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?