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Obama cried about guns. Good for him.

It takes a "real man" to cry about gun violence. Thanks, President Obama.

A sign on a tree in Newtown, CT, after the Sandy Hook school shooting. 
Credit: Gina Jacobs, via Shutterstock
A sign on a tree in Newtown, CT, after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Credit: Gina Jacobs, via Shutterstock

A sign on a tree in Newtown, CT, after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Credit: Gina Jacobs, via Shutterstock

(RNS) — Do you know what many knee-jerk Obamaphobes are snickering about?

It happened during the press conference in which President Obama announced the presidential order on new gun regulations.

What did the President do?

He cried about the deaths of the children at Sandy Hook.

What a wuss, they’re saying. The President was being overdramatic.

Or, he was faking it.

Some say that he even had a peeled onion on hand in order to provoke the tears.

The President had every right to cry. As Nicholas Kristof put it:

President Obama shed tears on Tuesday as he called for new gun safety measures, and some critics perceived weakness or wimpishness. Really? On the contrary, we should all be in tears that 225,000 Americans have already died of gun violence in his seven years in office.

Many, if not most, of Obama’s harshest critics are Bible-believing Christians. Perhaps they should spend a little less time laughing at our president, and reading the Bible.

This is what they would find: “real” biblical men, crying.

A short list:

  • Abraham cries when he learns of the death of his wife, Sarah. (Gen. 23: 2)
  • Jacob cries when he first meets his beloved wife, Rachel (Gen. 32: 11), and when he believes that his son, Joseph, has been killed  (Gen. 37:35).
  • Esau, the paradigm of biblical masculinity, cries  — not once, but twice — when he realizes that his brother, Jacob, has cheated him out of the blessing that he deserved as the oldest son (Gen. 27: 34, 38).
  • Joseph spends a lot of time crying: when his brothers expressed anguish over the fate of their younger brother, Benjamin (Gen. 42:24); when he first saw Benjamin, in Egypt (Gen. 43:30; when he reveals himself to his brothers (Gen. 45: 2, 15); and, when his brothers begged his forgiveness (Gen. 50: 17).
  • Moses cries as an infant (OK, that’s to be expected) (Ex. 2:6)
  • King David cries over the loss of his infant child (II Samuel 12: 22).
  • King Hezekiah weeps when he learns that he is gravely ill (II Kings 20:43).
  • Mordecai weeps when he learns of Haman’s decree of destruction against the Jews of Shushan, Persia (Esther 4:1)
  • Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) — the shortest verse in the entire Bible.

This doesn’t begin to count the other times that men (and women as well, presumably) wept — mostly because of the persecution of the Israelites. Count them up: Egyptian slavery; the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (recorded in an entire biblical book of crying, Lamentations); the Jews of Shushan, hearing of Haman’s order of their destruction (Esther 4:3), and, famously, “by the waters of Babylon” over the exile (Psalm 137).

Not to mention the fact that in any number of Jewish legends, even God weeps.

I once wrote these words:

What is the message that young boys hear in our culture? Finish the sentence: “Big boys don’t _________.” Right. Cry. Men are not supposed to show emotion, or be vulnerable. But Jewish men do cry — at least, Jewish men in the Bible.

Bottom line: if you are a religious person, then you know that it is human to cry.

You also know that that men are allowed to do so. Especially in situations where tears are more than appropriate.

If John Boehner could (famously and often) cry openly and publicly, why can’t President Obama?

Or, as a particularly punchy Facebook post puts it: “If you find yourself mocking anyone who cries over murdered child, it’s Jesus’s way of letting you know you’re a sociopath.”

I am not a Christian, but I agree with that statement.

Here is what is happening. It is the American tradition. You cast aspersions on the masculine street cred of your enemies. Remember Hans and Franz on the old SNL show, offering to pump you up and sneering at “girly men.”

It is a highly effective way of making your enemies Other.

So, yes — President Obama was absolutely right to cry at that press conference. He should be crying about gun deaths, especially those of small children.

Maybe if we had all cried, a lot more and a lot sooner, we might have prevented some deaths.

It is not too late to do precisely that.