It began quietly with chewing gum and Coca-Cola, grew noisier with rock and roll, and smellier with hamburgers. It looked silly with baseball caps and sneakers. It became poisonous with political correctness.
American cultural imperialism is so pervasive, so powerful that whatever happens in the US today seems certain to reach these shores tomorrow. But we must repel the latest manic wave sweeping the States. For not since the dark days of 1940, when so much was owed by so many to so few, have these islands faced a threat more dire.
We may be plagued by Brussels bureaucrats, tormented by single-issue fanatics, oppressed by a swarm of quangos. But nothing has prepared us for the onset of the “Godly Guy”. From the Pacific coast to the Eastern Seaboard, from the great plains of Dakota to the palm-fringed shores of Florida, rallies of American men are declaring their special, masculine love of Jesus.
They come together in tens of thousands to vow never to cheat on the wife or the taxman and to be faithful to friends and office colleagues. They sing hymns, recite prayers and hug each other.
In Washington, 52,000 men stood and sang: “I’m not a creature of brute chance and lies. Now as his man, I am destined for the skies.” This is not a movement redeemed by its verse.
In Colorado, 52,000 men saw evangelist Chuck Swindoll roar on stage on his motorbike prior to delivering a sermon on temptation. In Los Angeles, 72,000 men spent a total of 2.5m on a Christian Warrior Rave. In Pontiac, Michigan, 72,000 men turned up for an “awakening”.
These are disturbing developments. Modern American man is not the son of his forebears. Just as modern Italian men, with their ice creams and arias, are not the true descendants of the Roman warriors who conquered as much of the known world as they could reach, and just as modern Greek men, short and hairy, are not the descendants of the golden Hellenic heroes who founded the Macedonian Empire, modern American man is not remotely related to the rugged, pioneering individualists who forged a nation.
Such change is perhaps inevitable, but, as with all things American, it happens quicker there than in other countries and assumes a more grotesque shape.
The Godly Guys are springing up and hugging each other, so it is said, in response to the twin threat of job quotas for racial minorities and the rise of the aggressive American woman. Uncertain of employment, and robbed of their masculinity, they are turning to Jesus. I suspect, however, that their conversion owes less to religious devotion than to a superstitious yearning for an unseen mystical leg-up.
One of the movement’s leaders, Tony Evans, advises followers what to do when, refreshed by male bonding and imbued with the word of the Lord, they return home to Her Indoors.
“The first thing you do is sit down with your wife and say something like this. ‘Honey, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’ve given you my role. I gave up leading this family.'”
Don’t ask for your role back, Evans urges his acolytes, take it back. Wisely, he does not countenance the use of force. “Be sensitive, listen. Treat the lady gently and lovingly. But lead!”
But what if the lady is one of those steel magnolias whose automobile fender bears the sticker: “A woman who strives to be like a man lacks ambition”? What if the loving message about roles falls on stony ground? The answer, it seems, is trust in the Lord. This would imply that the Almighty is basically a good guy who is sound on gender issues. If you want to lead, all you have to do is ask Him.
It all smacks of a terrible desperation. Could it happen here? Journalist Ann Leslie sees two stark choices facing young men growing up today. “Must they abandon traditional masculinity altogether, embrace their feminism and be done with it? Or, unwilling and unable to do so, will they choose another route – lashing out at the neutering female, rejecting civilising influences altogether, acting out a vicious cartoon version of rampant, rogue- elephant masculinity?”
Now we know there is a third possibility. He may join the lads in a roistering hymn session before asserting himself in a caring sort of way.
The chief proponent of the Godly Guys movement, Bill McCartney, has no doubt that his mission is evangelical and worldwide. Participants at his rallies have to fill out cards committing themselves to honour Jesus Christ, practise moral and sexual purity, have close male friends, defy racial and denominational barriers, and encourage the world to follow suit.
I have developed antennae that can sense a party of Jehovah’s Witnesses two streets away and Mormon Tabernacle proselytisers from a distance of two blocks. Once alerted, I rapidly slip into evasive mode, draw the curtains, and refuse to answer the doorbell. But Godly Guys are a new phenomenon. The thought of unwittingly opening the door and falling into the manly embrace of a Texan redneck with a mission is unappealing.
Others, however, may feel differently. There are many Britons for whom all things American are to be admired and emulated. Wembley Stadium might one day echo to the roar of 50,000 British males pledging themselves to sexual purity and renouncing their brutish natures.
Should that happen, it would signal the closing chapter of our island story. Were Crécy, Blenheim, Malplaquet, Agincourt and Waterloo fought in vain? Is our national epitaph to be “Honey, I’ve made a terrible mistake”? Let us, for heaven’s sake, cleave to our past and resist this alien thing. Chaps hugging other chaps isn’t British. Not off the rugby pitch, anyway.