Okay. You wanna know why I can’t help D.J. with her campaign? I can’t help you with your Stay in School campaign because I didn’t stay in school… [later in the episode]… Okay. You guys win. I’m going back to night school.Jesse Katsopolis // Full House
At this particular mobile army hospital, we’re not concerned with the ultimate reconstruction of the patient. We only care about getting the kid out of here alive enough for someone else to put on the fine touches. We work fast and we’re not dainty, because a lot of these kids who can stand two hours on the table just can’t stand one second more. We try to play par surgery on this course. Par is a live patient.Hawkeye Pierce // M*A*S*H
Strong Women Need Strong Men
I’m sorry if you’re offended by one of the words in the title of this post but it is the only way to sum up what I really want to get across. And I also want to say that for everything I am about to say in this post, I do know strong men. I know so many strong men who come in all different guises. Some of them are literally strong. Others are smart. A lot of them are caring, doing their best to reflect Jesus. Plenty have made sacrifices to do what they believe needs to be done.
So I guess I’m not really talking to men here. To be honest, this blog isn’t for men. It is for women so it is to women that I am writing now.
Yes, YOU GIRL! I’m talking to YOU!
If you are anything like me, you probably fancy yourself as quite a strong woman. Maybe you’re a long-term single, like myself, honestly questioning whether giving up your independence for a relationship is worth all the hype while also wanting someone to snuggle with on the sofa. You might have even decided that it isn’t worth giving up. Or you’re like so many girls I have known who are in relationships but still wear the trousers, for any one of a million reasons. It could be that your boyfriend/fiancé/husband lets you do whatever you want. Then again, maybe you’ve forced him to let you take charge even if you haven’t realised it. Perhaps you argue because both of you want to be in charge.
Whatever situation you are in, it’s probably because you are a strong woman. I salute you for that. The world needs strong women and the Bible is full of them. Read about Deborah, Ruth, Abigail, Esther, Rahab, Tamar, Elizabeth, Mary, Lydia… the list is almost endless! The problem is that the message we often here today is that strong women need no one. At the most all we need is other strong women. #WomenSupportingWomen and #SmashThePatriarchy are two extremes of the same spectrum (though I’ll admit I do use one of them a lot 😉)
Well, today I’m telling you a different message… Strong women need strong men! And strong men need strong women!
Strong Men DO NOT Equal Sexual Creeps
I hate that I have to address this but considering my two examples I probably should. If you have ever watched an episode of M*A*S*H or Full House, you’ll understand why. The sad reality is while Hawkeye (M*A*S*H) and Jesse (Full House) are TV heartthrobs, if you were to meet them in real life today and they tried any of their moves you’d probably be creeped out. Fortunately, in that arena, we have moved on and the tactics used by these two guys aren’t going to get you as far today. Women are too savvy for that.
So why I have picked these two guys? I could have picked a lot of other strong men. I could have picked Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager… only he ended up marrying a half-alien with an anger issue. Ummm, what about Colson from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD? He’s pretty sound but the whole alien-resurrection thing is a bit weird. Or Captain America… a superhero so not really comparable. Or James Bond… oh, he’s another womaniser AND a secret agent.
You see, Hawkeye and Jesse work because they’re normal. They are regular guys. But if they are so normal, what is that makes them “strong men”?
Biblical Strong Men
First off, what does a strong man look like? As Christians, it is natural for us to turn to the Bible and see the kind of man whom God used. Typically, our first thought is for David. He’s pretty much the pin up for the Christian male. Somehow we skip over the part where he slept with a married woman, which some people have suggested could have amounted to rape/non-consensual sex due to his royal position. (Sorry to burst that bubble!) While this was one incident and David is, for the most part, a good example of a strong man, he’s not the role model I’m going to pick to compare with Hawkeye and Jesse.
Instead, let’s have a look at some more underrated men. Have you heard of Joseph and Barnabas?
Joseph (Matthew 1: 18-25) was just a standard carpenter. He wanted to marry his fiancé (this local girl called Mary) and settle down to family life. What happened? It turned out that Mary was going to have another man’s son (well, God’s Son), who was going to become the promised Saviour to the Jews! At this point, quite a few people would have run away. But instead, Joseph stepped up and chose to still marry Mary and raise another man’s child. Okay, so this other man was God and Mary hadn’t actually been unfaithful but this was still a HUGE choice to make in that society and time. He protected Mary from being a social pariah and gave Jesus a respectable, normal home as a child.
Barnabas (appears throughout Acts including here) should really be as famous as Paul. He was the other evangelist who went out to the Gentiles, sometimes with Paul and sometimes apart from Paul, to tell them about the Gospel. He wasn’t anyone remarkable with a “Damascus-style” conversion (that was Paul’s bag). Instead, he was just there in the background doing what needed to be done. He was telling people the good news of the Resurrection because that was what needed to be done. This meant taking up the life of an itinerant preacher with no regular income or secure place to call his own. While we don’t know a lot about Barnabas in the Bible apart from when he’s with Paul, we can assume that doing the work he did meant coming up against a lot of opposition. Yet he kept on doing it.
What does a Jewish Carpenter and an Early Evangelist have to do with a Fictional Musician and TV Doctor?
Let’s deal with Uncle Jesse first. At the start of the Full House, Jesse puts his life on hold to help his recently widowed brother-in-law raise three little girls. He sacrifices his music dreams, relationships, and generally his whole lifestyle to provide his family with support and stability. Even when he eventually gets married and has his own children, Jesse is still there for his whole family. We see him grow in to a strong man not because he is a role model for virtue and perfection but because he knows what is the right thing to do. Like Joseph still marrying Mary even though societal norms would have supported him abandoning her, Jesse consistently chooses his family.
The quote I chose for Jesse at the start of this post exemplifies that for me. In that particular episode, Jesse reveals that he never finished school and as such can’t help his niece and her friend with a school project. By the end of the episode, he has gone back to night school and is going to finish school. Why is this a big deal? Firstly, Jesse shows that what is important is being honest about the truth. He sets an example for his nieces even though it makes things harder for them initially because he can’t help with their project. Secondly, he does the hard thing by going back to school, setting an example to his nieces even though he has to swallow his pride to do so. Was Joseph choosing to marry a pregnant Mary really that different in terms of pride?
What about everyone’s favourite Korean War surgeon? What on earth could Hawkeye have in common with Barnabas? Throughout M*A*S*H, it is clear that Hawkeye does not want to be at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. He does not like war and he pretty much hates everything about being in Korea. Yet he is still there and giving his all to the job at hand: saving the lives of soldiers brought in to his operating theatre. He has one aim and one reason for being in Korea and part of the Korean War; to save as many lives as he can. Everything else that he does makes being in Korea bearable so that he can fulfil that aim. We don’t have to like what he does but remember that he is always focused on doing the necessary thing. Like Barnabas still evangelising after splitting from Paul, Hawkeye kept doing the thing he was called to do even when it got hard.
Hawkeye’s chosen quote exemplifies this attitude. It might sound sarcastic and with a little too much sass but it gets the point across. At the end of the day, Hawkeye wasn’t there for the attention or glory. The only time he cared about rank was over who would be chief surgeon because it would impact on the soldiers under his care. Nothing was going to stop Hawkeye from saving those lives and doing what was necessary in order to do it. How is that different to Barnabas laying down his life to preach the Gospel?
…and to say “I will”
So where are you men of courage? Where are you, [men] who fear the Lord? It’s time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you, and to say, “I will. I will. I will.”Adam Mitchell // Courageous (modification my own)
Courageous is one of my favourite films and songs. I believe that as women we can take a lot away from it BUT it is a film and song written for men. Watching it the first time was when I really began to feel a longing to see more strong men in the Church. It started to shape how I saw men portrayed in the media, which was when I started to realise that men who were strong in ways that aligned with the Bible were not being encouraged. In fact, it started to feel like strong men were not being encouraged at all!
Yet in so many of the TV shows, films, and books I love, it is men who have an internal strength to them who I love. Very few of these men are Christians and often faith doesn’t really come into the plot. Jesse and Hawkeye are just two of them. I could have talked about Tony DiNozzo from NCIS, Mack from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series. All strong men who do what is necessary. Some of them take a while to get there (cough *DiNozzo* cough) but when the time comes, they stand up and hold firm. If they were Christians, I have no doubt that they would say “I will. I will. I will.” in response to Adam in Courageous.
The Importance of Strong Men Who Give a Damm!
Throughout this post, I have referred to men doing what was necessary nomatter the cost. Joseph did what was necessary, what God call him to do. Barnabas gave up everything because he knew spreading the Gospel was necessary. Jesse made the necessary choices because he cared about his family. Hawkeye did not abandon his work because he knew it was necessary in order to for lives to be saved.
But what motivated them to do what was necessary? It was because they gave a DAMM about the consequences. They realised what the consequences would be if they didn’t do the necessary thing (in Joseph’s case it took angelic interference). Their strength came from the fact that they reached a point where they cared too much to not do the right, necessary thing.
Strong Women, Please Listen…
We need to be encouraging the men in our lives to be strong. So often today we are told that kind and loving men should allow women to have whatever they want. They need to get with the programme… whatever the programme is 🤷🏻♀️ We’ve become so scared of toxic masculinity, which is a vicious reality sadly, that we are scared of any man who acts like… well, a man who cares!
Hawkeye and Jesse are fictional characters who unfortunately do have a lot of flaws. Neither of them treat women particularly well, constantly trying to charm their way to a kiss… or more. But both of them, when push came to shove, were written as characters with the strength to stand up for what they saw as the necessary and right thing. They had the strength to give a damm!
Joseph and Barnabas were real people. They existed and give us examples of what it looks like to be a strong man out of the spotlight. They show us what it looks like to make the hard choices and follow God’s call, wherever it might lead them.
As strong women, we can look around sometimes and wonder where these strong men are. Personally, I know quite a few and they are incredible men of God with a strength beyond anything physical. However, times are tough for them as men are more and more frequently labelled in negative ways. We need to be building them up, encouraging them to care and love enough to stand up and be counted. To not just go along with what everyone is saying.
Imagine if Joseph had gone along with society… Jesus would have been a bastard.
If Barnabas had not gone with Paul… it would have taken even longer for the Gospel to be spread.
Would viewers have loved Jesse and Hawkeye as much if they had just been womanisers without any moral strength or conviction?
Today, start to encourage the men in your life to take a stand again. Will they respond with “I will” to God’s call on their life?