What does it mean to be a good man? Eric Metaxas, who has previously written books on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is the author of the new book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness. Metaxas talks about men, women, and heroic virtue with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why a book about men? Does this prove that there is a Christian disdain for women?
eric METAXAS: We have a crisis of manhood in our culture. We’re afraid to talk about what it means to be a man, so I wanted to talk about it and to show the lives of seven truly great men. But if this book does well I’d love to write a book titled “Seven Women.” But if men aren’t learning how to be real men, it’s women who suffer more than anyone. So I had to write this book first.
LOPEZ: Why are you stuck on Father Knows Best? Do you want to turn back the clock?
METAXAS: Yes, I want to turn the clock all the way back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, about 6,000 years ago. Is that so wrong?
But seriously, somewhere along the line in the last 40 years we lost our idea of what a man is. Every parent knows that a young man needs to know what it means to be a man — and that he needs and wants heroes. But in about the same way that we’ve shrunk from saying what a man is, we’ve denigrated the idea of heroes in general. Deep down, all men want to live heroic lives. And unless I missed something, playing video games isn’t all that heroic.
LOPEZ: Is chivalry dead, and if it’s not, what does it look like in 2013??
METAXAS: Chivalry is whenever a man acts like a gentleman and treats others — but women especially — with grace and civility and selflessness. There’s less and less of this in our public life, so it’s important to reconsider the concept. We need to know that there have been many men whose lives were defined by this kind of behavior. George Washington was exceedingly gracious, as my chapter on him illustrates, but all of the men in my book were chivalrous to some extent. We need to recognize this as an important part of what it means to be a great man, especially because many contemporary public figures behave decidedly unchivalrously. But just because Donald Trump has lamentably stooped to say boorish and vicious things publicly about women who have somehow mussed his hair — metaphorically speaking — doesn’t mean that there aren’t many who consider such behavior deplorable.