MAN UP!: The Quest for Masculinity
MAN UP!: The Quest for Masculinity. By Jeffrey Hemmer. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 315 pages. $14.99.
Though I have not written a review of the book, one of the best books I’ve read in recent years is Concordia Publishing House’s LadyLike: Living Biblically by sisters Rose Adle and Rebekah Curtis. To my great delight Jeffrey Hemmer has written an equally erudite book for men titled Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity.
This book is for the faint of heart. This book is for cowards, wimps, and feckless fathers. This book is no endorsement for such traits among men, but it is for those types of men because at its center is the clear articulation of the perfect Man, Jesus Christ, who came to redeem the faint of heart, the cowards, the wimps, and the feckless fathers.
In a hyper-sexualized American culture, Jeffrey Hemmer grounds his quest for masculinity in the foundation that has already been laid: Jesus Christ. This is what separates this book of masculinity from many other conversations about the same topic. Whereas Esquire will tell you that a true man is judged by the mastery of seventy-five skills, such as bringing a woman to orgasm, caressing her neck, and describing a glass of wine without using the terms “nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick”, Man Up! tells you that a man is judged on the merit of Jesus Christ alone. Thus, there is hope for every man because Jesus Christ is for every man.
This might sound unsatisfying and terribly impractical, but the exact opposite is the case. With the merit of Christ freely attributed to faulty men, men are now free to live as the very men God created them to be.
Hemmer takes the reader on a careful tour through Genesis 1–3, and from these passages rightly shows that a true man expresses his God-given masculinity by providing, protecting, and procreating. The parameters of these activities are established by further exploration of the Word of God and then placed in the context of our current cultural currents. This, then, is where the rub of the book is likely to occur for the reader.
Hemmer is forthright about the likelihood of this book to ‘frustrate’ and ‘tick you off’ and he doesn’t disappoint. If you have an opinion about birth control, world population, and to what extent women can and/or should work outside of the home, you’re bound to find an area where you disagree with Hemmer. But these areas of disagreement aren’t gratuitous attempts at machismo acting as a veneer for a poorly developed and articulated masculinity . Hemmer isn’t playing the part of the provocateur in order to get more clicks. It’s a sustained argument about the sinful condition of man in contrast to the design of man by God.
The book itself is divided into two parts. The first half establishes the Scriptural basis and framework for masculinity and the second half of the book is a reclamation of that Biblical masculinity for our lives.
Each chapter of the book concludes with discussion questions, making this book ready-made for a Men’s Bible Study, or to serve as a workbook for the individual reader.
I have not been this excited about a book in quite some time, and I heartily endorse it to be read by men everywhere. I am already cooking up plans for how this book can be used within the circuit of congregations to which I belong.
With my strong endorsement on the table, I have a couple of helpful words for the potential buyer. This is a book about masculinity. Consequently, the vocabulary necessary to have that conversation is used liberally and unashamedly. If you’re thinking about purchasing this book for a youth group, be aware that you will frequently be reading words such as genitalia, penis, zygote, foreskin, sex, orgasm, and the like. If your target audience is incapable of reading such words without descending into a perpetual fit of the giggles, you might want to either: (1) rethink your audience, (2) prepare your audience for such vocabulary, or (3) utilize this book in some other way.
Additionally, although this book is for all men and should be read by all men, it definitely caters far more to men of child-rearing age.
The book Man Up! is a desperately needed and welcome book about masculinity in an American context that has collectively lost its mind in all matters pertaining to human sexuality and masculinity in particular.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.
*A previous version of this review falsely listed the total pages of Man Up! as 224 pages. It actually has 315 pages. Sorry for the error.*