As I explained in part one, men stepping up is a well loved refrain with complementarians and other conservative Christians. It is a brilliantly deceptive term, because the objective is to appear to be fighting our feminist culture while taking great care not to do anything which would upset the feminist status quo. This is accomplished by pretending that feminists aren’t in the final mopping up stage of the culture wars, and instead complaining about a sudden and mysterious change in men.
The danger of course to exhorting men to man up is that they might actually do so. This would defeat the whole purpose. For this reason Christian leaders who go beyond the steps described in part 1 need to clearly communicate that their program is not a threat to women in feminist rebellion.
Dennis Rainey is the President, CEO and Co-founder of FamilyLife. Rainey is also a Board of Reference member of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Rainey is all about men stepping up. In fact, he has even trademarked the term Stepping Up®, as it is the title of the video series and accompanying book FamilyLife sells:
Calling Men to Courageous Manhood
Today, more than ever, the world needs godly men. Men who will step up and courageously lead at home, at church, at work, and in their communities. That’s the message of Stepping Up. In a world where too many men are shrinking back, Stepping Up gives men vision and tools to live godly, courageous lives.
In August of 2013 I did a post on one of the youtube videos FamilyLife used to advertise Stepping Up®. As I noted at the time, the advertisement was brilliantly crafted to seem traditional while reinforcing the feminist status quo:
…the video features a thoroughly broken husband being harangued by his ballbusting wife. For a moment he weakly pushes back, but then she threatens to move out and he submits to her authority. Those who support traditional marriage are no doubt encouraged by this exchange and the larger message of the video, assuming this video series is secretly about returning to the biblical instruction on headship and submission. If their wife gives the ok, they can’t wait to attend the sessions!
This message is so ridiculous many of my readers understandably will struggle to believe that is is the case, especially since the video I was describing has since been removed from YouTube. Fortunately, while the video has been memory holed, another promotion for Stepping Up® is still available on the web. In January of 2013 Rainey did a segment in his radio program titled Encouraging Our Guys (audio, transcript). The introduction to the segment makes it sound like it will be promoting the biblical view, just like the blurb on the page selling the video:
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 8th . Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about men being men and about how women can help them be the men God wants them to be.
After the break, Bob explains that churches around the country will be screening Stepping Up® the Saturday before Super-bowl Sunday. This creates a dilemma for the head of the household; how should she manage her husband’s day? Should she send him to Stepping Up®, or should she occupy his time with chores around the house?
Bob: So, I‟m thinking of a wife who is planning for that weekend. She’s got the option of either her husband, on Saturday, doing all the projects around the house so that he can watch the game on Sunday; or she can send him to the Stepping Up® Super Saturday event, down at the church, that’s happening in their community. We’ve got hundreds of churches that are participating in this; but she’s not going to get any “Honey, do” lists done that day. What would your counsel to her be, Dennis?
Dennis: Give up the “Honey, do” list for a day.
Rainey explains that a wife should see this as an investment. If she sends her husband to Stepping Up® it will pay dividends for her in the future, as it will very likely make her husband more like she wants him to be:
I‟m actually encouraging you, as a wife, to look beyond the “Honey, do” list and beyond to making an investment in your husband‟s life—to encourage him, not discourage him— but encourage him to become the man God made him to be. If you send him down to the Stepping Up Super Saturday event—I can‟t guarantee this because he’s got a choice—he’s got a real choice, and some guys don’t make it; but a lot will.
Next Rainey introduces their guest for the segment, Kenny Luck:
Kenny Luck joins us. He’s the Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church. He‟s
written a book called Sleeping Giant. He’s all over the issue of men stepping up.
Luck of course reinforces the importance of the head of the household sending her husband to the Stepping Up® event, because Stepping Up® and similar programs are designed to make her husband do what she nags him to do:
Kenny: I was just saying—the hall pass—“Ladies, here’s the deal. When you do give permission for a desired activity—but more importantly, when you encourage your man to take ownership of his life—spiritually, relationally, maritally— in the context of other men, that’s when you get a solid result versus hinting, hoping, nagging. It’s just something where he feels that he needs to make that decision on his own—in consideration of you—but in the presence of other men, as an individual man. It‟s that ownership-thing, where it is: „This is my decision, and I want to own it—apart from being in your presence—even though I love you—and apart from being connected to you as a husband and father, who has many shortcomings—I want to make this decision myself.‟”