Not many things can bring all of America together these days, but one thing that did was the charming video of Marc Daniels, the dad who danced onstage with his two-year-old daughter—all while holding his baby in his arms—when she got stage fright at her recital. It’s no wonder the video quickly went viral. In the midst of our current cultural confusion on the subject of masculinity, “Ballerina Dad” was the hero we needed.
Daniels’s sudden popularity isn’t just another cute story to entertain us for a few minutes. It signals something about what we’re looking for in men. And for Christians who are paying attention, it hints at something we can do about falling rates of male attendance at church.
The Scandal of Masculinity
The problem, for Christians, is that our culture’s current view of male characteristics seems to be completely at odds with the qualities that Jesus called upon us to demonstrate. When researchers recently asked participants how well various traits described the average man or woman, those participants tended to view men as being aggressive, forceful, selfish, greedy, conceited, unemotional, shallow, and egotistical. Furthermore, they viewed men as lacking many positive traits, such as being forgiving, generous, patient, supportive, gentle, considerate, devoted, clear thinking, and fair-minded.
From the #MeToo movement that was sparked by horrific stories of sexual assault to the male loneliness epidemic, we can see evidence of the fallout from our conception of manhood. And the number of scandals in the church involving sexual abuse, abuse of power, and poor treatment of marginalized groups makes it clear that the church is not immune to these problems.1