Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Manliness is next to godliness

Diane alerted me to that headline in the LA Times. The article describes the GodMen movement, a masculine worship service geared for manly men. It is a welcome alternative to the feminine spirituality I ranted about last month. Some of it is refreshing, and some goes to far.

Take the lyrics of one of the GodMen house band’s songs:

Forget the yin and the yang
I'll take the boom and the bang….
Don't need in touch with my feminine side!
All I want is my testosterone high

I don’t know about a “testosterone high,” but I can sympathize with their revolt against the philosophy of androgyny which has infiltrated Christian spirituality.

I also like what John Eldredge was quoted as writing in Wild at Heart:
Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men…[Men]
believe that God put them on earth to be a good boy.

Men need to embrace their strength and their masculinity. Sometimes being nice is not the right answer. Men need to be willing to fight for what is right. Jesus was not nice to the Pharisees or the people who defiled the temple. Jesus was forceful and even violent when necessary. This is the masculinity which is lacking in the Church. It needs to come back.

That being said, GodMen does go to extremes and misses what is authentically masculine. Celebrating gratuitous violence and pranks is not very Christian. One GodMen disciple seems to have missed true masculinity all together:
Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.

"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports.

"She said, 'I need your help around here.' "Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the family."

This guy was acting more like a boy than a man. Jesus calls men to put our strength at the service of love. Jesus demonstrated His greatest strength by emptying Himself and dying on the cross. We men are called to die to ourselves out of love for our God and our neighbor. Sometimes love is tough. Sometimes it is not nice. Sometimes the loving thing to do is to fight for what is right. But we are called to do all things out of love. Leaving your wife and infant at home while you go camping does not sound very selfless to me.

Unfortunately, programs like GodMen are filling a void left by our churches. When the best a men’s spirituality group has to offer is to tell you to get in touch with your feminine side, something has gone wrong.

For a different look at the GodMen movement, check out Mary Angelita Ruiz’s post in First Things.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us!


  • If the best you get from a MALE spirituality program is to get in touch with your suppressed feminine characteristics I agree, that it's not doing much good. I appreciate the frustration because I am not getting what I expected from the group either - but at least I'm getting some fellowship and who knows - it might eventually lead to spirituality if we ever get around to talking about what spirituality really is instead of disgreeing with Rohr's approach and challenging each of his statements as though they carry the weight of ex cathedra teaching. Eldridge's book Wild at Heart looks like a worthy follow on to the current book. The discussion of what has been written, and which some of us read weekly, can include disagreement as well as agreement. If the only points of discussion are the words Rohr chose to use, then we're not going to get very far. There is stuff to be learned from this man - maybe what not to do or what not to believe - but worth our time. The discussion is where this learning could occur. I don't consider myself a shill for Rohr - this is my first exposure to him - but some of what he says rings true from my experience and also is consistent with my world view. I don't need others to agree with that view, but I am more than willing to discuss it. Peace. Bill

    By Anonymous Bill, at Friday, December 15, 2006 6:03:00 PM  

  • What I don't like about what you've reported is this idea some folks have that any activity outside of laying waste to a wild animal, rebuilding a transmission, or ignoring housework is a "feminine" activity; or that traits other than desiring a "testosterone high" 24/7 are unmanly.

    Chesterton remarked once that Christ must have been (and continues to be) an enormous personality, seeing how many "little Christs" have been carved out of Him. The one we seem to hear most from, and seems to be the most pernicious to traditional, assertive masculinity is "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild". While that "little Christ" is all well and good, he just has very little to do with the Jesus of the Gospels. While I have no desire to follow along with any "masculine spirituality" that seems intent on turning me into Ziggy Stardust, it seems the temptation is also there to go to the opposite extreme, personified by Mr. Miller in the original post.

    I remember the "Men's Movement" of about 15 years ago. Its' seminal texts were "Iron John" by Robert Bly (a retelling and analysis of the old German fairy tale) and "Fire In The Belly" by Sam Keen. They both were rallying cries against the loss of tribal manhood and feminization. Armed with these treatises, hordes of men sought to "re-connect" with traditional masculinity. Sounds great, though in practice it seemed to amount to a lot of sitting in a circle with a bunch of guys, banging on drums and chanting, followed by a trip into the sweat lodge.

    The "movement" gave way rather quickly to excess, then parody, as Alfred Gingold's "Fire In The John: You Drum, I'll Chant" rather humorously skewered the whole enterprise. In the end, I could never really understand what the "movement" was accomplishing, other than making a lot of guys look ridiculous. It take would take a lot to convince me that "re-connecting with masculinity" involves a heavy dose of sweating half-naked with a bunch of other men.

    By Blogger Jerry, at Friday, December 15, 2006 8:53:00 PM  

  • Deacon Bill,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I did not mean to indict our group as a whole. I do get more out of it than getting in touch with my feminine side. The fellowship is great. But, like you, I don’t think we are getting very far spiritually. As a group we need to focus more on our own spirituality and less on Rohr’s. Hopefully, we’ll get there.

    Rohr’s theory on “androgyny” (his word not mine), however, does not inspire me. I am already a nice Christian guy. I think many in our group are also nice Christian guys. We don’t need to become tamer or nicer. We need something to inspire our wild masculine side.

    By Blogger Tom, at Friday, December 15, 2006 8:54:00 PM  

  • Jerry,

    I have not experienced drumming or sweat lodges, but did identify with John Eldrege in "Wild at Heart"

    By Blogger Tom, at Friday, December 15, 2006 8:58:00 PM  

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