Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PAC-Man: The Passive-Aggressive Christian Man

Dr. Paul Glover, in his 2003 book No More Mr. Nice Guy, says nice guys are dishonest, secretive, manipulative, controlling, attracted to people that need fixing, and full of rage; they have difficulty setting boundaries and problems with intimate relationships; they fear conflict, blame others for their problems, fail to live up to their potential, and give to get.

Dr. Scott Wetzler, in his 1992 book Living With the Passive-Aggressive Male, says passive-aggressive men are dishonest, secretive, manipulative, controlling, attracted to people that need fixing, and full of rage; they have difficulty setting boundaries and problems with intimate relationships; they fear conflict, blame others for their problems, fail to live up to their potential, and give to get.

Glover states “Nice guys are passive-aggressive.” Wetzler states “...passive-aggressive men negotiate the world as 'nice guys' denying even the slightest hint of hostility or conflict.”

This is not a coincidence. Being a nice guy and being a passive aggressive man go hand in hand. Glover's and Wetzler's books are eerily similar. Even though their subjects are different and the approach from opposite directions, you can't help but get the feeling that they are describing the same person—because they are.

It's no secret that the modern Christian church has become a nice guy factory. What people have failed to realize is that it has also become a factory for producing passive-aggressive men. The nice guy personality turned out by churches is the one described in the above books—the one that goes hand in hand with being passive-aggressive.

There are long, complicated definitions of passive-aggressive behavior, but it really boils down to this:
Passive-aggressive behavior is when one person attempts to control another person from a position of weakness (real or imagined). The passive-aggressive person displays an exterior persona of politeness and civility while simultaneously acting in an aggressive manner.
The changes in American society over the last half century have produced an increase in passive-aggressive men. Once upon a time, if a man wanted something, he went after it—fighting for it if necessary. The aggressive man was not only approved by society, he was held up as a model of manhood. Today, overt aggression in men is not only discouraged, it is criminalized. A husband who simply raises his voice at his wife risks being hauled out of his own home by the police and being charged with abusing his wife. Wetzler describes how societal changes have affected men:
For the New Man, it is accepted practice to complain on the job (once thought to be “sissified”), bemoan one's fate, plead poverty, and show weakness, rather than always be the old-style stoic, take-a-stand-type leader. ...some men have turned humiliation into a “productive and profitable system.”
Men today are rewarded for suppressing any overt aggression, but that doesn't mean their nature has changed. The aggressive nature of men has simply been channeled into a form that appears non-aggressive to the outside world.

Wetzler also points out two family structures that are breeding grounds for passive-aggressive men:
  1. Families where the father is absent, distant, or withdrawn
  2. Families where the mother is the dominant parent/authority (a matriarchal household)
And into this cultural environment (which is already pushing young men into a passive-aggressive mindset) steps modern Christianity with its WWJD, turn the other cheek, be nice teachings. Paul Coughlin, in his 2007 book No More Christian Nice Guy, described it this way:
A large portion of the church tells them {Christian men} they should rarely if ever exert their will, that possessing passion, boldness, and intensity is wrong and ‘‘worldly.’’ Those qualities belong to ‘‘aggressive’’ and ‘‘proud’’ men. (Ironically, including Jesus.) Many have told me that it’s far more Christian to live limply, deny your heart’s desires, and keep your life in neutral because somehow, brother, this glorifies God.
This approach might have made some sense prior to WWII as an attempt to temper the overt aggressiveness of men in American society, but it makes no sense today. Unfortunately, as Coughlin notes, modern Christianity doesn't stop here:
That Christian men are expected to follow a nonexistent Jesus hinders and frustrates those of us who possess a vital masculine nature but are told not to activate it.

When we reach those sticky parts of the New Testament where Jesus lost his cool and called people names, we still portray him as having a gleam in his eye or as suppressing a kind smile, because Jesus would never be that rude. He wasn’t really mad, says the underlying message. He just raised his voice a little to get everyone’s attention, like a tour guide on a busy street.

Looking back, I once believed this caricature of ‘‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’’ because it was what I internalized during well-orchestrated church services designed to make God palatable to contemporary taste buds. I was told, though not in so many words, that the safe and pleasant route is really the best.

It gets worse. Christian Nice Guys (CNGs) are even told that by turning themselves into involuntary doormats for others (something they often mistake for sacrificial giving), they will somehow, magically, against all understanding of human nature and experience, lead others to Christ.
Christianity, as it is commonly taught today in America, is simply pushing men farther down the cultural rabbit hole. Instead of making them more like Christ, it is making them more like the world—more nice guy; more passive-aggressive.

Passive-aggressive men are terrible husbands and fathers.

Is it any wonder that even Christian women recoil at the thought of a “nice” Christian man? They may not comprehend the reason intellectually, but they grasp at a visceral level that there is something wrong with these nice guys.

Passive-aggressive men are not respected.

Not by other men, women, and certainly not by society at large. How can we hope to bring people to Christ if our standard bearers are men nobody respects?

Passive-aggressive men are not masculine.

It is not a culturally masculine trait, nor is it biblically masculine. Wetzler notes that historically, passive-aggressive behavior has been associated with women. It's only in the last half century, with the rise of the neutered male, that it has become common for men to act in a passive-aggressive manner.

And it has become far too common.

2 comments:

  1. Hi. I ran into your blog, this post to be more precise and found this really interesting - this docile new way of Christian men is a key to understand much of today's world and what's becoming of our Western Civilization. I'm commenting to leave a compliment, but I'd also like to ask for your permission to translate your post to Portuguese - I'm Brazilian, I have a blog of my own and my idea is to get this spread out. I don't have a great audience, but this post would reach some more readers. Of course I'd give you full credit and share a link that leads back to the original post. Thanks in advance!

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  2. Funny term this "passive-aggressive". You are actually describing typical female behaviour. Since they were (physically) weaker than their spouses, one of the few ways to assert their power was the behaviour described in the post. No one made a fuss about "passive aggressiveness" until men started using it for their own benefit.
    Funny how you are pulling Christianity into your post. You meant to write Western men, did you not? It only makes the post sound like typical Jewish pseudo intellectual BS

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