Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Manly Dominion by Chanski

Peter expresses incredulity that Chanski was writing about men only in Manly Dominion. Here is another review of the book from 9 Marks.

I confess, I am confused about whether this is about the stewardship of the planet by humans or the dominion of the male over everything and everybody else. I went back and forth on this, but evidently a "nice guy" is a "wimp eunuch" in Chanski's view, and "husbanding" - and this means in marriage, not in creation - is a "crucial endeavor requiring manly dominion."

The reviewer writes,
    We are a generation of wimps raised by mystics.

    Such are many Christian men today. Exaggerated piety, deficient manliness, and outright cowardice have conspired to bring about the current state of affairs.
    I can say that is true from my own life. Many a decision has left me paralyzed. Which girl to pursue? Which job to take? Which pair of socks to wear? So it is for much of my generation. From the great to the small, we confront the decisions of life with a position of weakness, believing that no decision should be made unless

    i) direct revelation has unquestionably led us to it (in which case we may cite divine providence as the reason behind our decision, should said decision prove disastrous)
    ii) every conceivable factor points to it (in which case we can blame each factor, should said decision proves disastrous).

    This is a sad picture indeed.

    How welcome, then, is Mark Chanski’s Manly Dominion. Chanski, a Reformed Baptist pastor from Holland, Michigan, has penned this text to encourage the wimpy-hearted to think, pray, and act like men.

    According to Chanski, contemporary Christian masculinity lacks the will to take dominion of the earth, that mandate which rang first in Adam’s ears as recorded in Genesis 1:28. Chanski summarizes his central argument on page 18 by exhorting the reader to recognize that "Man is to aggressively dominate his environment, instead of allowing his environment to dominate him." He does this only by the grace of God: "Subduing labor achieves its goals only by divine enablement" (47).

    Chanski understands that men will only act out manly dominion through the power of God himself. With that power before them, men are to act. "I have not been assigned to stare out my bedroom, living room, or office window, passively daydreaming about what I might do, if only there weren’t so many obstacles. Rather I am to get out there, so help me God, and plan it, clear it, and do it, with all my might, to the glory of God" (18).

    Chanski’s thesis is itself aggressive, scriptural, and invigorating. He combines biblical study with a vibrant collection of stories, historical examples, and personal testimony to lay out the importance of acting courageously in one’s work, decision-making, spiritual life, and romance. Manly Dominion will be of great help to pastors in their efforts to encourage strong male leadership in local churches, especially in the following areas.

    Living Industriously

    Men have been indoctrinated to believe that work is bad. We have been trained by commercials, music, movies, and television shows to be lazy and passive. Chanski cuts the cultural attitude no quarter. Countering the spirit of disgruntled aimlessness, he writes, "In contrast, we ought to view ourselves as men of destiny, each created by the Lord and placed in this garden, in this world, with a very important task to accomplish" (58).
    Indeed, "Each of us has been endowed with talents and opportunities to accomplish great things in the Lord’s world" (59).

    Chanski gives us the big picture behind all of life here, articulating that God has given us gifts to accomplish meaningful work for him while we are here. This is a helpful point for the pastor trying to figure out how to counter secular gender theory with its emphasis on passive masculinity. Give ‘em Chanski, and watch them come to life.

    Making Decisions

    Chanski is equally helpful on the subject of decision-making, a matter that many men struggle with, as the introduction noted. Many of us are good at analyzing. Fewer of us are good at deciding.

    We can trace this failure rate to laziness, a fear of mistakes, and improper notions of guidance. Chanski tackles this collective attitude in his chapter on providence when he writes,

    In decision-making we must not adopt an unscriptural, mystical model that results in our passively permitting ourselves to be pushed around by our environment—like a four-ball. Instead, in circumstances where we are biblically allowed and authorized to press forward, let us humbly, prayerfully, and aggressively seek to do the pushing around (96).

    These words are helpful for all men today, but they may be particularly helpful for pastors. Chanski reminds all Christian men, pastors included, to make decisions and shoulder the consequences, good or bad, that come. When pastors live out these words, they create a culture of courage in their church and provide a model of leadership that commands respect and promises emulation. This, not passivity or fear, accords with the biblical testimony on this subject: "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim 1:7).

    Shepherding Wives

    Here’s how Chanski diagnoses the marital temperature of many homes:
    The constant imbibing of feminism, mixing together with man’s native sinfulness, has resulted in an epidemic of passive-purple-fourballism in modern marriages. Men have permitted themselves to be emasculated into a company of wimp eunuchs, who believe it should be their goal to strive toward being passive nice guys in their homes (167).

    That’s spot-on. My generation was raised with men like Steve Martin’s character in Father of the Bride as role models. Martin’s character was more of a clueless baby than a manly man. This model of masculinity, repeated many times over in the culture, has transferred to many Christian homes today.

    To counter this trend, Chanski urges, "We’ve got to reject modern thinking and take up biblical thinking. Without apology, the Scriptures teach that the man is to be the leader in his marriage and in his home. Husbanding is a crucial endeavor requiring manly dominion" (168). How important these words are for the pastor seeking to instill a biblical understanding of marriage amidst a culture where men were taught either to be distant and solemn (as in the 50s and 60s) or silly and weak (as in the 70s onward). Chanski’s words will help pastors to teach the men of their churches to reject laziness and to take action to care spiritually and otherwise for their wives and children.

I have to ask if there isn't some other word besides "dominion" that would serve as the opposite of "laziness."


    Peter Kirk said...

    I'm not sure "incredulity" is the right word. My point was that you had presented no evidence to support your accusation against Chanski. It is clear from the book's title that it is intended for men, rather than women, to read, and maybe that in itself is a reason for some to be suspicious of it. But nothing in what you quoted before suggested that Chanski supported male domination of females.

    Your link to the review at 9marks is broken. I found by searching that site this link to what apparently is the same review, by Owen Strachan.

    Having read the review (in full, not just your extract), I am still not convinced that Chanski is teaching that men should dominate their wives. We cannot really quarrel with "Chanski’s words will help pastors to teach the men of their churches to reject laziness and to take action to care spiritually and otherwise for their wives and children." On the other hand, as a Reformed Baptist he probably is presupposing a generally complementarian context - as the apostle Paul does.

    As a man who is currently struggling with decision making, Chanski's comments on this are well worth pondering! But the same principle applies to women's decision making.

    We can rightly take issue with this kind of book in various ways. The two words of the main title are perhaps the most objectionable part. But I don't think it is fair to complain that Chanski is teaching that men should dominate women.

    Suzanne McCarthy said...

    But I don't think it is fair to complain that Chanski is teaching that men should dominate women.

    I did not say that - I said he teaches that men should "husband with manly dominion."

    Anonymous said...

    again, such a simple di-pole undersanding of being in the world. there doesn't seem to be any middle ground.

    compromise and decision by consensus is not 'wimpy.' to 'clear' one's path is to push people and things aside, to move without awareness of what is around you.

    other strategies are often called for, for decision-making/discernment: gather resources; talk with experts; delay, delegate, or drop; vision-painting; persuading rather than coercing or seducing.

    dominion at its best is 'management.' at its worse it is utter destruction.

    the kingdom is like a mustard seed, a weed, that grows wildly out of hand. it is not pruned or cropped, and if pulled up reseeds itself. there is no dominion or management possible here. and if you think a pastor is involved in anything other than collaboration with the kingdom of heaven, you are most wrong.



    Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I found that Martha Peace endorsed "Manly Dominion". She wrote "An Excellent Wife". Here is a review of that book from Amazon.

    I was recently married, and an in-law gave me "The Excellent Wife" as a present. I would have prefered a dish towel.

    My husband and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as we read this book. "The Excellent Wife" is probably the most disturbing book written by a "Christian" that I have ever read. Martha Peace actually advocates that battered wives stay with their husbands who hurt them. She says that the correct thing to think when your husband hurts you is this: "My husband may hurt me again. I hope not, but if he does, I will just have to let him and glorify the Lord." What kind of advice is that? Women who are getting hurt by their husbands need to get out of the marriage!

    I was so disgusted by this patriarchal and mysogynistic book that I am going to throw it out! I was considering selling it on Ebay, and making $2 off it, but I don't want to be responsible for a battered woman reading this filth and deciding to stay with her abusive husband!


    The greatest irony of this book is that while Mrs. Peace tries to cling to the Bible as her reference, she directly opposes it when she advises women to submit to emotionally abusive husbands. If a husband is abusive, he is clearly not Godly; why should a woman endure bodily and emotional harm for the sake of a bad marriage? I cannot fathom a psychologically healthy woman submitting to an abusive husband and Peace should not give such spiritually damaging advice.
    How disheartened I was when I read in Peace's book that women do not glorify God but ONLY their husbands!

    I found myself in a state of frustration and confusion after reading this book. It seems like Mrs. Peace not only rests the whole weight of the marriage on the wife's shoulders, but she also seems to feel that the place of the wife is UNDER the husband's foot instead of at his side. Statements such as the wife should "recognize that her work, needs and desires are less important than her husband's" are NOT helpful!

    This book is one of the resources on CBMW's website.

    Peter Kirk said...

    Scott, I love your picture of the kingdom as weeds spreading out of control. Of course they can be controlled by pulling them up or poisoning them. But the results are purely negative, they don't actually help the weeds to grow elsewhere. And also negative are human attempts to control or dominate God's kingdom on earth, all they can do is limit its spread.

    Suzanne, Martha Peace probably also endorses the Bible, but that is no reason to conclude that the Bible teaches what she does.

    Suzanne McCarthy said...

    These books are just indications to me that CBMW supports the concept of domination as a positive value in men, but not in women. That is why I find them of interest. This is especially odd since Chanski's thesis appears to be based on Gen. 1 where "man' is used instead of "humans" for Adam.

    Matthew Celestine said...

    I do find the whole Godly Masculinity thing rather worrying.

    My pastor always talks about 'Christian men being wimps.'

    I think we cannot put too high a premium on meekness. gentleness, patience and humility and these are the things that the 'Godly Masculinity' people are least keen to talk about.

    God Bless


    Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Hi Matthew,

    I find present day complementarianism to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Brethren I grew up with.

    The focus now on exaggerating gender stereotypes is very different from the more puritanical attitudes I remember.

    Kevin Knox said...

    I have waited long past the end of the discussion, I'm sure, but I had to think about this one. I think someone is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The problem is both sides are calling the other side's baby the bathwater.

    I conclude Chanski has identified a very real, very important problem to address. I am a man who has had problems with being decisive, and the church did not help me overcome them. Instead, the church praised me when I wrung my hands and waited on omens so God would be responsible for all my decisions. I may wax long on this some time, but I'll spare you for now.

    If I can be rude and presumptive enough to guess from the quotes here, Chanski addresses the problem with the wrong tool. He finds irresponsibility and passivity and addresses them with machismo. The correct answers would be responsiblity and activity, but perhaps he focuses on aggression. And perhaps he hits the nail square on the head. I don't know.

    So, it sounds to me like he's found a real problem.

    If someone attempts to cure male passivity with marital subjugation, then the real problem has found a false solution. If, on the other hand, he attempts to get men to step up to the plate after having taken themselves out of the game, then this may be a fantastic book.

    The quotes, though, are not encouraging. It sounds like redemption through subjugation, and that's deadly.

    In the end, your debate made me think and that's always a gift. Thank you.

    karen said...

    Chanski's idea (according to the representation here; I've not read the whole thing) of 'manly' domination doesn't seem to fall into line of who Jesus was, or how he acted; the reviewer presents the ideal of a pushy, selfish, dominating creature. As far as I can tell, scriptures do not define this as a good thing. ;-)
    It's certainly not Christlike; and not the appointment that was given to the humans in Genesis. Jesus walked with loving authority and confidence. We should all perhaps emulate that.

    Anonymous said...

    As a European I can only say; this is beyond comprehension.

    Anonymous said...

    Dear Suzanne,

    I just saw this discussion about Manly Dominion. Thank you! I noticed you were concerned because you thought I was saying that only men are to exercise dominion. I've since written a sequel that came out in 2008. It's called Womanly Dominion: More than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit. I think you'd love to read it.

    Mark Chanski
    author of Manly and Womanly Dominion