CINCINNATI -- In today’s world, what does it mean to be a man? How is it different from being a woman?
Brian Tome, senior pastor of Cincinnati’s largest church, Crossroads, takes on the first question in his new book, “Five Marks of a Man: The Simple Code that Separates Men from Boys.”
On a recent night at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Commons, not far from Crossroads’ main campus in Oakley, Tome talked about the book and answered questions from an audience of about 60.
Afterward, he signed copies. Many of the autograph seekers were church members, who took the opportunity to thank Tome for his ministry.
Crossroads, the fastest-growing church in the country, believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God, without error in the original manuscripts.
Tome builds his book on two Bible verses taken from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (I Corinthians 16:13-14), which he quotes as follows:
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
(Several translations of the Bible don’t use the phrase “act like men” in that verse, instead substituting, “Be brave” or “Be courageous.”)
Tome might have put “act like men” in bold type because it fits with his theme that in Paul’s day, acting like a man was seen as, in his words, “an ideal to be exalted and attained.”
But in our culture, he writes, men are too often seen as buffoons, and there are too many males of adult age that still act like children.
From those two verses, he fashions five marks that show a man’s a man:
“Be watchful.” This means men have a vision for their lives, but boys live day-to-day.
“Stand firm in the faith.” Men are willing to take up a minority position, but boys just go with the flow.
“Act like men.” Men are team players; boys are just out for themselves.
“Be strong.” Men are wired to produce value – they work, but boys seek every opportunity to avoid work.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” Things done in love are done for others. Men are protectors, boys are predators.
Tome quotes a Bible verse attributed to the apostle Peter, which says husbands should show honor to their wives as “the weaker vessel.” Not a lesser vessel, Tome adds, but a weaker vessel.
He takes this to mean that it’s a man’s responsibility to do for women what they can’t do for themselves, and to use his strength to protect the marginalized in society.
Tome devotes most of the book’s 120 pages to fleshing out the ideas he finds in the two verses from I Corinthians. He recommends that fathers create a ceremony or event to mark their son’s passage into manhood, something like a bar mitzvah in Judaism.
For him, it was taking his son on a motorcycle trip. But it doesn’t matter what it is, he said, so long as the boy is treated as an adult afterward.
He finishes the book with an epilogue about MAN CAMP, a Crossroads event in which men spend a weekend sleeping outside, building fires, roasting pigs, talking about God and drinking beer.
At the book signing, Tome said he wanted to write something men would want to read. The book’s language and concepts are simple, and it can easily be read in less than an hour.
Asked how a “Five Marks of a Woman” book might be different from this book, Tome said he didn’t know because he wasn’t a woman. He wasn’t trying to spell out the differences between men and women, he said, but between men and boys.
Women could embody most of the five marks of a man, he added, although, “Men are generally more physically and emotionally wired to protect.”
He thinks there are spiritual differences between men and women, but he’s not sure what those would be.
An audience member asked Tome about the roles men and women play in marriage.
Some Bible writers argue that women should submit to men in the relationship. Some modern writers see this as a prescription for abuse and say marriage involves give-and-take between both parties.
If he has to tell his wife to obey him because he’s the man in the relationship, Tome replied, then, “I’ve already lost the battle, and nothing good can come of it.”
He does believe men and women have different roles in marriage, but at the same time, he said, “I can’t imagine our family doing anything where we weren’t both equally vested and having a voice in it.”
One reason many men don’t want to get married these days is that they’re selfish, Tome said, and don’t want to be the team player a wife would demand. They would rather not eliminate their options, he said, and have a life filled with hook-ups.
In the book, he writes that he doesn’t like it when men say their wife is their best friend. His wife is not his best friend, he writes, but much more than that.
Nevertheless, he said, there are things a guy can say to him he can’t, simply because a guy has an inherent understanding of the issues.
“In my experience, when a guy says his best friend is his wife,” he writes, “it probably means he doesn’t have great male friends.”