Rescuing Christian Masculinity

Alastair's Adversaria

In his post on ‘Top Gear’ spirituality, John H identifies a number of the things that I find most frustrating about many attempts in the Church to connect with men and with the superficial analysis that often surrounds the ‘feminization of the Church’ narrative. It is profoundly depressing to witness the tendency to respond to the Church’s failures to engage men with some puerile masculine rebranding exercise. We are told that we need MAN hymns and MAN faith, just as we need MAN crisps, or MAN chocolate bars, or MAN drinks, or MAN yoghurt (heaven forfend that we get touched by those woman cooties!).

Behind all of these things, it seems to me, there lies a deep crisis in contemporary masculinity, which in turn is a symptom of a crisis of contemporary society. Unfortunately, few people have put their finger upon this. The crisis of masculinity is in many…

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3 thoughts on “Rescuing Christian Masculinity

  1. This is a very interesting article. I think the point about culture infantilizing men, especially in movies & advertising, is a good & important one.

    Overall I found it kind of upsetting, though, particularly it’s ideas about gender roles. My personality often aligns more with traditional masculine traits than feminine ones, as do a lot of my long term goals. I don’t think it’s terribly likely I’ll ever have children, for example. I’m not good at verbally articulating emotions. But I still think of myself as a woman.

    So it’s always kind of concerning to me when I see things like this that seem to suggest I’m being a woman incorrectly, or that my choices and preferences aren’t really my own but some sort of social manipulation away from what I’m really supposed to be like. Articles like this don’t see a legitimate place in the world for me. They tend to portray people like me as broken or misguided, which I find confusing.

    It was a very interesting read, though – thank you for posting it.

    1. You are right about stereotyping of male/female differences causing a wrongheaded pressure on people who don’t completely fit the stereotype–e.g. analytical women and emotional men both get unfairly pushed out to the margins by it. I’ve often thought about how unfair it is, for example, when a little boy who likes to pick flowers and cry over orchestral music can be seen as “not a real boy,” which can cause all kinds of pain over something that isn’t even real.

      Looking at the gender stats of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type was fascinating for me. I thought it revealed the origins of gender stereotypes, while showing their limitations, quite well: if I remember correctly–more women tend to be Feelers and more men Thinkers, or more women Judgers and more men Perceivers… It’s only slight (I think it was something like 60-40%), but it does explain the cultural stereotype, as well as shows its dramatic limitations as there is extremely sizable populations that are the reverse.

      Any system that tries to organize the human mind/personality into 2 types is going to be full of errors and broad generalizations — and are as useful/un-useful as all broad generalizations are. I have noticed that alot of stereotypical self-help stuff about “the way guys think vs. girls think” seems to really be just Sensory Thinkers vs. iNtuitive Feelers. While statistically it is mildly more likely, again, it’s a huge generalization with large parts of the population ignored in it.

      I didn’t think this particular article fell into that particular over-typecasting of male/female personality stereotypes, though I did read it rather quickly and will re-read it again.

    2. There is a danger in celebrating a role to the point of demeaning those that don’t fit it (e.g. cultures that value the maternal role can devalue women who aren’t mothers), though the same thing happens in reverse as well (e.g. when the intellectual/scientific role is celebrated, some people can become condescending/dismissive of the maternal).

      The tricky part is the balance of celebrating a role without demeaning people who choose other roles. It’s a perennial problem: some people in any group tend to stigmatize/pressure those who aren’t in that role. Sometimes it seems to swing rather dramatically one way or the other with precious little middle ground (e.g. the blogosphere exploding about something very particular… acting like there is only One Right Way and people are evil for doing something else, e.g. formula vs. breastmilk, or laying your baby to nap on its stomache or side or back, or leashes for children, etc.).

      On one hand, single/childless women in traditional cultures are incredibly unfairly treated–it has been like this throughout most of history, and is very wrong. But on the other hand, many mothers in (or in contact with) more non-traditional subcultures can get the opposite pressure, and be harshly judged for having a certain number of children, or staying at home, or not pursuing more education, etc. (For example, a woman pressured by husband & husband’s in-laws to prevent/terminate a pregnancy and go back to work for the family income, that the role of a mother is somehow just a indulgent pursuit of her silly hobby, and that there is something wrong with her for being “unintellectual” or “baby-crazy”–rather than that what she is doing is important.) Pressure comes in all forms and in all different ways.

      There has to be a way to celebrate a role without holding everyone to it, or bashing those who don’t happen to fill a particular role. There has to be a way to honour women who are mothers, without dishonoring women who aren’t: or a way to honour women who are intellectual/career without dishonoring women who aren’t. Unfortunately, it seems to be a very tricky balance, it is true it seems hardly ever to be put into practice. 😦

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