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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Stickin' It To The Man, Part II.

A gifted homilist could probably milk the story of the 325th for a month's worth of homilies about Christian fortitude, justice, sacrifice and heroism. The selflessness of men willing to die for others, shortly after leaving St. Mary's Church (St. Mere Eglise), for foreign strangers in the grip of darkness as well as for friends--there are plenty of parallels to the Gospel here.

I even have a couple of titles handy: "No Way Out But Through" and "Crossing the Causeway." Feel free to filch and alter as you like.

Of course, there are perils that have to be sidestepped--tamping down on American messianism and so forth--but it can be easily done.

But, of course, it won't. Certainly not in a progressive parish, and not even in more conservative ones. The reason? As this article found by Amy Welborn notes, the Church seems to recoil from any appeal to classically masculine values. Let me define my terms: by classically masculine I mean such things as life-sacrificing heroism, adventurousness, willingness to risk confrontation, being task- or project-oriented, and related virtues. This description is not to deny that women experience such things, but only that, as a generally rule, they do so to a lesser extent or differently. We are different but complementary, right?

Why there so little appeal to that, I wonder? It's not as though the New Testament is shorn of militant terminology. Look here, here, here and here.

Gates breaking (note that the image presumes the Gospel is on the offensive, not defensive), swords being girded, the clank of armor being donned--all right! The D&D geek in every man is beginning to pay attention now.... More seriously, it cannot be denied that this imagery appeals more strongly to men than to women. But it is almost never referenced, except to neutralize or spiritualize it away.

I can feel the buildup to an explosion beginning, but let me continue. Every time this subject comes up, a pattern seems to establish itself quickly--critics point out the obvious--fewer men at church, offer criticism of Church's lack of appeal to men, unbalanced spirituality, etc.

Response: We have liftoff! Well, it's simple--it's a worldwide phenomenon; you have an adolescent's understanding of masculinity and masculine virtues, atrophied at age 12, Beavis, so curb the macho BS; or you're compensating for something, possibly even homosexuality [ed.: No, really.]; you don't understand that the Gospel transforms erroneous notions of masculinity (like yours) into a newer form; perhaps you need to grow up, swallow your pride and do something you regard as "unworthy" to prove yourself.

In reverse order: (1) Okey--I'm 35 going on 55, married with two kids and a third on the way, and though I don't regard this the following as "unworthy", I'm chairman of the parish education commission, I lead the weekly bible study and am a member of the Knights of Columbus--oh, and I used to be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, until my daughter became fully mobile. I also have a frigging day job. Are my credentials sufficient to permit me to speak on the issue? The men aren't there--it doesn't take a resume', just a pair of eyes and the ability to count.

(2) The Gospel baptizes human virtues, including those of healthy masculinity. It transforms them with new life. Unfortunately, the arguments on this point quickly end up turning it into the opposite: a timorous, deferential understanding that has been "mortified" out of all recognition.

"Want to exercise a 'masculine virtue,' buddy? Sit down and shut the hell up!"

Nope. Sorry. Not if the Christ of the Gospels is our model. As opposed to the Josh creature of 21st Century therapeutic social gospel America--a Stuart Smalley without the andro. We get the mandatory U.S. RWA of the Meek 'N' Mild Jesus, and Apologetic Explanations for the unavoidable incidents were Jesus confronted evil and sacrificed himself. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah: Who he?

I'd like to see the same dismissive approach tried with respect to the genius of femininity. "Your understanding of femininity is flawed..." Don't hold your breath.

(3) How's the ban, o anonymous greg? Bet you'd really like to get your two cents in on this one, eh?

Well, stinks to be you.

(4) Actually, no, it hasn't atrophied. Though I am pretty cool--Fire! Fire! I need TP for...Nevermind.

Perhaps my view is unrefined. So be it. The men aren't there, and few care.

We'd better start. Lose the fathers, lose the sons. And, eventually the daughters, too. When my dad lost interest in going to church on Sunday, we all dropped out. It took my brother's "born again" experience to make me wonder if there might be something to this Jesus business.

It took far too long for society to remember the common-sense dictate that good fathers are an indispensible component of a healthy family, and by extension, a healthy society. A church hemorrhaging family men is on the expressway to auto-demolition.

(5) It's a widespread phenomenon. Perhaps so, but it cannot be the case that there are no parishes in the U.S. where they get men to attend and participate. Study them, O bishops, but quickly--not in the "let's table it till we address the depletion of smelt stocks in the Au Sable River and its impact on the interrelational aspects of wholistic Gospel witness" blah blah blah for the love of Mary please shut up now. Yes, the laity can get to work, but the Sheps set the tone.

You don't have twenty years to find your backside with both hands on this one.

[Continue to Part III]

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