The Manliness of the Minivan

Chuck FullerChuck Fuller, Culture

Modern Manliness

I’m writing in defense of the minivan. This seems self-serving since I own one (our second, actually), and seems disingenuous because I participate in the jesterly “no-swag wagon” banter that accompanies ownership.

But hear me out.

According to popular perception, a minivan says all the wrong things—the surrender of individual style, a capitulation to necessity, the loss of youth, the blandness of middle-age life—the final resignation to a decidedly uncool existence. For men, the embarrassment is heightened as the minivan announces his loss of youthful vigor, his embrace of the “dad life,” and even the compromise of his essential masculinity. A minivan says, “My virility is gone. My best years are done.”

I disagree.

The factors involved in owning a minivan represent the progress of one’s maturity, not the regress of one’s manliness.

A Sign of Moving Past Childish Things

Middle-aged men often go to great lengths to convince their wives to spend more money on a vehicle that’s far less capable than a minivan. Take the SUV, for example. They’re heavier and supposedly tougher, but compared to a minivan, almost any SUV has less cargo space, less (and less configurable) seating, less fuel economy, and fewer conveniences (e.g., power sliding doors). Also, many current minivan models come with exceptional power and some pretty sweet perks. I’m rather familiar with a particular Dodge model that has the same engine as a police pursuit cruiser, accent-stitched leather seats, pearl-coat black paint, and the same big rims as a Charger Hellcat, but I digress.

The point is that middle-aged men reject the minivan simply to maintain a certain look, which is silly. Guess what, Mr. Forty-something married with kids? Your days of choosing a vehicle to make an impression or attract women are over—or they should be. You’re a man now, the goofy things of your youth are behind you and, if you’re honest, life is better. The big questions about career and love and marriage and children have likely been answered, and your relative stability is something to celebrate. You’ve worked to achieve it, it’s a sign of your maturity, and few things say it better than a 7-seat people mover. Your best years aren’t done. Your truly fruitful years have arrived.

A Sign of a Life Given to the Right Things

Driving a minivan is a culturally subversive, even rebellious salvo against our self-absorbed milieu. Sure, it represents the loss of personal freedom and individual identity, and that’s the point. A middle-aged man still caught in his own preferences and expressing his own image is, by definition, a jerk. The mark of true manliness is stewarding strength to serve others—one’s God, one’s family, one’s country, one’s community. In a sense, a minivan is a sign of such selfless strength. Instead of showing his toughness with a sparkling new F-150 or his aggressiveness with a Camaro LS1, the minivan says that his second-most-expensive possession (next to his house) is directed at serving the needs of his family. The minivan is a magnificent symbol of true masculinity.

So, my fellow middle-aged, middle-class American man, spurn the cultural ridicule and fire up that 6000-lb (and 300 horsepower, if you’ll shop) box of safety and convenience with your chin up and your chest out. That minivan is a manly machine.

Header images modified from photograph provided by Jason DeRusha.

Dr. Chuck Fuller comes to Anderson University with 13 years of experience in pastoral ministry, serving churches in Kentucky and Indiana. He holds a BA in Christian Studies from Campbellsville University, and an MDiv and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary field of study for the Ph.D. was in Christian preaching, with additional studies in systematic theology and philosophy. Before arriving at AU, Dr. Fuller was pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and adjunct professor of Christian preaching at Boyce College of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, Dr. Fuller has served on committees and boards of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Married to Jessie, Dr. Fuller and his wife have two children–Kaylen Marie and Ian Charles. Jessie holds a Bachelor of Bible from Ozark Christian College, with a concentration in deaf ministry. Currently, Jessie works as a stay-at-home mom and brilliant culinary artist.

Homiletical theology comprises Dr. Fuller’s primary research area, as demonstrated in his recent book, The Trouble With “Truth Through Personality”: Phillips Brooks, Incarnation, and the Evangelical Boundaries of Preaching. Dr. Fuller also presented a paper, titled “The Pulpit at the Precipice of Heresy,” at the 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Homiletical Society.