Male spirituality

The whole notion of male spirituality has bothered me ever since the “Wild at Heart” phenomenon.  I’ve heard many greet that adventurer’s manifesto with enthusiasm, while I myself felt misrepresented and misunderstood by it, and resisted it as something that appeared to force all men into the daredevil mold.  (Must I add that bravado isn’t me?)

So when the June 2012 magazine VBG-Bausteine of the Swiss InterVarsity equivalent contained a report on a course on male spirituality, I read it with interest and apprehension.  Felix Ruther summarized his own course on the topic: I’ll attempt a summary of the summary here as a reminder of what stood out to me.

  • Men tend toward liturgy, Ruther says.  Fewer words, more ritual, and knowing what is to be done make most men feel more at home.
  • Praying is unmanly: it’s an admission of weakness, after all.  But it’s also a great way to get the continually busy man to stop, look around, and ask the deeper questions: what does God want of me?  What do I want, and where do I stand?
  • Men prefer to model themselves after myths and mythical beings, not the psyche (I don’t understand the psyche part, but I’m leaving it in).  There are four essential mythical archetypes:
  1. Responsibility (Father/Patriarch/King)
  2. Competition (Warrior)
  3. Vulberability (Lover)
  4. Independence (Prophet/Jester/Magician)

Ruther says that if one of these archetypes is preferred without counterbalance, men descend into a skewed masculinity: the king becomes a tyrant or weakling, the warrior a sadist, the lover an addict, and the prophet a hurtful nag.  He calls men to integrate all archetypes: to fight for the good, to be captivated by beauty, to create safe havens for others, and to seek and speak truth.

This multidimensionality – whether fully accurate or not – is what I felt was missing from “Wild at Heart,” which I thought reduced manliness to a one-dimensional adrenaline quest.  If Eldredge had stepped back from his own frustration with the church to see the bigger picture, his wake-up call could have been much more effective.

1 thought on “Male spirituality

  1. Linda Wightman

    If you think Eldredge was bad with men, I found him infinitely worse with women. Then again, I’m a liturgy kind of person. 🙂 I’ll be interested to know if you find this model helpful over time.


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