“You are offended by the masculine itself,” the Director told Jane. “The loud, irruptive, possessive thing — the gold lion, the bearded bull — which breaks through hedges and scatters the little kingdom of your primness as the dwarfs scattered the carefully made bed.”
Offended by the masculine itself.
At this point in the story Jane, an unhappily married protagonist in C.S. Lewis’s space finale, That Hideous Strength, was what we might regard today as the modern woman. She is a career-aspiring, egalitarian non-Christian who stood opposite (and opposed) to the womanhood of someone like Mrs. Dimble, a strong, yet submissive Christian wife.
Jane stared befuddled at the Director — a golden lion himself who by now had won both Jane’s respect and reverence. The world she lived in began to tilt and sway. Her “haunting female fear of being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession” resurfaced. To date, she had sighs and scoffs enough to keep such masculinity at bay. She had chosen a husband, Mark, accordingly. He “really understood” her — meaning that he posed no threat to her self-government and asked nothing of her she was unwilling to give. But here she stood, cornered by that self-discovery that perhaps reality was not as she imagined.
Embarrassed by the Beard
We live in a society crowded with such Janes (even when the name on the driver’s license says Jason). Feminists of both sexes rebel against that bearded bull, labeling him wild, oppressive, dangerous. Many are offended by the roar of the cosmos, the heads of humanity, the kings of creation, men.
Today’s “virtuous man” is depicted as much more virtue than man. He is compliant, deferential, and soft. He is nice. He works his job, pays his taxes, keeps his head down, and avoids scandal and, by all means, anything that could be called “abuse.” He is safe, but not much more. There is no fire, no passion, no strength, no purpose to make him a risk or nuisance to his evil generation. Traditional masculinity — that muscular, bold, and weighty thing — has been curbed with bit and bridle. When it emerges, it offends. And he wouldn’t want to offend.
Many professing Christians have indulged Jane’s perspective as well. Old truths no longer suffice. That both head and helper are majestically equal in worth, both made after the glorious image of God, both dependent on the other, and that both exist as coheirs of the grace of life in Christ (Genesis 1:27; 1 Corinthians 11:11–12; 1 Peter 3:7), this means little to some as long as any distinctions remain.
They do not like that “man . . . is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7). They see nothing but offense when reading that woman was made for man, not man for woman (1 Corinthians 11:9). They shudder at Paul’s vision for the corporate gathering, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” — and shake their heads at his explanation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12–13).
They claim to see no practical importance in their marriage text which states that every husband is the head of his wife, even as Christ is head of the church, and that she should submit to him as to the Lord in everything that is lawful (Ephesians 5:22–24).
If masculinity has been distorted into a depraved form of dominance in the past, it is now being distorted into a depraved form of irrelevance. Many are tempted to conclude from this that the age of men has passed; he must empower women and rouse his strength only at her beck and call. The future, many sons and daughters of Jane suppose, is feminine.
He Whom We Cannot Escape
The Director’s next statement hit Jane — and us if we will consider it — with the force of a meteor:
The male you could have escaped for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it. You’d better agree with your adversary quickly. (313)
He who sits enthroned above is unescapably masculine.
To whatever extent our generation mocks, belittles, and perverts masculinity, the Director reminds Jane (and us) that this is all but temporary. The husbands, the fathers, and the kings of this earth can be avoided, shamed, and suppressed. But the eternal He is coming — Husband, Father, Judge, King. “Souls can bypass the male and go on to meet something far more masculine, higher up, to which they must make a yet deeper surrender.”
Few today seem to hear the beauty in the ancient baritone. Few have their breath taken by the entrancing accompaniment, the voice fit for his, the feminine timbre harmonizing perfectly. Many demand the same note be pounded on the piano, that man and woman be considered the same. But in this, they are unaware that the differences follow us into eternity; that one whose voice is likened to thunder, whose bass makes oaks to shake and strips forests bare (Psalm 29:9). If you cannot love the authentic (yet imperfect) masculinity in the holy men you can see, how can you love the Holy Him you cannot?