Boys Protect Girls
If it is not lesson one, it is at least lesson three or four. When you are giving an address, you must know your audience. If, for instance, you’re addressing the National Luddite Association, it’s probably not a good idea to explain you left your laptop on the airplane, and so won’t be your usual strong self. (And, in case some in my audience don’t know what a Luddite is, it’s someone opposed to technology.) It’s also important, of course, to know yourself, and your own limitations. We won’t ever know our audience as well as we’d like to. Sometimes we discover our perceptive powers are not up to par, that we don’t know the audience as well as we think.
I almost always look forward to my speaking engagements. Those which I get the most excited about, are when I’m talking to my friends, where I do not have to win the crowd, but encourage them. But somehow, even in those situations, I too often find a way to make people mad.
I can’t imagine ever speaking to a more likeminded crowd than those to whom I was speaking that hot August day. First, the audience was crowded with children. Every one of them was being home schooled. The girls not only looked both modest and feminine in their jumpers, but I’m confident that the girls had made them themselves. This was a crowd where the men were men and the women were women.
I don’t remember what point I was trying to make, but to illustrate the point I made a passing reference to the chain of command in my home. I mentioned that my second born child, my son Campbell, who at the time was five and is now seven, knows, as does his older sister, who was seven then and is nine now, that a day was coming when he would be in a position of authority over his sister. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, all the older sisters in the crowd were both in combat mode and instantly united. Their enemies were proximately their little brothers, but ultimately, me. When I finished my address, I found myself surrounded by a mass of angry, feminine, pulchritude. The younger brothers did not bother to back me up. They were too busy demonstrating their maturity by doing end zone dances in celebration over what I had said.
For all their obvious anger, the ladies did manage to remain ladies. They were polite, and demure, as they graciously asked out of which specific pit in hell my fool idea had come from. Unable to spot a lawyer in the crowd, I chose to defend myself. “Suppose,” I asked the young ladies, “your mom and dad were away some afternoon. While they were gone your baby sister, in mid-diaper change, decided a nice brisk walk in the front yard, in the snow, would be invigorating. Before she can do too much damage, you rescue the child from the cold and complete the diaper change. Two hours later you peak out the window and see coming toward your front door a Hillary Clinton clone. This one isn’t the nanny from New York, but your friendly, neighborhood Lady from Child Protective Services. Who,” I asked them, “should answer the door? Who is responsible to make sure that this woman doesn’t cart off all of you?” They all agreed that in the face of this enemy, the oldest son should step in. “Alright,” I continued, “now suppose he thinks it would be a grand idea for the Lady from Child Protective Services not to see the still-rosy cheeks of baby sister, nor the gaggle of middle children. He thinks this ‘intervention’ would go more smoothly if all of you were out of sight. Does he not have the authority to instruct his siblings, even his older sister, to head down to the basement until the danger has passed?”
Peace broke out. One thing I need to learn to remember about any audience that I address — the odds are that people will be confused about what it means to be a covenantal head. In our effeminate age, we hear an awful lot of talk in the church about “servant leadership.” The words themselves go well together. The trouble is that we have taken to defining them such that servant swallows leadership. Those who have been placed in positions of leadership can count on having servanthood lorded over them. That is, anytime a leader gives leadership, he will be accused of “lording it over” those under his care. Out in the world everyone is climbing all over each other to get to the top of the ladder. Meanwhile, in the evangelical church, we’re so eager to “serve” in our leadership that we end up playing backwards leapfrog, everyone clamoring to be last so that they can be first.
The girls who were so upset at me were fearful that I was thinking like the world. They envisioned a future not only where Mom might instruct them to do the laundry, which was tolerable if not enjoyable, but where their pipsqueak brother would leave his Sunday shoes outside his sister’s room Saturday night with a note instructing her to be sure not to leave any waxy buildup. (And this, by the way, is likewise what the brothers were dreaming of while doing their celebratory dance.) Instead, I was thinking in terms of my own family’s liturgy. That is, from birth I have taught my son this simple moral truth, “Boys protect girls.”
Teddy Roosevelt once taught the same lesson, and got himself in trouble. Long before he rose to the presidency, he served in his church as a Sunday school teacher. One Sunday morning, one of his boy charges arrived beaten and bedraggled. Teddy chastened the boy for the torn clothes, his black eye, and his bloody nose. The boy explained the cause of his appearance — another boy, a bigger one, had been picking on a girl in the class. Teddy gave the boy a dollar. When word got out, Teddy was fired as Sunday school teacher.
Servanthood, in our leadership, doesn’t mean that men don’t do the leading. It does mean that men do the bleeding. In fact, that is why we are given the leadership in the first place. When I teach on what it means for the husband and father to be the head of his home, like many others, I turn to Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5. There Paul draws an analogy between the husband and wife, and Christ and the church. What is unusual when I teach this passage is that I focus on the call of the husband to sanctify his wife, to wash her with the Word, as Christ sanctifies his bride. To get to there I always tell a little story about how we men think we have this thing licked.
We tell our wives something like this. “Suppose dear, that for our next anniversary, that I were to surprise you with a trip to New York City. We’d stay at the Waldorf Astoria. We’d see a Broadway show. Afterwards, I’d take you to supper at the Tavern on the Green. Then we would walk hand in hand through Central Park. Now suppose this happened, and a mugger jumped out of the bushes. Dear, I want you to know, that if I should ever take you to New York, and if there should be a mugger, that like Christ for His church, I would lay down my life for you. I would take the bullet, if it should ever come to that.” Such, however, isn’t loving our wives as Christ loves the church. It is merely hypothetically loving our wives as Christ loves the church.
Until the shooting gets real. Muggers are not the only ones with guns. Neither is the Lady from Child Protective Services the only enemy we might one day face. Sometimes lands are invaded, and someone must go and face real bullets. This is why God gave leadership to men. But therein is the danger. By having the greater capacity to wage war, by being the stronger, the more aggressive, we likewise have been given the capacity to bully those whom we are called to protect, to use our strength for our own gain.
It happens most often with the state. God, in His grace, gives the state the power of the sword, that they might protect the citizens from aggressors foreign and domestic. For most of human history, however, the state in turn becomes the aggressor. Nothing illustrates this more powerfully than Saddam Hussein. Leaving aside the question of the merits of the war, leaving aside the question of whether the U.S. government ought to be killing and/or ousting the wicked rulers of other nations, we can conclude that anyone who uses women and children as “human shields” is indeed a wicked ruler. The state is to protect the people, not the other way around.
While those in positions of leadership in these United States have not gone as far as Saddam Hussein, we have nevertheless put in front those who should be behind us. We are crying out, “Women and children first” at precisely the wrong time. That the U.S. military put men at risk to rescue Pfc. Lynch from the clutches of the Iraqi government is a sure sign that there is still some sanity left in the upper echelons of the military, that the image of God in man has not yet been utterly obliterated. That Pfc. Lynch had to be rescued, however, is a sure sign of cultural insanity. No war is fought justly if those who are fighting that war are the very people we ought to be fighting to protect.
The feminist movement, like every strategy of the devil, has failed on all fronts. When you make a deal with the devil, not only does he always get what you offer, but he never delivers on his side of the bargain. Feminism does not set women free from the tyranny of men. Rather, it imposes on women the tyranny of men. The truth is that “Boys protect girls” is not just a moral imperative. It is an ontological reality. That is, men will always lead women. The only question is whether that leadership will be servant leadership. The only question is whether men will lead by ordering women off to battle, or to serve men’s petty wants, whether we will send our sisters to face off with the Lady from Child Protective Services, or have them shine our shoes. Or, will we lead as Jesus led?
There is no denying the authority of Jesus. As C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out, compared to Jesus we are all feminine. That is, we are all under His authority. Jesus did not exercise “servant leadership” by refusing to lead. Rather, He exercised leadership by leading the way into battle. He is the captain of the Lord’s hosts; He is the trailblazer; He is the firstborn of the new Creation. He is the one who faced not the petty bombs and bullets from some carnal cache, but who faced the Mother of all weapons of mass destruction, the wrath of God almighty. He was our shield.
If we would be like Him, if we would serve Him, we must follow Him. We do not send others, those who are weaker, those whom we are called to protect, into the fray. We protect; we shield; we cover. And just as He died for those who did not yet know Him, who were marching toward death, so let us seek to protect those who likewise march the path of destruction. Let us speak against all abominations and aberrations. Let us, though we will suffer the anemic arrows of public opinion, speak with vigor what God’s own Son, and my own son, will never forget — that boys protect girls.