OPINION: The Tension Between Biblical Masculinity and Toxic Masculinity

Two of the most influential men in pop culture today are Harry Styles and Lil Nas X. Other than the fact that they are musicians, they share a commonality that proves their impact reaches much further than the world of music: they are the current leaders of the revolt against traditional masculinity. While they have blurred the lines on what constitutes masculinity, society needs the opposite: a clear, biblical representation of masculinity.

Harry Styles made a name for himself beyond his initial fame as a member of One Direction. After the group disbanded in 2016, Styles continued making music as a solo artist. In 2019, he was featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine. His cover instantly caused chatter. As the first male to ever appear on Vogue by himself, Styles raised eyebrows with his unconventional wardrobe. He was featured wearing a dress, among other women’s clothing. In his interview with Vogue, he said, “What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women’, once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.”

Montero Lamar Hill, known by his stage name “Lil Nas X,” has made a similar impact with promotion for his debut album “Montero.” Weeks before the album’s release, he came up with an idea to announce that he is “pregnant” with Montero, posting pictures on Instagram with a fake baby bump, according to People Magazine. Millions took notice of the outlandish promotion as he continued posting photos and eventually, on the day of its release, a “birthing video.” Lil Nas X’s promotions furthered the conversation on what it means to be a man in the world we live in today.

These are just two stereotypes that have been torn down for the sake of removing the construct of traditional manhood. The suppression of emotions, appearance of toughness and physical harshness that the New York Times calls “toxic masculinity or traditional masculinity ideology” has led to potentially harmful environments. The article goes on, claiming that “toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be ‘tough all the time’, that anything other than that makes them ‘feminine’ or weak.”

A biblical understanding of masculinity answers both Styles’ “crumbling lines” and the perceived effects of toxic masculinity. The matter of concern here is not necessarily what clothes are worn, but what is said when they are worn. This blurring of the lines between male and female is not revolutionary. It is an attempt to stray from God’s order for sexuality by breaking down any guideline set in place. Sexual ambiguity is not bravery — as it is so often praised to be — it is indulgence in sin. The biblical man is expected to be clearly masculine, not questionably masculine or clearly feminine. It doesn’t mean you have to chop wood and drink coffee without cream and sugar; it simply means in whatever you wear and do, see to it that no one doubts your sexuality.

Biblical masculinity addresses more than just clothes: it completely dismantles the toxic masculinity that the world understands today. Rather than being tough, stern and rash, the biblical man should walk in love (Eph. 5:2). He should be a prime example of gentleness, patience, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Jesus Christ is a perfect example of biblical masculinity. He was resilient in the pursuit of God, gentle in spirit and humble in service to others.

According to the Bible and by the example of Christ, masculinity is humble leadership. It is sacrificial love and incredible meekness. Our society needs revitalized masculinity. We need masculinity that will treat women with honor, prize honesty and fight for the sake of the vulnerable. Rather than removing all boundaries for masculinity or clinging to a toxic version of it, biblical masculinity is rooted in the dedicated imitation of Christ. 

Bower is an opinion writer. Follow him on Twitter at @j_with_the_pen.

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