Archives for posts with tag: Wild at Heart

On the day that the most powerful man in the world ordered the killing of a rival powerful man, the need for a more peaceful men’s spirituality becomes ever more urgent. I began blogging ten years ago in an attempt to provide an opportunity for ongoing conversation after the release of my book: Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality. On a topic this specific I was barely able to average one post a month for three years (See the tab “Men’s Spirituality” for a selection of blog posts) and so the site was discontinued. The most poignant responses came via email or in person, not on the website. The first response I ever got was from Don Neufeld, a counselor and social worker in Ontario who worked with men in his practice. Here is an excerpt from his email to me.

I will begin with a sincere “Thank you” for writing this profound book. I was drawn into reading your book with anticipation and a longing, both personally and professionally, to hear the alternative voice that you have provided. In this past year of transition I have come to be more open in recognizing God’s working in my life, and I feel that here again is another way that God has opened a new avenue of understanding that has enriched my life. Your critique of the traditional images of maleness that are dominant in Christian circles models your thoughts in your chapter on reconciliation. That is, although you do directly challenge some of the prevailing thinking, your reflections of your personal struggle with the images has the potential to disarm the likely reaction from those who are strongly invested in the traditional images, and invites men into their own reflection. I believe that the section on Relational Spirituality in the last few pages of the chapter on Reconciliation is particularly relevant in our world, in our day.
Thanks again for your book and I hope we can stay connected.

We did stay connected and we finally met in person when he invited me to speak at a men’s retreat in Ontario a few years later. To make a long story much shorter, he became co-editor of a new men’s book just released a few months ago: Peaceful at Heart: Anabaptist Reflections on Healthy Masculinity. It updates my book and begins where my book left off. The promotional statement for the book states:

While there are plenty of books by men, for men, on the topic of “Christian masculinity,” these books generally fail to address men’s propensities for violence and the traditional inequity between men and women, often endorsing inequity and sanctioning aggressive behavior as an appropriate “manly” response to conflict. Peaceful at Heart cuts through this conversation by offering a uniquely Anabaptist Christian perspective on masculinity. The vision of masculinity presented in this book is more peaceful, just, caring, life-giving for men, and more sensitive to women and children than both traditional images of masculinity and the hypermasculine images promoted by contemporary popular culture and wider evangelical Christianity. Peaceful at Heart addresses men and masculinity using Anabaptist theological themes of discipleship, community, and peace. As a collaborative project by men, for men, this book demonstrates through personal narratives, theological reflection, and practical guidance the importance of collective discernment, accountability, and mutual encouragement regarding how to live as a peaceful man in a violent world.

I had fantasies that my book would outsell Wild at Heart and be part of a change in how men see themselves in North America. It did not quite do that but I am hopeful that this new book and increased self-reflection by men since the “#metoo” movement will continue the trajectory toward a more humble, compassionate, and egalitarian men’s spirituality.

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.