Every man harbors, either consciously or unconsciously, a powerful dream inside him. It’s the dream of being a hero. What guy hasn’t wanted to be the stereotypical white knight in shining armor riding in on his stallion to save the day (and impress the girls)?
Hollywood makes billions of dollars off of this dream by churning out one action adventure film after another. Companies with dangerous jobs to perform recruit men using this dream. Nations fill the ranks of their armies by exploiting this dream. Advertisers sell product to men by appealing to this dream. Sports thrive on this dream.
In his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow states this dream in terms of what he calls “man laws”:
“Man laws are an informal code imposed on all the men of society, except for the very young and very old. A ‘real man’ must stand up to danger, bear up under suffering, and sacrifice himself for the good of others. This code of conduct helps a man overcome his natural instincts (fear, hunger, loneliness, etc.) so he will do what’s best for the tribe, not for himself. Masculine qualities such as bravery, stoicism, and self-sacrifice don’t come naturally to a man; they are drawn from this cultural well.”
The problem, however, is that this dream we men have has a dark side: the reality that all of us fall short of our ideal hero role. We sacrifice the good for the evil that dwells within us. We see famous men selling out constantly in our culture. The politician sacrifices his career for a bribe, the football star beats his wife in private, the pastor has an affair, the Wall Street broker trades on insider information, and on and on. And deep inside we know that these high profile failings of male leaders are simply the tip of the iceberg.
The result is the rise of what is sometimes called the “antihero.” The antihero is a man who has come to believe that his dream of being a white knight is impossible for any real man. And since his dream is impossible, an authentic man, a real man, openly rejects the dream and lives out the opposite reality: the life of a dark knight.
The dark knight, or antihero, is a man who openly practices evil as the highest expression of his manhood. He doesn’t care what people think, nor how much pain he causes them. He’s simply in it for himself. At least, he thinks, he’s not being a hypocrite like other men. High profile examples of antiheros are gangs, drug lords and despots. In everyday life, the antihero walks away from his wife for a younger woman, cheats on his taxes and brags about it, curses and swears like a sailor, tells filthy jokes and on and on. What he is saying is, “I’m no white knight and I’m proud of it. I don’t believe in fairy tales.”
Every man feels this white knight-dark knight tension and, thankfully, Christianity addresses and resolves the issue for men. It calls men to acknowledge before God the darkness that dwells within and then invites them to trust in God’s provision for that darkness, his son, Jesus Christ. He and He alone is our moral and spiritual shining white armor that we put on. Jesus Christ is the way we become the white knight every man dreams of becoming. The beauty of Christianity is that it deals with the reality of evil in every man while at the same time offering every man the opportunity to become a champion of good.
Before we can live the dream, we men have to deal with the nightmare of sin. The beautiful thing about Christianity is that it turns men into white knights while still dealing with the reality of their rusty and chinked armor. Christianity has ideals without being idealistic. It fulfills every man’s dream while also dealing with every man’s reality.
This post first appeared in NewCommandment.org.
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