A blog I read recently posted an article on manhood from a Christian perspective. While the article was good overall, there was one thing said that made me stop and raise a quizzical eyebrow.
In a list of ways to be a man (I forget the exact wording, but that was essentially the meaning), top of the list was
“It means being a leader, not a follower…put away passivity!“
How does leadership get to be an integral part of manhood, let alone the most important thing that gets listed first?
This blog is far from the only example of this assumption, either. Virtually anything you read on manhood, from a Christian perspective or otherwise, seems to assume that part of manhood is leadership.
The implications are twofold:
1. Women can’t be leaders. Leadership is part of masculinity, therefore it’s reserved for males. If you’re a leader, you’re automatically a man. Women are followers only. (In fact, the blog post makes that explict: “Don’t act like a woman. Lead, don’t follow”).
2. Unless you’re a leader, you’re less than a man. You can’t be a real man unless you have followers.
The first is tied in to the complementarian position regarding men and women, and I don’t really want to go into the whole complementarian vs egalitarian debate here (though it’s an important subject. Suffice it to say I personally think the complementarian case is pretty thin).
But that second implication (well, or the first)… Wow. Is that what we really think?
There are only so many positions of leadership available, and not every man can fill one. Some men categorically shouldn’t fill leadership positions, and not only because of character issues. Some men just don’t have that giftedness, and that’s ok.
Very little is worse than an ungifted leader in a position of responsibility; they tend towards protection of their position and either domination or being driven solely by public opinion.
The Bible calls leadership a spiritual gift (Rom 12:8). The implications of this are that not everyone has it. Some people are followers.
This is ok. Even Jesus was a follower of His Father; He only did what He saw the Father doing.
I worry that our conflation of manhood and leadership is creating unrealistic expectations. If I, as a man, am a Leader by virtue of being a man, then I am led to expect positional authority. When I don’t have it in defined terms (through a job or a church board slot or whatever), I’ll manufacture it in my relationships – I’ll become a tyrant to my kids or a domineering patriarch to my wife.
And what about those who aren’t in positions of authority? The implication is that unless you can positionally rise to the top, you’re less of a man.
Excuse me? What happened to humility? What does being a Christian man have to do with running the rat race or climbing the social ladder?
It’s all very flattering to the ego for a man to be told that God Made You A Leader, but since when was God in the business of flattering our egoes? I worry that it’s just pandering to our pride and actually counter to the character of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t rise to the top. He wasn’t given a position of leadership in the society of his day. He never had a position of power either in the synagogue or in the empire. On the contrary, He humbled Himself. He left His position of authority and leadership in heaven and took the nature of a servant. And He was the perfect man and the model for our lives.
By these lights, being a man seems less about being a leader and more about following someone who is worthy to be followed.
After all, Jesus said “Follow Me”, not “lead for Me”.