Thursday, May 14, 2009

male spirituality at the movies

I went to see Men’s group at the movies today. Australian made, it is a slow moving, but excruciatingly honest inspection of what it’s like to be male. It is the story of 6 men, meeting weekly to talk. Over time they begin to explore the pain of their fathers, the loneliness of relationships and the bleakness of their grief. It takes time, but they realise that men can go on a journey of friendship and intimacy. Recommended viewing for all men IMHO.

I like to place alongside the movie Phil Culbertson’s New Adam: The Future of Male Spirituality which I found hugely helpful in my thinking about male spirituality. The book explores Bible texts that challenge men – Abraham’s relationship with his sons, David’s relationship with his sons, Jesus masculinity – and what it means to be male today.

And so for years when I pastored at Graceway Baptist, every Thursday fortnightly a group of men would meet. Since so much male conversation is defined by what we do and who we cheer, the two groundrules were no agenda and no sports talk, which left the challenge of how could we as men define our relationships. That was a great experience to be part of.

Posted by steve at 12:09 AM


  1. I really like the rules of no agenda and no sports talk. The thing I hate the most in male conversations is how hard it is to get beyond “tarzan” talk – chest beating bravado.

    Comment by Andrew — May 14, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  2. It’s hard to find good theological/ spiritual reflection on maleness. So much stuff coming out now wants to promote the ‘male’ stereo type. I have read – and enjoyed, admittedly – some of John Eldrige’s earlier stuff; but he has been, of late getting a bit ‘gung ho’ (guns & killing animals) & weird on the devil stuff – I just take the best bits. And I just read of Mark Driscoll punching himself in the face to prove he was a tough christian male (a funny review on the Wittenburg door website ‘ ‘Driscoll kicks his own butt’. The wrong direction, I think. What I’m looking for is to be intergrated; comfortable with my maleness and christian faith. Look forward to reading the book and seeing the Aussie (oi, oi, oi) movie, Steve.

    Chris (from Oz)

    Comment by Chris McLeod — May 14, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  3. thanks Chris. It was mothers day here in Sunday and as part of church, we gave out flowers to all women, thanking them for “mothering”, because all women “mother” in some way.

    yet it seems far harder to hand out something to all men on fathers day and thank them for “fathering”, cos the word is polluted by histories of partiarchy and violence and emotional repression.

    yet so much of church leadership has, and is, male dominated. it’s a wierd space to be in.

    to be a “man” culturally is filled with attitudes that I, as a Christian male, struggle with. what does it mean for Jesus to form my manly identity?

    and how might women relate to Jesus and their identity?


    Comment by steve — May 14, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

  4. It’s a pretty intense movie alright.

    I agree with your assessment of Eldrige and Driscoll, Chris.

    Steve, I really like that “David and Goliath” Steinlager advert with William DaFoe in it captures an element of good masculinity with its standup to bullies (non-violently!) theme and its final line, “I guess some things are worth protecting.”

    Chris Trotter puts it like this:
    “The essence of masculinity is the instinct to protect – an impulse inextricably bound up with the heroic qualities of defiance and self-sacrifice. To protect and to serve are the defining qualities of all our most enduring cultural icons – from King Arthur to Winston Churchill; Te Whiti O Rongomai to Mickey Savage; Ed Hillary to Peter Blake. The aggression and violence we so easily and so often equate with masculinity can only ever be justified in defence of the weak and the vulnerable. It must never be used against them.” []

    I had this book recommended to me a while ago: . But, I haven’t read it. It’s free to download.

    Comment by Paul — May 14, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  5. Steve, on mothers’ day we gave out flowers to the men too to celebrate their ‘nuturing’ and to help them remember their own mothers. (We gave them to the women first) One old man, well in his 80’s and who has never married, or had children, was really touched. He popped it in his lapel pocket and thought of his mum who would have been 128. Some men put it behind their ears and others twirled it, looked at it and took it with them. It was a nice moment.


    Comment by Chris McLeod — May 14, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  6. Giving the flowers out to men as well as women was a good idea Chris. I have been thinking about this conversation I saw a few days ago. In terms of male spirituality in popular culture I was thinking that there are some interesting examples of physical and cerebral spirituality in the new Star Trek movie. I am not sure it provides a great number of answers- but sci-fi does seem willing to at least explore some of the concepts of a male spirituality. I must say I was not overwhelmed with the roles for women or what the film had to say about women overall, but there may have been some interesting ideas for men?

    Comment by Sophie — May 18, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  7. Thanks Sophie. Three responses
    – when you give something to everyone (flowers) how do you still honour gender differences? do woman do anything unique in our culture that should be named, and if so how?

    – what would you give everyone on fathers day?

    – re Star Trek. Fascinating comment. It made me think of how Star Trek did evolve, with Captain Janeway being a woman and the role of Counsellor Deanna, who became very much the intuitive. Stanley Grenz did some writing about the way that Star Trek developed as a window into the shift from modernity into postmodernity.


    Comment by steve — May 18, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  8. Mmm good thought Steve- I think if women are given the flowers first, and then the men are invited to join-in then there is signal there about the primacy of the first giving, but an invitation relationship. Perhaps I am just talking “The Shack” now (just finishing that book atm). The spiritual links are inferred in the new Star Trek film but Next Gen, Voyager etc did have more overt links and much more interesting stuff for women and men. They seem good a utopian relationships in which people are able to represent gender in any way they chose without fear (sensitive men are also heroic, powerful women are also wise and both those descriptors could be swapped for each gender).

    Comment by Sophie — June 1, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

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