Manhood is not a sin of which you need to repent


David Cunliffe is sorry. In fact he is sorry for something that I am guilty of: Being a man. And therefore if it is appropriate for him to be sorry, then I should be sorry too. I should be apologising for being a man.

While announcing a Labour Party policy to spend more money supporting the victims of domestic abuse, Mr Cunliffe made the apology to a Women’s Refuge forum in Auckland.

“I dont often say it. Im sorry for being a man right now, because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children.”

People who criticise this remark, it seems, are being smeared as trying to make political mileage from the serious issue of domestic abuse or as willfully missing the real point. That will not wash. Mr Cunliffe, it’s good that you want to see something effective done to help the victims of domestic abuse (and as you probably know, your political opponents want this too, although their policy on what to do is different from yours). I commend you for this. And yes, I know you said other things. You even got stroppy and called the behaviour of abusive men “bullshit” as proof that you were serious. I’m glad it bothers you. Domestic violence is horrendous, I know. You are right.

Men are the solution to this problem.

But if I may, sir, you disappoint me. In response to male domestic violence, call men back to manhood – not some inherent quality that all men produce, since men are simply adult male humans. But manhood as a model o what husbands and fathers can and should be. Show the world what it is like to be a man of virtue. Take them to task for failing as men. Good men love their wives and protect their children. That is part of what it means to be a real man in this sense (if a man has a wife and children). Men are the solution to this problem. Manhood, that is, the virtues men can exemplify, is something to be cherished, and it does not happen enough. This is not the time to demean manhood further. When women tell their stories of being subjected to violence, they tell us #YesAllWomen. Regrettably and to your shame, Mr Cunliffe, you have responded to domestic abuse by telling us that #YesAllMen should be ashamed of what they are because of the actions of some. Worse than that most stigmatised of practices, “slut shaming,” you would have men of virtue apologising out of a sense of shame for actions they have never even committed. If you must timidly bow and do penance for anything, make it something of yours, not mine, sir.

Do not apologise for being a man. If that is your answer, then if I may be so harsh, it sounds like you might be apologising for something you’re not guilty of in the first place. Men who know what it is to be a man are never sorry for being a man. They just wish that there were more of us.

Grow a pair,

Glenn Peoples

PS UPDATE – The above is to say nothing of the actual facts regarding domestic violence, which were not the point here. However: Research out of the University of Otago indicates that women, more than men, perpetuate partner violence. A report from NZ Police in 2012 confirms this, and adds that women kill children more.


No doubt there is a danger inherent in male violence that is lesser in female violence much of the time. But if the empirical research is correct (and I have no reason to think it is not), the apology is not only a fawning and misguided gesture, it is also premised on errors of fact.

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13 thoughts on “Manhood is not a sin of which you need to repent

  1. I was in disbelief when I heard of his apology. It reminded me of a maths teacher of mine who had an interesting equation and clearly David C is of the same school of thought as this teacher: because some men are rapists then all men are, therefore all are guilty. This was my maths lesson at NaeNae College in 1981. What was most disappointing was that Mrs D the teacher was a Christian.

  2. Responding to David Cunliffe and concluding by urging him to ” grow a pair” is bizarre and obscene. Way below you. So disappointed.

    1. Brad, I do not subscribe to the school of thought, attributed to some Christians, that mentioning body bits is naughty or yucky. Growing a pair by its very nature means becoming more of a man. In this instance Mr Cunliffe’s comments are a sellout on the man front.

      I’m sorry that you focused on this phrase as you have, but your reaction is your own. I think my comment is fine, Brad.

      Do you have any thoughts on the subject of the blog post?

  3. With respect to the PS about women perpetuating more partner violence than men, what I’ve read does seem to confirm this if you include things that don’t lead to serious injuries such as slapping, pushing, name calling, etc. However, partner violence that leads to severe injuries or death or disproportianately perpetrated by men on women (at least here in the US where I live).

  4. Bonnie yes that’s true. I wasn’t including name calling, only physical violence, things that would count as assault if reported (and killing children, where women feature more than men). But you’re right, male against female violence is more likely to cause serious harm because of the differences in physical strength and size. But given that the stats are as they are, that would amount to an even more bizarre apology: I am sorry that men are generally stronger and bigger.

  5. You’re right. My comments were made in haste, late at night (I should know better), and I really over-reacted. I apologize. Not exactly the kind of impression a first-time poster wants to leave. It won’t happen again.

    At the risk of embarrassing myself further, perhaps I should try to give some explanation for where my head was at. I want to try to make sense in my own mind of what maleness and “manliness” mean. I’m increasingly uneasy with certain notions of manhood, uncomfortable with the way some of my peers point to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to give justification for a fairly narrow and, in my opinion, dubious view of what manhood means. They want ‘ballsyness’ that occasionally comes at the expense of compassion.

    I think that’s where my mind was at. I apologize again. In spite of how it may have seemed, I really enjoy the blog (and the podcast). Keep up the good work.

  6. @Brad – In a discussion with another Christian couple, the wife observed “there is nothing more attractive than a mature Christian man.”

    She wasn’t making the comment in jest. Because of the gift of abundant testosterone, men generally are more aggressive than women, more capable of extreme physical exertion, more risk seeking, and so on. Behavioral studies suggest that men are also more disposed to seeing the world in black and white, right and wrong, etc. These characteristics, untempered, can only be attractive in the short term (the “bad boy” phenomenon), but long term they cannot sustain themselves or a family relationship.

    In contrast, what she was referring to as a Christian man also includes the list of gifts of the spirit to harness that energy and those characteristics. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.

    This is the difference between the pre-pentecost Peter who leapt forward to cut off the ear of the servant sent to arrest Christ and examples like Paul witnessing in Greek, Macedonian, and Asian cities where he was likely to be stoned and killed, or Stephen taking the stoning instead of changing his witness and running. Christian manliness channels all of the inherent characteristics of manhood into something that is radically different but still the same. Including with whatever euphemism you want to attach to the testes and the character traits traditionally associated with having a pair of them — Christianity doesn’t include a free castration with the baptismal waters.

  7. Glenn, I can’t say this for sure, but perhaps you took Cunliffe’s comment the wrong way? After all, it’s possible to be sorry for something even when a person hasn’t committed a sin. For example, if someone tells me a story that causes me to feel empathy for the person, I could say, “I’m sorry”, even if I haven’t committed any wrong act against that person. The Bible says that God “repented” of making man because mans deeds were evil. God hadn’t committed a sin, yet he still felt regret and shame. Again, I don’t know where Cunliffe’s heart was at, but I think the idea he was trying to convey is something like, “When I hear of the horrible things some men do, it causes me to be ashamed of how my gender is represented and we need to do something to fix the problem.” Personally, I’ve felt similar sentiments when it comes to the behavior of some Christians. If I see a Christian that acts nothing like Christ and who is living in flagrant sin, it causes me to feel shame for being classified in the same religious category as that person, even though the individual is not representing Christianity faithfully. Ultimately, I believe you and Cunliffe are probably trying to say the same thing, he just chose different words. I agree with Brad’s original post and honestly think you may have bullied him into submission. It’s obvious that what Cunliffe said made you angry, but you shouldn’t air out your frustrations in such a public fashion. I have a hard time believing that Christ would agree with your approach of questioning someone else’s manhood and challenging him to grow a pair because you don’t like something he said. That’s just childish nonsense and the internet is already saturated with these types of posts. If I want to read people insulting each other I can just go on youtube and read the comments posted under any apologetics video haha.

    Just to hammer home my point a little further:

    Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

    Your post does not build up or give grace, but instead seems to be motivated by anger and malice. It also slanders another mans character, calling into question both his intentions and his manhood. There is no kindness in it whatsoever, it is not tenderhearted, and you certainly don’t seem to forgive the guy for what he said, at least in what you wrote. In fact, you don’t seem to be concerned about the man at all, but instead just insult him because of the one sentence that you disagreed with.

    I usually read your blog because you handle complex issue with a level head and you don’t resort to the same hateful tactics as many other blogs. Unfortunately, this post is an exception. I know you’re capable of handling issues with more grace than this particular post conveys.

  8. Jeff, I do not think that your dissection of my feelings is accurate in the least, (as best I can recall, I was not angry) nor is it fair. Your claim that I am motivated by malice is outrageous. That it preceded a concern about my fairness and grace should give you pause, in my view. Such an ugly dissection of motives is uncalled for.

    What Mr Cunliffe said was inappropriate and sent a very harmful message, in my view, and although I expressed my agreement with him about domestic abuse,(indeed, my criticism was prefaced by a commendation for that stance) I do not believe there was any value in his remark. I have said so. But comments like the one he made do damage. I have stayed away from his motives altogether, and I would prefer that you had done the same. Whether his desires are good or bad, his words were bad, and bad words do bad things. I also explained what I think is appropriate. You might disagree with me on both counts, but I have no doubt about which of us has crossed a line. I am sorry to have provoked such a reaction in you.

  9. Glenn, you write, “I have stayed away from his motives altogether, and I would prefer that you had done the same.”

    This is clearly false, as you wrote, “Do not apologise for being a man. If that is your answer, then if I may be so harsh, it sounds like you might be apologising for something you’re not guilty of in the first place. Men who know what it is to be a man are never sorry for being a man. They just wish that there were more of us. Grow a pair.”

    This clearly is an attack on the man and his unfortunate lack of manhood which caused him to make his comment, not just a remark on the words he chose. You are stating that he made the remark because he lacks masculinity or whatever nuance you want to spin. I didn’t attack you or “dissect your feelings”, I just pointed out that your post doesn’t conform to the way a Christian should present himself according to the standards of scripture. Your post comes across as mean spirited. I can’t judge your heart, so I can’t make statements regarding how you felt, but I can point out that challenging a man’s masculinity and stating he needs to grow a pair comes across as malicious. It just does!

    In addition, you write, “Whether his desires are good or bad, his words were bad, and bad words do bad things.” This is so hypocritical coming from you following this post, which contains plenty of bad words that can do bad things. I don’t know if you realize this or not, but as a Christian man who shares his ideas with other Christians, you have a responsibility not only to share what you think, but to be an example of how to communicate ideas with others. A post like this sends the message that if we don’t agree with something it’s acceptable to result to childish insults and attack the person rather than present our ideas with gentleness and humility. Your follow up response also shows a lack of humility, as you get defensive and accuse me of “crossing a line” instead of repenting and admitting that your post doesn’t conform to the standards of language that Paul encourages us to adopt.

    I know your smart, I’ve listened to all of your ‘Say Hello to my Little Friend’ pocasts and I’m a conditionalist as a result of your ability to be so persuasive, but as a little brother in Christ who admires you and appreciates your ministry, I just want to respectfully remind you that “while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) In other words, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

    Lastly, I’m really turned off by your lack of humility.

    1. “This clearly is an attack on the man and his unfortunate lack of manhood which caused him to make his comment”

      Jeff, that is not a motive at all. If I complain that a person made an ignorant remark, then I am not prying into motives, even though yes, it can be inferred that ignorance drove them to it. If however I say that someone is motivated to comment against me because they bear me malice, they don’t like me, they are racist against me or something else, then that would be an attribution of motive. That is what you did. You can say now that you didn’t dissect my feelings or motives, and perhaps (I don’t know) this is the way you would now like to have proceeded. But telling me that clearly I was angry and that I am motivated by malice is to do just this. You may like to read through your comments again a few times. Better yet – and this is a genuine suggestion – ask a friend of yours to read through them. To reiterate – I never attacked anyone’s motives. I attacked what somebody said, saying that it is harmful and reflects a poor attitude to manhood. It is absolutely not the kind of fuel that should be heaped on the fire of the issue of domestic abuse.

      I’m sorry that you think that I am reacting by being puffed up with knowledge and lacking in humility. While there is value in my being nice to people who identify as younger brothers in Christ and encouraging them to offer advice, there is similarly virtue in not encouraging what you’re doing here. You came along and accused me of being hateful and motivated by anger and malice. Instead of embodying the very humility you urge, look back at what you did instead. I think your factual assessment is simply wrong all over, but even if I thought differently, what sort of response to you think such a rhetorical explosion is likely to elicit?

      I reiterate: I commended this man’s stance on domestic violence (quite clearly so in fact), and I decried his comments, comments that are harmful and which we should all avoid. I said that it betrays true manhood, and added the line “grow a pair” – which really I think is what triggered this strong reaction from you. Right? I continue to maintain that stance, and I don’t think getting uptight with me and attributing nasty motives gives you a free pass to be indignant when I do not react to your accusation as you would wish. There’s a certain irony, I hope you will see, about making these comments in a context in which you are asking me to submit to your correction about attacking people. You are welcome to depart, but I think if you pause, come back in a few days and read through the blog post again, you may feel differently.

      If you are as genuinely concerned about me as you suggest and not simply trying to kick down the door and put me in my place, you are welcome to contact me privately about it. Indeed, given your comments about me making these attacks in public, there is, again, some irony in your approach in the first place. But I hope you feel you have had your say about me personally and how full of anger and malice I am, and will restrict further comments to the subject raised in this blog post. (As it turns out, I will enforce that.)

  10. Oops, I meant to delete that last line haha. You need to add an edit button lol.

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