Archives for posts with tag: Under Construction

We use language to describe our experience but I believe the language we hear and use is also a powerful shaper of experience. Thus, we need to use our words with care. When writing and speaking about gender and spirituality is perhaps one of the most critical subject areas in which we need to be aware of our language.

One of the purposes of my book was to provide new metaphors for thinking about men’s spirituality. The primary archetype for men’s spirituality that had been used since the birth of the modern men’s movement in the mid-twentieth century was the warrior. The message was that men should quit being so passive spiritually and become more aggressive in their faith. Richard Rohr’s men’s book entitled, The Wild Man’s Journey, revised and retitled, From Wild Man to Wise Man, and then John Eldredge’s later book, Wild at Heart, both used similar warrior language. Rohr wrote from a Catholic Franciscan perspective and Eldredge’s book became the manual for an evangelical view of Christian manhood.

I thought there must be other, more creative and constructive images we could use to help us define what a Christian man looks like. Just for fun, I sent a copy of my book—which critiqued their warrior/wild man analogy—to both of them without expectation of getting a response. I did not even get an acknowledgement from John Eldredge’s office but Richard Rohr actually sent me a personal email, and it seemed he must have read at least a chapter. What a surprise!

“I hope the book Under Construction enjoys a wide reading. I am honored to be quoted in it, and I thank you for your personal vulnerability.

I rather totally agree with your critique of the warrior archetype. It still dominates most books on male spirituality, particularly those from the evangelical Christian world. They do not have enough of Francis, the mystical level, nor the Mennonites and Quakers in their resumes. I hope you did not hear me affirming that kind of warrior. I think we Catholics, bound by so many historically bound words, become masters at saying “This is what it really means!” while still maintaining the old word for the sake of continuity and not upsetting the old guard. (Protestants do not need to do that so much!).

There is also something mind expanding and memorable when we re-define any word, although I know it also has its limitations. That is why I probably would continue to use the image of “warrior’ (Ephesians 6:13-17), but I am also fully aware that males filled with testosterone, will pull it into their all-pervasive world view of domination instead of grace. It is probably just a judgment call, and I surely would not use warrior UNLESS I could re-define it spiritually.

Richard Rohr”

The dilemma between finding new language or redefining old words is a wider issue. For example, it is now universally accepted that we talk about people and humankind, not about men and mankind. This new language more clearly includes and gives value to all people which is a core aspect of the Christian Gospel. Redefining or explaining that “men” actually includes all people is not acceptable. Language is powerful and it is important that we choose our words carefully. We will explore some new language about gender in my next post.

It is exactly 5 years ago that I finished the first draft of what was to become a “men’s book for men who don’t read men’s books by an author who didn’t.” This coming weekend I’m going to and speaking at my first ever men’s retreat. I did not write a book out of my vast experience in men’s ministry and I won’t be going to the retreat with all the answers either. I wrote for myself and other men who did not seem to measure up to the models set up by Christian men’s organizations and best-selling books such as Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I also wrote for all the emerging young men that they might develop a more egalitarian, constructive, and pacifistic view of manhood than what had been promulgated. In my wildest dreams I believed that if a million North American Christian men would read my book, the world might be a safer and kinder place. Of course it only sold a few thousand but I know that it has made a profound difference in the lives of a few. That is enough for me.

It has been one of my dreams since the book was written to speak at a men’s retreat. I’ve done quite a few workshops and one day events, and I’ve been part of planning and speaking at dozens of youth retreats, but never a weekend men’s retreat. My first invitation to such an event happened to come from Michigan. Being a bit of a homeboy, I think I’m more nervous about crossing the border than about being at my first men’s retreat and also being the guest speaker.

I’m not sure that the answer to men’s spiritual woes is more retreats, prayer breakfasts, workshops, taking courses, or even reading books, although all can play a part in helping us understand ourselves and be ourselves in a way that contributes to SHALOM in our families, communities, and the world. I just know that almost all the stuff out there is playing to the same tune. Even the latest video curriculum I saw, “33: The Series, from the creators of the men’s fraternity” about “authentic manhood” still continues on with the old “king, warrior, lover” themes. Men! There is more to being a man than conquering evil, killing enemies, recuing fair maidens, and ruling your household! If you’re tired of this same old “authentic manhood” line, I’d like to point you to an alternative in my book, Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality. You can buy it from the publisher, Herald Press, or online from Amazon, and I even saw a copy in our local MCC Thrift Store!

How’s that for tooting my own horn? Arthur Paul Boers, who wrote the forward to the book, told me that if I believed God had given me a message I should not be afraid of doing my own promotion. “It is not self-promotion it is promotion of the Gospel.” I do hope I have good news to share for men and I pray that listeners this weekend and readers of the book will be affirmed in their manhood, especially if they don’t fit the stereotypical male mold. If you have read thus far and are unfamiliar with my project, you can read more by clicking on the tab, “men’s spirituality” on this website.

 

In January of 2010, my first book was published entitled, Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality. At that time I paid for a website to be made and annual fees to keep the domain name, http://www.mensspirituality.com, which has been operational for 3 years. It was intended to support the book and create a forum for ongoing dialogue about the issues raised. Unfortunately, it never achieved its objectives and did not get the traffic I desired, probably due to the fact that I did not know what I was doing. Thus I will not be paying the fees for another year since I have now discovered that I can manage a website for free with more followers than before.

Despite this, the book has been a great success in my view with 2,000 books sold and numerous meaningful workshops and conversations in the past 3 years. I even got a response/review from Richard Rohr, the guru of men’s spirituality! [I never did get a response from John Eldredge.] And the conversation is still ongoing. I did a mini-retreat in Calgary last month that was one of the most successful events I’ve been part of on this topic. I continue to feel passionate about the subject matter and feel that the point I am trying to make is as relevant as ever.

For those who are unfamiliar with the book, it is still available through Amazon or the publisher, Herald Press. I have created a new menu item on this site where I have posted a collection of blogs from those 3 years as well as a number of reviews. I’m still asking the question with which I opened and closed the book: What is a spiritual man? And I’m trying to live the question.