New thoughts on male spirituality...

From time to time I have shared some thoughts and reflections on what a healthy male spirituality might embrace - including the understanding of the "tender warrior." (One who knows how to use his strength and passion for healing and protection rather than destruction and rage.) Today as I am getting ready to enter my sabbath time - as a pastor I celebrate a sabbath on Friday because I am almost always at work on Sunday - I was struck by something Richard Rohr recently posted on his daily spiritual guidance website.

Jesus would never have broken through as a genuinely new revelation if he had acted nonviolently inside of a feminine body. It would not have been revolutionary or a challenge—because we expect and demand that women be patient, nurturing, forgiving, healing, self-effacing, and self-sacrificing. Women are expected to be nonviolent in a violent male society. But we are still not prepared for males or institutions or nations to act nonviolently, even in the church. That is why God had to become incarnate for us in the body of a man. Jesus had a male body but a very feminine soul, which was genuinely new. Unfortunately, we basically rejected most of Jesus’ teachings and style as impractical and unreasonable in the pyramidal “real world” of church and state. (from Simplicity or:

Sometimes this truth is diminished - sometimes it is celebrated - and sometimes a little of both as in Christine Lavin's very funny song, "Sensitive New Age Guys.

But Rohr is clearly on to something that warrants our deeper consideration. Sam Keen has played with this truth in Fire in the Belly. Robert Moor and Douglas Gillette have done other mytho-poetic work, too, in their King, Warrior, Magician and Lover series. But only Jim Nelson and James Dittes have done serious reflection on both a pathological and redemptive male spirituality (see Body Theology by Nelson and both Men at Work and Driven by Hope by Dittes.)

Interestingly, Rohr has amplified his work in this realm recently by revising and improving his old work with the release of From Wild Man to Wise Man. This reflection grows out of Rohr's commitment to training healthy male mentors through authentic rites of passage. At the core of this work, Rohr and others have articulated some important commitments:

+ Every man is a Beloved Son of God.

+ Men are capable of serious spiritual journeys.

+ Our message is grounded in the Christian Paschal Mystery while integrating the symbols and rituals from other religions and cultures.

+ Men must seek to improve their conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation.

+ Men must have the affirmation and guidance of wise mentors.

+ Men have a need and responsibility to mentor future generations.

+ In a universal message of love and faith that transcends the boundaries of race, nation, culture, gender, economics/class, politics, sexual orientation and religious differences.

+ Men must seek honest mutuality in their relationships with women in thought, word and deed.

+ Men must recognize and critique their own power with regard to women, minorities and the poor, and use their power for justice in the world.

+ There is a need for collaborating with like-minded groups and other faith traditions.

One of my hopes and dreams in my next year of ministry it to find a way to bring together a group of men for study and support - and - have them interact with the young boys and men in our congregation. Tender warriors are part of the redemption we confess. Dig the way the brilliant Chris Smithers puts it in "Crocodile Man."

For those who need the lyrics to get it all (like me...)

Momma raised me on riddles and trances,
fat-back, channel cat, lily-white lies,
all wrapped up in a jim-crack fancy.
I never met Poppa,
I never asked why

People said Poppa wasn't no-account anyway,
people said Poppa was a rollin' stone.
I turned twenty on the Wakama thruway,
headed upriver in the dark alone.

I been sleepin' with a stranger in a no-name town,
Thanksgiving dinner at the Top Hat Lounge,
Christmas Eve at the Fantasy Tan,
Lord have mercy on the Crocodile Man

I hooked up with a carnie, a little out of Memphis,
slavin' in a side-show,
pennies in a jar,
beetle-eyed jokers,
hick-town princes,
rhinestone rubies and rubber cigars.

I wrassled me a gator up in Omaha city,
done me another down in New Orleans,
tangled with the barker,
ran off with the kitty,
crawled the Mississippi and I got away clean

Underneath the levee in a cattail thicket,
down in the shadows of a shady grove,
there's a thatch roof risin' from a poke-fence picket,
white smoke billows from a coal-black stove.

Inside the house is the hall of mirrors,
inside the mirror is the temple of sin,
inside the temple is the face of Momma,
and Momma, she knows where I been.

My Momma knows exactly where this bad boy been.
(CREDITS: Sr. Nancy Earle, "The Great Chain of Being." Patricia O'Keefe Hutton, "Heaven Speak." Carey Crockett, "Blues Man.")


Anonymous said…
It might be interesting for you to read about the problematic nature of archetypes such as the warrior in "Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy":

And this free resource, "Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality":
RJ said…
thanks so much for your insights...
Cosmo said…
"Men must have the affirmation and guidance of wise mentors."

I've no doubt that this statement is key. While I don't have a specified mentor (I wish I did!) there have been times when I have really enjoyed being in the company of older, wise men of faith. Men who bring a depth to their spirituality because it is rooted in experience.
RJ said…
Me, too, Cosmo. And I think that could be one of the blessings of an inter-generational church that was intentional about this. Great to hear from you again, my friend.
Black Pete said…
And then, before you know it, you have become such a mentor, in my experience, probably before you're ready...! And you ask yourself, when did that happen? With the gray hair? The wrinkles? The adipose tissue? And suddenly, all those stupid and dumb and occasionally destructive things you did become Experience, the basis for your mentoring. And Meaning yawns, stretches, says 'Howdydo?'
RJ said…
ain't that the truth, Black Pete? How did it come to pass that I am sharing... experience? A total mystery...

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