A man of our congregation e-mailed a link to a piece on another blog written by a pastor's wife lamenting her fears that her son would have to "prove" his manhood among the Christians in her community and church down in Mississippi. The man commented, "the point (in the post) I thought was most interesting (was her writing):
...and so I come back to my sensitive son, with his preference for imaginative games over competitive ones. I wonder if he will soon find himself a misfit in the Christian community, pressured to prove himself—not by his neighborhood friends, who won't care what he is—but by other Christians, who want him to stand up for a certain kind of disappearing manliness.
Responding to this quote from the post, the man responded: "I get that some boys will grow up to be poets, and writers. I was an English major. But, I can testify to the fact that I definitely needed wrestling, and football—not to prove anything, but to learn how to just be tough and a man."
So I went and read the post and left a comment, there...
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You wrote, "Christians may unwittingly require our young people to prove themselves men or women."
Maybe better to say that children of Christian homes should be led and taught by their fathers and mothers—not to "prove" but rather to "improve"—their manhood and womanhood. God created sexual bifurcation and blessed our sons and daughters with their own sexual distinction. At the very beginning of their existence, God made each one of them male or female, man or woman. Like all His blessings, this one too is to be received by us with thanksgiving and it is to be embraced. Recognizing that God created each of our children man or woman, it is central to the work of fatherhood and motherhood to teach our sons and daughters to give thanks for their manhood or womanhood, and thus to build their lives around this wonderful gift.
Often this is hard work for them and for us. Many children, both boys and girls, are tempted by the sin of rejecting God's gift of their manhood or womanhood. Many girls would prefer to be a boy or man just as many boys would prefer to be a girl or woman. In our age of hatred for distinctions; in our time when the hard biological fact of "sexual distinction" has been left behind for the soft cultural construct of "gender identity," androgyny has become the cultural ideal and wise Christian parents will work to oppose this perversion or rejection of God's dualism, male and female. God's distinction, masculinity and femininity. When this perversion or repudiation or clouding of God's distinction seduces one of our sons or daughters, we must pour ourselves into the hard work of reinforcing God's decree in the life of that son or daughter by teaching him or her the nature of man and the corresponding, competing, complementary, and divine nature of woman. Start with this foundational text inspired by the Holy Spirit: man "is the image and glory of God but the woman is the glory of man" (1Corinthians 11:7).
Now, of course, improvement of a child's manhood or womanhood may be twisted into machismo or Barbie-dollism, both of which are wrong. There's a world of difference between obeying and improving one's God-given and God-blessed sexual identity, and turning that sexual identity or distinction into a mockery of what God created (exagerated masculinity or femininity). There are sexual stereotypes that are wrong and destructive. Most often, though, they're right and the Christian father or mother who has a tomboy daughter or effeminate son should work to lead that daughter or son into joyfully embracing her womanhood or his manhood.
If you find yourself wondering what I mean by "womanhood" and "manhood," I suggest you read Elisabeth Elliot on being a woman and Doug Wilson on being a man. They're excellent!
Jesus was more manly than any man who ever lived and Jesus was sensitive, scholarly, and emotional. Jesus learned not to be effeminate through the things he suffered because he learned obedience through the things He suffered. Effeminacy in man (by definition effeminacy pertains only to man) is disobedience and Jesus was tempted in all ways like as we are, yet without sin.