The Gentlemanifesto


A certain Presidential candidate and this candidate’s sons and supporters have spent the past few weeks telling the world what we men are; the way we think about women, the way we talk about them when we’re all together hanging out in the locker room, the stuff we’ve done around and to women—what constitutes a real, normal, red-blooded, ordinary man.

We’ve been told that all men treat women as objects, that we all boast of our sexual exploits with relative strangers, that we’ve all been inappropriately aggressive in pursuing affection, that we all have referred to women by their genitalia in social settings.

The apologists tell us that our outrage is all much ado about nothing, that this is what men are, that we should simply accept it and move on.

We take exception.

We are men—and we aren’t this.

We are brothers, husbands, friends, fathers, co-workers, and neighbors living life alongside women we respect as equal to ourselves.

We partner fully with them in raising children, in caring for homes, in doing work, in doing ministry, in creating and building and learning and growing.  

We don’t gather with other men and boast of the things we’ve done or would do to a woman, as if this gives us some elevated social status, as if these things have any inherent value, as if they are a badge of honor.

We don’t need the cheap validation of other men to feel more like men. 

We don’t use the locker room to devolve into some vile, ignorant caricature that supposedly represents who we really are. We change our clothes and get on with our days.

We understand what consent is and we know that we don’t define it for a woman; that her body is not our jurisdiction or our property or our play thing.

We aren’t predators believing we can have anything simply because we desire it.

We aren’t opportunists looking to leverage power or position or situation to take advantage of a woman for our pleasure or vanity.

We aren’t crass, vulgar, braggarts trying to measure our virility or strength by the explicit nature of the words we say in the company of other guys.

We aren’t barely evolved cavemen still dragging our knuckles on the ground and pulling women around the by the hair. We call those men criminals.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t find women alluring and beautiful and attractive and desirable, it just means we understand that those things aren’t license to disregard another person’s humanity.

It means that we strive not to express these things in a way that incites fear or takes away security or discards dignity or does damage or breaches autonomy.

It means that we seek to be decent, honorable, gentle men with the women we share the planet with— whether we’re married to them or live with them or work with them or study with them.

It means we don’t see kindness and compassion and character as liabilities to our manhood but as confirmation of it.  

So this candidate and all his defenders (even those who may be women) can say whatever they like and we will kindly but firmly call B.S.

They can lower the bar all the way to the filthy floor and they can consent to all manner of ugliness in the name of manhood—and we will resist it.  

We will not be categorized by the worst and lowest of us. We will demand better and higher for ourselves and for other men.

We will teach our boys what manhood really looks like, and how it responds on street corners and at house parties and in locker rooms and behind closed doors.

We will not be satisfied with a definition of men that allows for violence or misogyny.

We’ve come a long way since the cave—and we don’t ever intend on going back.





The Kind of Christian I Refuse to Be


I am a Christian.

Actually, it’s more accurate lately to say that I am still a Christian.

I now say this with much trepidation. I say it with great fatigue. I say it somewhat begrudgingly. I say it with more than a good deal of embarrassment—not of Jesus, but of so many of his people and so much of the Church who claim to speak for him.

Looking around at too much of what represents my faith tradition, particularly in this election season, it’s become a daily battle to make this once effortless declaration, knowing that it now automatically aligns me with those who share so little in common with the Jesus I met when I first claimed the name Christian.

It now aligns me with bathroom bullies and politicized pulpits and white privilege and overt racism, and with bigotry toward so many groups of people who represent the “world” I grew up believing that God so loved.

There are things that used to be a given as a follower of Jesus, that no longer are.

For far too many people, being a Christian no longer means you need to be humble or forgiving. It no longer means you need a heart to serve or bring healing. It no longer requires compassion or mercy or benevolence. It no longer requires you to turn the other cheek or to love your enemies or to take the lowest place or to love your neighbor as yourself.

It no longer requires Jesus.

And so the choices are to abandon the idea of claiming Christ altogether to avoid being deemed hateful by association in the eyes of so much of the watching world—or to reclaim the name Christian so that it once again replicates the love of Jesus in the world.

I am trying to do the latter.

Yes, I am a Christian, but there is a Christian I refuse to be.

I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look or speak or worship differently than I do.

I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God so loves the world.

I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.

I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag or a country or a political party, above emulating Jesus.

I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, in the name of keeping Christian unity.

I refuse to be a Christian who tolerates a global Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.

I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.

I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.

I refuse to be a Christian who can’t see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, every sexual orientation.

I refuse to be a Christian who demands that others believe what I believe or live as I live or profess what I profess.

I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.

I refuse to be a Christian devoid of the character of Jesus; his humility, his compassion, his smallness, his gentleness with people’s wounds, his attention to the poor and the forgotten and the marginalized, his intolerance for religious hypocrisy, his clear expression of the love of God.

I refuse to be a Christian unless it means I live as a person of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying Grace, of counterintuitive love. These are non-negotiables.

Yes, it is much more difficult to say it these days than it has ever been, but I still do say it.

I am still a Christian—but I refuse to be one without Jesus.








The Brain Surgeon and the Carnival Barker


You find out your child has a brain tumor and needs life-saving surgery. You have a decision to make.

You could go with a well-known brain surgeon. She is educated, experienced, highly skilled, and she understands the procedure inside and out. She’s been at it a long time, at a very high level. But you claim she rubs you the wrong way, that she isn’t “likable”, that something about her bedside manner is off-putting to you. Her chilly demeanor somehow makes her experience a liability. Because she is a “career physician” and too much a part of the hospital system for you—you reject her. You’ve decided you’ve had it with doctors performing surgery.

You notice the carnival barker standing in the street outside the big top; the wild-haired man with the sweaty hands and greasy knives, who he says he can do that surgery, that he can do it better than any doctor can. He’ll save your boy—just because. He says it so matter-of-factly, loudly repeating himself as if amen-ing his every blustery word, and you begin to believe him. Never mind that he has no experience, no training, and not even a basic understanding of human anatomy. He’s bombastic and self-assured and he doesn’t bore you with all sorts of complicated medical terms, so you willingly put your child’s sickly body in his care. You let the carnival barker open him up. 

Of course you don’t. 

That would be reckless and wasteful and negligent.

You choose the surgeon; the person with the experience, the intelligence, the temperament, and the steady hands, because this is the life of your child we’re talking about, not some inconsequential, useless thing to toy with. It isn’t a moment to be petty or spiteful or cavalier. It is a time for sobriety and sense and reason. You don’t hold the surgeon’s medical training or experience against her, because you realize that brain surgery is complicated, intricate, life and death stuff that most people simply can’t handle—and you know that loud men with sweaty hands and greasy knives will get your kid killed every single time. 

You understand that people can’t do brain surgery just because they say they can, and that they don’t become smarter merely because they get louder. You realize that the delicate, elaborate folds of the brain have no use for the carnival barker’s noise, no need for his entertaining wordplay. You know that all the volume and bombast and histrionics in the world won’t matter when there is chaos in the room and everything’s falling apart and millisecond decisions need to be made to save your child’s life. All the bluntness and charisma he can muster won’t be worth a dime then. In that moment, bedside manner doesn’t matter, only operating table competency. Experience counts here. Expertise is a an asset. There is no shortcut to this. You don’t shout or gesticulate your way out of these life-altering decisions—you have to put your head down and do the treacherous work of navigating the maze of blood vessels and grey matter in front of you.

This is what the surgeon does and has always done: she learns, she prepares, she endures the tedious, repetitive, minutia that most people, including the carnival barker could never sit through, because this is what this calling is about. She puts in the thousands of hours outside of that single moment of gravity, doing the kind of work that the yelling man will never understand, because he’s never had to. Maybe that’s why she appears so serious: because she’s concentrating on stuff he’s never even considered and can’t fathom—like brain surgery. 

The carnival barker is not the one who gets to stand over the body of someone you love laid open and vulnerable, and in your heart you know this. He does not deserve it. He is not qualified. He is unsteady. He is cheap sideshow entertainment; the person you briefly laugh at while you’re passing through the circus.

He is made for the big top, not the big moment.

And this is the biggest moment there is.


Our Sons Deserve Better Than Donald Trump’s Example of “Manhood”


My son is 11 years old; bright and beautiful and fitted with a heart far larger than it has a right to be. He’s that kind of brilliantly alive that only an 11-year old boy can be.

And this week, we let him down.

Donald Trump did.
The GOP did.

The Evangelical Right did.
Much of America did.

I did.

This week, while so many people openly (and rightly) lamented the devastating effect Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women (and the inexplicable defending of said treatment) will have upon young girls looking on, we all forgot something: our sons were watching and listening too.

I’m not sure we’ve stopped to think about what kind of young men we’re creating right now.

I don’t know if we’ve considered the collateral damage this is doing within the boys in our collective care. 

I don’t think we can fathom what our sons in a Donald Trump America are likely to grow into:

Men with a dangerous sense of entitlement when it comes to the bodies of women.
Men for whom violent, hateful, objectifying words about women are viewed as normal.
Men who believe that money and power and their penises give them license to do whatever they want with a woman regardless of what she wants.
Men for whom the very idea of consent is unimportant.
Men who believe they will get rewarded for their misogyny and sexism and filth, because they’ve watched it happen.

This week my son asked me what Donald Trump said about women, and I did the best I could to relay it all without using the actual words, because to use the actual words Trump used, would have meant subjecting my son to the kind of explicit, angry vulgarity that isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal for 11-year old boys—or boys of integrity of any age.

The words about women from a man who would be President, unfit to be repeated by a father to his son. Let that sink in for a minute. 

Trying to find any scenario in which any man talking about grabbing a woman by the genitalia and forcing himself on her physically is at all normal or acceptable, underscores the tragic absurdity of it all. It also illustrates the depths to which we’ve fallen and the sickness which is so pervasive; that our politics now so easily trumps our humanity.

The fact that a man with such a well-documented pattern of misogyny is the GOP representative for the highest office in the country (let alone garnering the support of millions of people who claim faith in Jesus) should be an embarrassment to any self-respecting parent and Christian. We should be sick to our stomachs right now, realizing how poisonous this all is to the hearts and minds of our boys. We should be openly condemning it all, if we had any regard for them and any interest in who they are becoming.

That so many fathers (and mothers) are not doing so, means that maybe Donald Trump is exactly the person to best represent us in the world. Maybe that is how low the bar we’ve set for our young men really is. Maybe the support for Trump is a true measure of the hatred so many men have toward women and the self-loathing too many of those women are afflicted with.

I have better dreams for my son than this.

I want him to know that girls and women are worthy of respect and decency and gentleness.
I want him to know that dehumanizing a woman is never normal; not in a locker room or a frat party or a board room or a bedroom.
I want him to know that another woman’s body is not his jurisdiction.
I want him to know that a woman’s outward no is louder than his internal yes.

I want him to know that there is a huge difference between being a man—and being a gentleman.

I believe my son deserves better than this week. All our sons do.

They deserve far better than a Donald Trump presidency. They deserve a higher definition of what it means to be a man, than an insulting, groping, bragging predator who treats women with complete disregard. 

They deserve a Christianity that isn’t as pliable as the Conservative Right and so many professed believers have made it in order to accommodate their candidate.

They also deserve better than to see adults making excuses for the words Trump has said and the things he’s done. They deserve parents, mentors, and role models who won’t sell their souls to align with a party or retain power.

One day my son will be a man, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ever worry that he’s not a man who recognizes women as valuable and equal and worthy of respect, and I’m going to shout down all the voices that would speak something different into his ears, even if those voices are of family members, friends, pastors, and Presidential candidates.

Rationalizing sexual assault and violence toward women as just “boys will be boys”, is the best way to ensure that our boys grow-up to become abusive men who have contempt for women and believe that to be what all men do. I refuse to participate in that.

At this point, opposing this kind of language and behavior shouldn’t be seen as a political move—but a human decency move. There shouldn’t be an alternative side to choose here; not if we love our sons and daughters.

Right now my son and millions of other bright and beautiful boys with big hearts and bigger questions are watching and listening to Donald Trump, and to us.

He is failing them.

We can’t afford to.


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