Boys Will Be Boys

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What messages do boys and young men get from our culture and from our churches? How do these messages affect the way we relate to one another and build a community together? What are we teaching our children?

These are the questions that were explored in a recent event held at Calvin College Chapel, sponsored by Safe Church Ministry. The title of the presentation was “Embracing the Sacred Masculine.” The presenters, Al Heystek and Otha Brown were from the Men’s Resource Center of Western Michigan. Years of experience working with men in various contexts was considered in addressing these questions. It was noted that men are responsible for a greater percentage of interpersonal violence, engage far more often in risky behaviors, are more likely to experience drug and alcohol addiction, and also have a significantly higher rate of suicide than women. A new book written by Randy Flood, also from the Men’s Resource Center, is being released on the topic; it’s called, Mascupathy.

There is a contrast between what our culture says about being a man, and the requirements that honor our Lord. The cultural masculine seeks control, applauds rationality, is based on self-interest alone, promotes image, and believes in the love of power. The sacred masculine prefers vulnerability, honors emotions, considers others' needs, lives out honest accountability, and believes in the power of love.

Men and boys are socialized to believe that it’s not “manly” to express feelings: “big boys don’t cry,” “take it like a man,” or “man up.” The socialization process, which tells boys to minimize and hide their feelings, may not be helpful in the long run. Unresolved or repressed feelings can become externalized and manifest in some of the negative behaviors mentioned above. Intervention must go beyond the behaviors themselves to get at the root or underlying cause, unresolved emotions.

Can men be real at church? The church is called to be a unique community of forgiven and accepted people, equipped by the Lord to love one another as we have been loved. Our church communities, in the power and unity of the Spirit, are able to provide the acceptance and accountability needed to address what is really going on under the “manly” façade.

What does all of this have to do with Safe Church? A lot! Safe Church promotes an environment where each person is valued and respected, where faith can flourish free from any threat of abuse. Emotional intelligence is a part of faith development and a part of creating safe communities that honor our Lord, as we honor one another and ourselves.

 What do you think?

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Community Builder

I think our church has a long way to go to even begin talking about sacred masculinity. Never mind bringing up the difference between sacred and cultural. I wonder how other churches have gone about this.

Community Builder

Thanks for posting - I think part of the problem is our inability to handle difficult conversations, about lots of things, not just masculinity. I believe all of us need to continue learning about how to value differences and honor one another.

Thanks for posting on this subject. It's needed. But let me offer some critique. "Sacred masculine" is may not be the best way to avoid all the 'role fright' or patriarchal mantras that lay in the background of these discussions, for Christians, too. As a Bible Professor, I understand that 'biblical' really doesn't clear things up. Avoiding all these terms doesn't change the fact that there is so much confusion about what masculinity means. Rather than just say "requirement that honor the Lord," use Scripture that Christians claim as sacred. We need to learn from Scripture on sites like this, do we not?

Secondly, the reference to "emotional intelligence" seems underhanded. With Father's Day approaching, is there a way you could have constructed the strengths of masculinity, rather than closing with the learning curve. M. Volf is correct when he writes that masculinity no longer has anything to accomplish (that's the brute!), instead, masculinity must be overcome.

Avoid any debate all together--this issue has been torn apart enough--and have 2-3 male leaders or elders from you church give their view of masculinity.

Thirdly, would you let a male author write a corresponding piece on femininity? 

Just wondering, Andrew

Community Builder

Thanks for posting. This blog was written as a report about a recent community event sponsored by Safe Church Ministry. Though I wrote it, the ideas expressed are those of the two presenters, who were men. They also reflect the views of many other men, including two men, who have done a lot of work and research with men, and wrote the book, Mascupathy:Understanding and Healing the Malaise of American Manhood, which was recently released (see www.mascupathy.org). So, just to be clear, this is not a feminist viewpoint, the source is very masculine. One of the main tenants of the presentation was that men and boys are socialized to minimize feelings, and that that can have very negative consequences in life. I wonder if most would agree with that assessment. It's not that masculinity needs to be overcome, rather it needs to be realized in all it's fullness.

Personally, I long for a world where all people are valued and respected and are free to be all that they were created to be - male and female. Both were created in the image of God and given the mandate to rule over creation (Gen. 1:26-30). Ideally it's a partnership. I could give you my take on what happened between the sexes in Genesis 3 and how that fallenness continues to affect gender relationships. But that would be a completely different blog (maybe another day).