As a church planting pastor, I typically consider myself a conservative guy. I try to be 'liberal' in the way I love and serve people, but with the world the way it is right now, it has become a bit of a cringe to use vernacular tied to partisanship, as unfair as that is. Our culture is absolutely out of it's mind, and we have a single advertisement for a razor to thank for the example given today.
During the super bowl of 1989, the personal care company Gillette announced their newest tagline, and I can still hear the jingle in my head as I read the words: "Gillette! The best a man can get!" I remember spending time watching my dad shave (he uses an electric razor and has for some time) and singing that song to myself in my head, imagining each note falling down a set of stairs to keep the tune in its correct key and time. Obviously as I grew older, I needed to shave and in all honesty part of the reason I have a beard, and have for some time, is because razors are expensive and being a church planter is all about cutting budget until you can reward yourself with a better product again (note, I hope to have a beard forever. The true reason is it hides a large cleft chin which I hear is actually a desirable trait?).
As someone who does not often have to shave, In the morning I'll typically read my Bible, hop on twitter, and maybe check in with facebook. There's always someone mad about something, but I try and avoid that for the sake of my own sanity. This morning, however, was different. I happened to catch a trending hashtag about 'boycotting Gillette' and immediately knew I had missed something as I slept. As I researched what the world woke up mad about, buzzwords like 'toxic masculinity' and phrases like 'you libtards, always offended' smashed against 'Man trashing advertisement' and 'thanks Gillette, I always hated you anyway' rang loudly and had already begun to set the scene for a not-so-surprising view into the state of our world today.
So I decided I was going to take a minute and watch the ad (For those who are uninitiated, you can find it here). For those of you who have seen the ad, it starts out with some purposefully poignant words, mentioning the #metoo movement, bullying, and toxic masculinity. I understand those are highly volatile words that immediately separate people into 2 main groups, especially the last one in the list. I knew that was reason enough to set some folks off, but I want to talk about what follows those words, and why I think it is so important to consider that they may have actually stated more about our world than they ever meant to.
Chew the fat, spit the bones?
As I watched the rest of the nearly 2 minute long commercial, I was not outraged that a company had the gall to create something so unbelievably condemning. I was not outraged that they had created an ad meant to lump men together as lazy, uncaring, and uninspired. I was not outraged as I watched 2 young boys fight with each other while an endless line of fathers strikingly similar to my own age and socioeconomic status monotonously stated over each other "boys will be boys."
The scenes that followed were ones I have seen unfold far too often: as the commercial begins with news anchors speaking over moments of men of all ages looking themselves in the mirror, I couldn't help but feel a need to consider where I would measure up, and how I would teach my son to handle the following situations as well. To begin, a young kid is chased down by a group of kids his age, panic in his face, and while they give chase, a young mother holds her son, seemingly emotionally torn down by the endless hate thrown at him via messaging. It is followed by young teenagers watching videos that remind me of why I spent my summers watching MTV's Spring Break and Summer party videos (hint, it wasn't because the music was great). It continues with the late 90's/early 00's sitcom formula: a hot wife, a moronic and aloof father, and a studio audience losing itself in the hilarity of it all. This was my shared reality.
As a product of a working mother and father, I know for a fact that my mom had to fight for respect as my dad sought to fairly manage hundreds of people in the same integrity that he loved his wife and family by. This struggle is noted as well, as the video continues with a female at a business meeting being marginalized by her boss (note, as a male pastor I too have had my supervisors incorrectly summarize my own thoughts and statements unfairly and in an effort to make me look bad while lifting themselves up; I do believe this is a greater problem than simply male and females in the office alone) and follows with the aforementioned grill scene as two boys obviously are doing everything they can to rip each other apart while the fathers watch with apathy.
Then the shift happens. The call to be better happens, while we now see a different group of men looking in the mirror. Next, scenes of a man-bro at a pool obviously making some girls poolside (and I am assuming much younger?) uncomfortable appear - while his friend films the entire interaction (I didn't catch that until the 3rd time through), but this time while another man steps in to let him know its not ok. A young woman hurriedly walks down a city street as a man who is a would be cat-caller is stopped by a friend with a calm 'not cool man, not cool', and the renewal of the kid being chased down the street is intervened by a father who while walking his young son sees it and stops the violence, making sure the aggressed is safe. Next up is one of the best stories of the past few years: a young 20-30 something father takes two young men who were fighting and reminds them this world needs less hate and more love, and after talking to both of them, they apologize and shake hands. A father stands with his 4 year old daughter, and speaks affirmation to her in the mirror.
Back at the BBQ, one father steps in and stops the fight, reminding the boy winning the battle that isn't the way to treat each other, and various portraits of boys in the video are shown while an incredible statement is made: "Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow."
This is why people are outraged? This clear example of how our world operates, verified by story after story of violence, anger acted out, and aggression has brought people to a point of saying it is an attack....on men? This call for men to be better, to make a difference in how we raise our sons is now "feminist propaganda" and "an attack on the family"? This is the defined outrage?
You want to know what does cause me outrage? Do you want to know what I believe should cause us great frustration with this ad? Do you want to know what I believe we should be doing about this -- more than tweeting about it; that we should be filling stadiums and church seats, that we should be encouraging one another on towards? My outrage was that I believe they hit the nail on the head, and showed us a first person view into how we as men have largely failed to answer the bell of protecting our children and changing our world to be a better place when we leave it than it was on the day we entered into it. As men, we should be filling seats and rows of churches and arenas with seminars, training, and purposed time spent together learning how to build such confidence in our sons that the idea of stepping into the gap of brokenness in our world is not an obligation but is a characteristic of integrity by which they unashamedly operate. That the success of a father is measured by equipping them to lead and love, to be peacemakers, to stand for the oppressed; to place themselves in front of those being attacked, to respect the women God has placed in their lives by refusing to objectify that which our culture has twisted and broken; by refusing to accept a life of being an aloof husband; and by being accountable for exactly who God made us to be as men so that we would begin to change the culture of sin and evil and begin to repair our depraved hearts back to living out hope. Manliness as today defines it is not true manhood- its the masquerading attempt at allowing boys to grow into man sized bodies and continue to be passive and weak.
I have a 7 year old son and a 4 year old daughter whom I want the world for, as I hope each father reading this also wants for their own children. I have also sinned and lived in the conditioning that my own sin and culture created within me, as I am sure each father I know has also done. I also have broken up fights while others yelled 'world star!' and asked for forgiveness when I failed to be the husband I knew I was called to be, as I hope each father would also do in both of those moments.
And as a father and pastor I absolutely must live in a way that teaches my son to not only know Jesus by word but display Jesus by deed. In the sermon on the Mount, while Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers and the poor in spirit, we are watching our culture's sermon and reacting to an advertisement of a secular business condemning them because we blind ourselves with statements like they don't think boys should wrestle. We are calling for jobs to be lost instead of following our calling to love the lost. We must be better. Boys should absolutely see their dads as heroes -- I would venture to say that boys already do -- but the hero father's greatest conquests should be displayed in how they loved and treated the people around them, not the sexual conquests and false bravado we've allowed to destroy us.
Fathers, we should be the ones who are leading the charge to take a commercial that is not perfect yet displays Gospel concepts and use them to teach our sons how they can be better men than us. We should be the ones who take our daughters in the mirror and remind them exactly who God says they are, and that they are valuable and full of worth, and that no person can take away what God has placed in them. We should be the place that our children can run to when this broken unfair world attempts to define them with words that are untrue and meant to kill, and fill them with the truth of how valuable they are because the creator of the world holds infinitely more power than a fellow peer's unsettled insecurity coming out toward them, and we should fight with everything we have to preserve it.
Be outraged that we aren't fighting hard enough. Be outraged that your mothers, wives, girlfriends, and daughters are living a reality that you and I may never have to live because our culture has taught us that people are to be conquered, and that nothing else can stand in the way. Be outraged because the honest truth is that every single time you stand in the mirror with your daughter and remind her how beautiful she is that there are other men teaching their sons to objectify them and treat them as the next new flavor, and that should piss you off.
Be outraged that your son is going to be attacked with sexualized everything, and most likely already has been and is going to fight a battle that is unfair and unrelenting. Be outraged that your son is going to have to make a choice every day whether he will be different, and that when he makes the right choice, he will face copious amounts of slander for it. Be outraged that it is so much harder to raise a son of integrity and a daughter of fearlessness in today's world, and it is because we failed at the root of our society to teach boys parading in men's bodies how to be men.
And do something about it. Spend time with your sons, and hug your daughters. Love your wife at the cost of yourself, as Ephesians 5 says you should. Teach them what it means to love without being a doormat, and what it looks like to stand in the gap for the oppressed, marginalized, and hurting.
Teach them that they must share the Gospel with more clarity and care than a commercial, and that outrage is proper outrage when it is born out of the mistreatment of the Imago Dei, by those who would seek to mock God rather than seek Him. We must be better, and it starts by stepping in and breaking up fights, by not allowing ourselves or those around us to objectify each other, by redeeming the beauty of sex and its promises, by staring racism in the face and calling it out for the hate that it is, and by doing so with the knowledge that there are watchful sets of eyes detailing every single moment that they are open.
After all, boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow, and I want my boy to grow up as a man that loves Jesus -- in word and in deed -- and that he too, will be outraged at the world's brokenness and do everything he can to fix it. Let them wrestle? absolutely. Just don't forget to teach them the proper technique while they do it. That's what we are doing at Trailside... Come join us.