready to sacrifice themselves for a greater good.(4) For Christians, this would be part of our call to defend the weak and protect the powerless. In a later interview, he describes the good of masculinity as “the more subtle fortitude of moral vision and farsighted self-sacrifice.” Esolen says, “I see manhood as the drive to lead — to serve by leading, or to lead by following loyally the true leadership of one’s father or priest or captain.”(5)
Masculinity and Femininity – Complements
Because these are concepts or qualities, they can be difficult to understand. Alan Medinger, who worked for years in ministry to men and women coming out of homosexuality, explains masculinity by contrasting it with its complement: femininity. In his book, Growth into Manhood, he writes, “The masculine can only be understood in relation to the feminine. … One gives meaning to the other.”
Medinger goes on to explain some of the ways masculinity and femininity define each other. He writes about four complements between masculinity and femininity, giving us a deeper understanding of these concepts:
“The masculine is that which is outer directed; the feminine is that which is inner directed. The masculine faces the world: It is oriented to things; it explores; it climbs. Its energy is directed toward the physical: measuring, moving, building, conquering. The feminine looks inward toward feeling, sensing, knowing in the deepest sense. Its energy is directed toward relationships, coming together, nurturing, helping. … Another way to describe this same contrast is masculine doing and feminine being.”
- “The essence of masculinity is initiation; the essence of femininity is response. … Herein we can see why God the Father has revealed Himself first of all in masculine terms. He is the ultimate initiator. All things come from Him. He is the Alpha. In our relationship with the Son, Jesus must always be the bridegroom and we must be the bride; it is never the other way around.”
- “Masculine authority; Feminine power.… To understand authority and the masculine, we again look to God. God is the ultimate authority (masculine). He is also the source and sustainer of life (feminine). He holds us in His hand and sustains our lives day by day.”
- “Masculine Truth; Feminine Mercy. … The masculine seeks truth; the feminine, mercy.”(7)
These give some different pictures of the masculine and the feminine, and in each one we can see not only complementarity, but the value of both masculinity and femininity. This is by no means the complete and absolute picture of masculinity – but it gives us a good beginning for understanding this important quality.
Lost or Distorted Masculinity
For many years now, the distinctions between men and women have been blurred and lost in our culture. The goodness of healthy masculinity begins to disappear when a culture insists that there are no important distinctions between men and women. Many in academia believe and teach that all differences between men and women are socially constructed. For them, it is wrong to even study or talk about innate differences between the sexes. Our post-modern world insists that men and women are interchangeable – except, perhaps, for a few “insignificant” biological differences.
The epidemic of fatherlessness in our society is another important way in which masculinity is lost. In the same interview where he describes the good of masculinity, Anthony Esolen elaborates on the loss of this virtue in our cultures:
Many millions of boys in America, for instance, are growing up in homes without fathers, so they find “fathers” of their own on the streets or in the diseased and silly fantasies of mass entertainment, musclemen who can take down a city, or charismatic gang leaders who move caches of drugs and make exciting things happen.(8)
When a society loses its grasp of a virtue such as masculinity, the need for boys to internalize that quality does not just disappear. Boys without fathers will look elsewhere for masculine models – and may embrace a caricature or distortion of that virtue. In much of our media – especially video games and action movies – men are shown as hyper-masculine exaggerations.
Pornography pushes these distortions even further, portraying men as sexual predators with insatiable appetites, measuring masculinity only in terms of sexual prowess and sexual conquests. Access to pornography is just a click away – and boys who get hooked grow up with distorted and twisted ideas about what it means to be a man.
When men are presented as a narrow stereotype, boys who don’t fit into that mold are left on the outside of what society says it means to be a man. They may struggle with whether or not they measure up. Contributing to the confusion is another common portrayal of men in the media: the man as a slacker, a dolt, or the butt of a joke.
Lesbian- or gay-identified men and women – and their allies – also distort true masculinity, in their relationships and in their push to redefine marriage and family. They insist that mothers and fathers are no different in their parenting, arguing that two dads or two moms can take the place of a mother and father. If a single mom or two women can raise a boy, who needs a father?
This blurring of male-female distinctions is also seen in the “transgendered” and “multi-gendered” movements. “Transgendered” men and women insist that they can cross over from one sex to the other, believing that through surgery, dress and hormones they can become the other sex. More recently, the “multi-gendered” movement has sprung up, insisting that the “binary gender system” does not reflect reality. Proponents of this ideology insist that there are an infinite number of genders. In fact, many ask why it is necessary to limit a person to a single gender. They suggest that each person might have an infinite number of genders inside.(9)
Boys into Men
The boy knows that he will not have achieved manhood by reaching a certain age or by the maturation of his reproductive system. Manhood, though we find it convenient to forget the fact, must be won and won again. Professor Anthony Esolen(10)
A culture that is awash in confusion creates serious problems for boys working to achieve a healthy sense of masculine identity. When fathers are absent or when a good understanding of masculinity is lost, blurred, distorted or denigrated, boys will have a very difficult time knowing what it means to be solid, healthy men. And it will be even more of a challenge to become one.
Boys are born male, of course, but they aren’t born with a full-blown understanding of what it means to be a male to be masculine. It is something they learn more about as they grow up – both what it means to be male and their own sense of themselves as masculine. While women and the culture around them certainly help set the environment in which masculinity is learned and attained, it is especially from other boys and men that a boy wins masculinity.
Masculinity is attained by men differently than the way women embrace femininity. While femininity is internalized and received, masculinity is achieved and won by a man – with the blessing and affirmation of God and other men. It is earned as he grows up and both competes with and connects with other boys and men. Alan Medinger writes about it as doing the “‘things that men do.’ They are active: being physical, desiring to prevail, leading, and relating to other men.”(11)
Some boys have difficulty with this process. They grow up feeling different, like they don’t fit in. These boys and men will need extra help and support, as Anthony Esolen writes:
If the boy is rejected by the other boys, he needs a man to take their place, to be his mentor, to bolster him in his uncertain manhood, to assure him that his arms are growing stronger, to holler and rail if need be as he straps on the helmet or grabs the next knot in the rope, and to nod (a laconic nod of approval more powerful to that boy than any mother’s smile can be) when he stands in victory.(12)
A boy who has rejected masculinity or has not internalized a strong sense of masculinity or has believed distortions and lies about masculinity will struggle greatly. He may have real trouble living out those masculine attributes that we mentioned earlier: sacrificing himself for others, embracing risk, looking outside himself, initiating, wielding authority and speaking the truth.
Struggles with identity and sexuality will almost always follow. Medinger notes that one of those struggles – homosexuality – may develop when a boy rejects masculine role models or when he opts out of competing for and winning a strong masculine identity. It may also develop if he is not affirmed in his masculinity or rejects affirmation.(13)
Boys who grow up without healthy male relationships, without healthy male role models and with distorted views of what it means to be men will struggle to achieve a healthy masculine identity. And while sin and other issues are also factors, broken masculinity will invariably lead to all kinds of sexual and relational brokenness. Pornography usage, sexual abuse, divorce, sexual brokenness, generations of fatherlessness, homosexuality – these issues in our world are all fostered and fed by broken masculinity.
(1.) Cathy Morrill with Wendy Coy and the cross\fire team, Soulutions: relational healing for the next generation, (Anaheim, California: Desert Stream Press, 2000), p.81.
(2.) See, for example, Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, (New York: Doubleday, 2005), and Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2000), especially chapter 6, “What is a Man?”
(3.) See: Anthony Esolen, “Ten Arguments for Sanity: 1-2,” Touchstone’s Mere Comments, 27 July 2006, <http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2006/07/ten_arguments_f.html> (14 October 2010) and R.V. Young, The Gay InventionThe Gay Invention: Homosexuality Is a Linguistic as Well as a Moral Error, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, published December, 2005, <http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/YoungHomosexuality.php> (14 October 2010).
(4.) Anthony Esolen, “Over Our Dead Bodies: Men Who Are Willing to Lay Down Their Lives Are Truly Indispensable,” Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity Online, first published June 2006, <http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-05-022-f > (14 October 2010).
(5.) “Finding the Masculine Genius: Interview with English Professor Anthony Esolen,” Zenit: the World Seen from Rome, (23 April 2007), <http://www.zenit.org/article-19444?l=english> (22 September 2010).
(6.) Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2000), pp. 82-83.
(7.) Medinger, 2000, pp. 84-88. Of course there is much more that could be said and written about masculinity and manhood, but that is beyond the scope of this short series. Hopefully, this small taste will whet your appetite and create a desire to explore more fully the works of Christian writers and thinkers such as Fr. Earle Fox, Homosexuality: Good and Right in the Eyes of God? (with David Virtue) or Biblical Sexuality and the Battle for Science; Leanne Payne, Crisis in Masculinity and The Broken Image; John Eldredge Wild at Heart; Andy Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness and especially his Living Waters program, Mario Bergner, Setting Love in Order and his Redeemed Lives program, Gordon Dalbey, Healing the Masculine Soul; Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them – A Theology of the Body, Christopher West and his many explications of Theology of the Body, such as Theology of the Body for Beginners; and Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood.
(8.) Zenit interview, 2007.
(9.) For a small glimpse into this world, see: Transgender Terminology, by Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, < http://www.banyancounselingcenter.com/tsterminology.html > (14 October 2010).
10.) Anthony Esolen, “Victims Unseen,” Catholicity website, 30 July 2009, <http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/esolen/06577.html> (30 September 2010).
(11.) Medinger, 2000, pp. 93ff.
(12.) Esolen, 2009.
(13.) Medinger, 2000, pp. 37-50 and 90-91.