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:
- Responsibility (Father/Patriarch/King)
- Competition (Warrior)
- Vulberability (Lover)
- 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.