David L. Winters. 2020. Exercise Your Faith: Defeating the Lies Men Believe. VA: DAVIWIN Publishing.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
For most of my adult life, church men’s groups have been a flop. Men generally had a good idea of what life was about (even if it was pathetically wrong) and saw no need to talk about it in a group. Five to ten years ago, that sense of identity started to come apart at the seams and men started trickling into men’s group meetings, even if they did not stay long. Now, with grown men committing suicide in record numbers, the need for men to attend to their inner lives faithfully has become a national crisis.
In his book, Exercise Your Faith: Defeating the Lies Men Believe, David Winters describes his work as a:“treatise about being a guy in 2020s” (viii). He works out this treatise proverbially by confronting 31 lies that men often believe about who they are and what it means to be a man. Satan is the father of lies and, as men, we often succumb to these lies—perhaps, out of ignorance; perhaps, because we want to believe them.
The photograph on Winter’s book is a case in point. Many men believe that they need to have a body like a personal trainer (like the man on the cover) to be a real man. Women often share this belief. This belief is highly corrosive for the other ninety-nine person of men, like myself, who don’t live in a gym. Although I managed a soccer team in graduate school, when I tried to keep up with a team after I started working I repeatedly injured myself because I no longer had time to train three hours daily. As I started putting on weight, my self-image plummeted—with a little help from my highly disciplined wife.
The Lie: Masculinity is Now Toxic
Perhaps my favorite Winters lie-buster deals with the idea that masculinity is now toxic, as suggested in a recent political ad by Gillette (link). Winters’ writes: “Some special interest groups try to convince men that any assertiveness is toxic masculinity.” (12) He advises: “Be who God made you—within the guardrails of Scripture.” (12) He goes on to highlight four “God-given attributes that all men should aspire to possess.”(13) They are: courage, faith, love, and protection (13-14).
Winters clearly stays close to his understanding of the biblical mandate for masculinity. He also eschews some of the hot-button he-she food fights that have arisen in the church. However, he does not shy away from the problem that many today want to abandon Christian teaching on sexuality and gender identity. He cites, for example, a 2015 study that reported a staggering forty present of transsexuals reported attempting suicide (James and others 2015; 8).
The Lie: Death Has to Kill You
When I worked as a chaplain intern in Providence Hospital, I noticed an alarming trend among my patients: about half of them exhibited physical ailments that stemmed from repressed grief. The presenting diagnosis could be virtually anything— backache, suicide, addiction, medications not working—but when you asked about the patient’s family life, someone close to them had often died in the past year. This experience gave me a profound appreciation for anyone willing to talk openly about grief.
Winters talks about the death of his father at the age of 65 (I am 66) from emphysema (97). He writes:
“For those who don’t know if they believe in eternal life, all you need do is watch a few people before and after death. It’s easy to see that something profound separated from his body.” (100)
This comment made a big impression on me because my younger sister died in 2007 and I experienced this precise observation—a year later I entered seminary. Winters talks about walking around in a daze for the year after his father died (101). He advises men to read what the Bible says about death, analyze your fears in view of scripture, and sort out what you believe about death before you are confronted with it (102-103). In my case, I found a book by Michael Card, Sacred Sorrow, most comforting.
David Winters’ Exercise Your Faith is a readable and helpful guide to dealing with masculinity in our time. Winters bares his soul revealing stories that few authors have the guts to write and puts them in a Biblical context. This is something that men need to hear. Christian men’s groups will want to pay special particular attention to this book.
Card, Michael. 2005. A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. [Also: Experience Guide]. Colorado Springs: NavPress. (review)
James, S.E., J.L. Herman, S. Rankin, M. Keisling, L. Mottet, and M. Anafi. 2016. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
 As a writer and pastor, I welcome any book offering insight into this male identity crisis. I want to thank David Winters for giving me a pre-release copy of his book.
Winters Gives Men Hope
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