Home > Lessons for the Modern Man, Men's Movements > Comments on “Numen, Old Men” – Part 2: The Evangelical and Catholic Men’s Movements

Comments on “Numen, Old Men” – Part 2: The Evangelical and Catholic Men’s Movements

Chapter 3 of Joseph Geler’s book: Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy is titled: The Evangelical Men’s Movement: Networking, Violence and Sport. Chapter 4 is: The Catholic Men’s Movement: Sacrements and Adoration. Today I review both chapters together, since both have their roots in the mythopoetic men’s movement and have Christianity as a common theme.

First, I have little to no experience with Christian Men’s movements. While I was working with Bly, Moore and others in the early 90s Rosemary and I belonged to a large liberal Presbyterian church (PC-USA). Since men’s movements were in the news then this church did initiate a men’s Bible study group which I participated in a few times. That experience was a far cry from some of the events and men’s ministries I have read about both in the press and through Dr. Gelfer’s book. We did not go out into the woods to “hug trees,” we did not espouse a return to patriarchy and strong family leadership, we had no intention of declaring “war on evil,” and we did not engage in sports of any kind (even though one of the leaders of the group was the local high school football coach!).

Second, while these two movements may have sprung from some of the concepts and ideas behind the mythopoetic men’s movement, I see little resemblance among them as Dr. Gelfer examines the extremes of the movements.

Third, the overview of both Christian-based movements presented by Dr. Gelfer seems thorough and good, balanced reporting. I am pleased to have read about these movements but am not persuaded to join one! For the most part I find these movements as devoid of spirituality as Dr. Gelfer claims the mythopoetic movement to be. The evangelical movement seems to have tended toward a return to patriarchy and war; again, an emphasis on the King and Warrior archetypes. In fact I would say this movement is almost entirely rooted in these archetypes to the exclusion of the more spiritual archetypes (here I would claim Magician and Lover are more spiritual; and I’m using the Moore/Gillette quadrant model). It is about “male bonding” – hardly spiritual. It’s about recruiting (evangelizing) for the “war.”

Fourth, the Catholic movement, while beginning much the same way as the evangelical movement, tends to have some redeeming qualities, especially in areas of sacraments and adoration. We seem to be getting closer to real spirituality here! This movement is not about evangelizing but ministry to and with men. In one survey of Catholic men their primary motivation for being part of a men’s ministry was to be with other men. (Secondary was to gain self awareness and third (finally something spiritual) was to explore the relationship to God!)

Lastly, Dr. Gelfer compares the evangelical and Catholic movements: “Numerous Catholic men’s ministries…carried direct allusions to Promise Keepers, asking their members to bear witness to various promises or pledges. Other themes predominate in evangelical men’s ministry can be identified in a Catholic context, such as servant leadership and allusions to violence and sport.” And he contrasts the movements: “While evangelical men’s ministries go to some quite extraordinary lengths to masculinize both their aesthetics and theology, there is no such common practice among Catholic men’s ministries.”

The Catholic approach seems a “kinder, gentler” approach to exploring masculine spirituality compared to the evangelical approach. Yet, I am startled that spirituality seems to be an afterthought in both movements. My personal experience of the secular mythopoetic movement (contrary to Dr. Gelfer’s research) is than we were much more engaged with the transcendent than either the evangelical or Catholic movements!

Tomorrow I move on to the 5th chapter and explore the Integral approach to masculine spirituality. I look forward to it! I’ve read a reasonable amount of Ken Wilber material and have a certain respect for the Integral model. Let’s see how Dr. Gelfer rips into it!

  1. April 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Yes, it is odd how hard it is to find the spiritual in various streams of the Christian men’s movement. The scary thing is, I don’t see the ministries I refer to as extreme: many mainstream men’s ministries use the same metaphors and practices.

    I have an extension of these two chapters with specific reference to fatherhood ministries available here if anyone fancies the read (a pre-print of a forthcoming article in the journal “Feminist Theology”):

    These Christian men’s movement chapters have provided the least respondents to date, which surprises me, as they speak to the most populous constituency (and the most worrying).

    The Integral chapter has provided the most debate so far. Wilber’s CEO at Integral Institute dropped by my blog a while ago, and I invited Wilber to debate the issue. No word as yet. I have discovered that those people who have gone through a period of appreciating Wilber and come out of the other side having seem through his little charade are some of the smartest people around: a real cause for optimism.

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