Biblical manhood shows up in the craziest places sometimes.
Take the movie Lincoln, for example. I’ve resisted going to this must-see movie, in part because I just don’t do films over two hours long anymore, and in part because I have a little boycott going against Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian whose book, Team of Rivals, was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s screenplay. (And yes, only an academic would boycott another academic. But I have my reasons, mostly because Kearns was rightly accused of plagiarism, and didn’t seem to apologize.)
So I kind of dragged my heels about seeing the movie. But then our kids were invited to a sleepover, which meant free childcare, and my husband said “Woman, we need to see this movie,” asserting his biblically manhood self.
Actually, he said “Um, I’d really like to see Lincoln. Can we go this weekend?” and because I am made to fulfill his wishes, I said “Sure,” even though what I really wanted to do was put on my fat sweats and watch TV.
We went to Lincoln, though, and I might have fallen asleep for a bit of it (take that, Doris Kearns Goodwin), but Ron was enthralled. I supported him by letting him be enthralled, and even mostly listened to him all the way home while he filled in all the historical details I might have missed. My role is to support and encourage him always, after all, even when he’s explaining some constitutional procedure in such intricate detail I long for his introverted persona to reappear, and quickly.
Although I was trying my hardest to be a biblical woman, I didn’t know we had just witnessed, on screen, a story in which biblical manhood was also exhibited, writ large, in the characters of several Civil War generals.
Thank goodness the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood helped me figure that one out. Over at their blog, Jeff Robinson writes about the ways two generals from to the south, and one from the north, exhibited all the traits of biblical manhood through their lives on the battlefield.
Actually, Robinson is taking his inspiration from a teaching series called “Christian Manhood Illustrated,” which includes information on “the two virtues of Christian manhood, the five traits of Christian manhood and the indispensable doctrine of Christian manhood” on seven eight-track tapes. (OK, so maybe its on CDs, but the description reminded me of those K-Tel commercials from the 70s.)
Robinson says we can see through this historical figures “how a man’s true character emerges during times of duress: when a man is squeezed, what is on the inside comes out.” I must be hanging around with fifth graders too much, because I found that line totally funny. Apparently what comes out of a man when squeezed is not poop or farts, but biblical manhood, which is what was going on with the generals during the Civil War.
On the battlefield, these generals exhibited biblical manhood through their devotion to private and corporate prayer, habits that helped them when it came to killing folks on the battlefield. The underlying assumption in the article, of course, is that there is valor in killing people for some principle—even if, for Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee at least, that principle was the continued enslavement of millions.
I suppose, in this way, the generals were embodying biblical manhood, as I understand it. Like many men in the Bible, they were violent slave owners who ardently assumed their beliefs were God-blessed, and who saw violence as the best, perhaps only, means of spreading their dogma.
But from the parts I actually saw of Lincoln, and from what I know of the man, Abraham Lincoln, I would assert that he is the Civil War’s model for biblical manhood: he was principled, courageous, and committed to justice. He cared deeply for those whose lives would be impacted by his policies; he grieved for the many lost in battle. I doubt he would have been considered a man’s man, though, not in the way Jackson or Lee were, and—apparently to some Evangelicals—still are.
So I suppose seeing Lincoln was a good thing, after all: I know a little more about history, and feel a little more inspired to make a difference in my own spheres of influence. I’d probably recommend it to others, especially those brides who really want to make their husbands happy. Just don’t squeeze your men too hard, because you never know what will come out.