I read Owen Strachan's recent rant against a Sesame Street episode in which "Baby Bear" is told it's OK for boys to play with dolls on the same day my six-year-old son took his Matey Anchors doll to school for show and tell. Maybe my reaction would have been different at a different time.
Maybe the implication that Satan himself is behind my son's desire to own a doll—not to mention show and tell about it!—as well as Sesame Street's "unbiblical and socially disastrous teaching on sexuality and gender" would've brought on nothing more than an eye-roll and a "whatever." I mean, Strachan is the executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and I get that his views on "biblical" gender roles often look different than mine—and certainly different from Sesame Street's.
If my son would have picked his football or any of his more "manly" toys for show and tell, I bet Strachan's words would've still raised my ire. Just as Strachan sees Sesame Street's "open denial of sex roles and gender distinctions" as offensive to God, I find Strachan's stance, that boys who play with dolls (such as Baby Bear or my son, who tumbles and create skits with them) are deviations from God intentions for men, offensive to the many good men and fathers God created.
When we say baby dolls are for girls, that only girls should cuddle and coo dolls, we claim that babies are women's domains, that only mothers should rock and coo and play with their children. What a horrible thing to teach our kids (though it's a common enough claim in our culture). It's a view shared by the "my body/my choice" crowd as well TV writers who malign sitcom dads as doofuses. Strachan probably never imagined he had so much in common with these folks.
This view ignores much of what our Heavenly Father created our earthly fathers to do. Far from offending God when a male plays with or rocks or feeds a baby, I believe it reflects God's own male image. This is, after all, how the Scriptures tell us our Heavenly Father loves us: "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing" (Zeph. 3:17).
Our God has us in his arms, singing songs, tossing us high, catching us with giggles, and shushing us when we get scared. And what does this kind of love amount to? 1 John 3:1 says that this is why we're called "children of God." It's the kind of giddy, playful, over-the-top, Baby Bear playing with a baby doll, daddy rocking his baby kind of love. I'm so glad God gives us this—and gives us flesh-and-blood fathers to give it too. What a shame that anyone would think this baby business were only the realm of women and miss out on this view of God and this blessing of fatherhood.
In Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me, Ian Morgan Cron writes, "A boy needs to be able to look into his father's eyes and see admiration and delight…. Many of us who live without these gifts that only a father can bestow go through life banging from guardrail to guardrail, trying to determine why our fathers kept their love nameless, as if ashamed."
Strachan gives a good reason why some fathers are ashamed to show this love: because boys are taught, by some, that gushing over babies is embarrassing, unmanly, ungodly. Yet, this is the sort of love kids long for—and frankly, that if we look at God, our Father, the kind of love fathers are made for. Not to say children don't need their dads to be "hunter-gatherers" or disciplinarians, but it's the admiration and delight Cron writes of that kids seek most. It's the love and gushing and feeling like their dads delight in them that keeps kids from bouncing off those guardrails.
Isn't a boy playing with a doll is merely acting this out? Far from being "like a girl" isn't that boy simply tapping into his deep-seeded, God-given and God-reflecting very male desire to show love, to delight in another, smaller human? I think yes. Strachan apparently thinks no. He ends his post admitting that he doesn't see Sesame Street's position on boys and dolls as the end of the world and encourages Christians not to "spaz" about it. "I actually think this show is silly, and worth laughing at, because the God-encoded truth about sexuality and gender is obvious and boys playing with dolls is foolish," he writes.
Maybe Strachan's right. Maybe boys playing with dolls is foolish. As foolish as the God who once taught a tribe of Israel "to walk, taking them by the arms" and who lifted them like "a little child to the cheek" (Hosea 11:3-4). As foolish as a man who endured shame and humiliation in marrying a woman impregnated by another and following God's giant call for his wife's life and her boy (Matt. 1:24). As foolish as the father who hiked up his skirts to run out to welcome his lost son home (Luke 15:20). And as foolish as seeing God himself and his delighted love when a boy (or bear) rocks a doll.