Manhood

Dpark, in his ever provocative way, has a post about Asian-American manhood, and asks the question how can the church work more effectively in spiritually forming Asian American men in a redemptive way.

I find the post provocatively in part because Asian American men are doing far better, by and large, than Black American men in all the ways that health and success is measured. They are healthier, wealthier, more educated, have more stable families, and of those who are Christian, have higher levels of participation in church.

I do not minimize the struggles and challenges Asian American men endure in coming to a healthy, God honoring appropriate understanding of masculinity that will help them to live as disciples of Jesus more effectively. Since I’ve waded waist deep into the waters of Asian American ministry, I get extremely annoyed and frustrated when I see emasculating images of Asian men, though they are becoming rarer. I do question however, both for Asian Americans and for my own people, if the proper way of moving towards such a healthy understanding is to begin with affirming what is already healthy and godly rather than beginning with a posture of critique.

One problem of holding up Black men or Asian men to some imagined standard of manhood and masculinity is that such standards are too often the standards of White culture dressed in the clothing of Christ. Another problem is that such standards are impossible targets to meet, and most of them are not explicit in scripture. Despite all that is written and talked about around Christian manhood, there is remarkably little in scripture about it. What we have mostly available to us are examples, positive and negative, about manhood, and a few commands having mostly universal applicability with the exception of those dealing with wives and children. Those specific commands can be boiled down to loving your wife and disciplining your children wisely. Beyond that, there just isn’t that much to go on.

This paucity of scripture increases the possibility that minority men, already under the pressure of negative images of who we are, will simply assume that the White way of being a way is better. This simply cannot be helpful, healthy, or godly.

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3 thoughts on “Manhood

  1. Elderj — Thanks for this much-needed perspective. As an Asian American man, it’s easy for me to walk around with a chip on my shoulder regarding the negative stereotypes both Western culture and the Western church place on AA men. That’s why your insight about “affirming what is already healthy and godly rather than beginning with a posture of critique” is very helpful for me.

    I also agree that it is important to recognize that many contemporary men’s movements in the church often simply reinforce white cultural notions of manhood — or, at least, assume that their perspective is normative.

    Perhaps, through these discussions, we can begin to forge a better way forward.

  2. Brother, another thoughtful and provocative post. Perhaps some examples of what the White standards of masculinity that minority men are held up to would be helpful in furthering the conversation. The scriptures are filled with examples of manhood from which we can establish standards and, as far as I can tell, they did not derive from a Western culture. Peace

  3. Pastor Warren, you are correct in noting that the examples of manhood in scripture are not derived from Western culture… I think White men would do well to reflect on that as well as any other man.

    Societally speaking though, non-majority folks are bombarded with cultural images of masculinity that are (of course) predominantly White. So everything from how we look to how we interact with our children is assessed against a backdrop of folks who don’t look like us.

    One small thing that comes to mind is the emphasis on action rather than reflection. Certainly in all cultures both are affirmed, but action is usually held as superior to reflection for men in US culture – which is why we esteem cowboys and call professors smarty pants. yet some culture esteem the teacher and philosopher much higher

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