Recovering Male Spirituality
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
Men and Women are Different
The great classic by George Guilder, Men and Marriage, presents a strong case that there are different characteristics and proclivities that distinguish men and women. Society becomes confused because not every man and woman fits the pattern of these predominant characteristics. Yet, society makes a mistake when it seeks to force all men and women into the same roles with justice being defined as equal percentages for both sexes in every role and area in life.
Men and women tend to enjoy different kinds of experiences. For example, men are more likely to enjoy action adventure movies than women. Women are more likely to enjoy a "chick flick" than men. Scientists today even find differences on the level of brain function and biology, and I would argue that there are also soul differences.
The attempts to obliterate the distinctions between men and women are counter-productive, since God has created those very differences for mutual blessing. Leanne Payne also writes on the wrong direction of our society in her Crisis of Masculinity. Justice is not merely equality; justice has to recognize creation distinctions.
Feminine Spirituality is too Dominant
One of the troubling aspects of much congregational life is that the general tone of spirituality fits the typical female profile rather than the typical male. This is one of the reasons for the much greater numbers of women than men in congregational life. Another reason, I believe, is that women are often more in tune with the intuitive-spiritual. The feminine aspect of spirituality is important and must not be neglected. Clearly there is a more feminine aspect to men too, but in their case it is not usually dominant. When we look at the typical diet served in many congregations and consider which gender it will most attract, I think that we can see a significant lack of appeal for men. As the male role in society has been tamed and diluted by the feminist movement, so too in the church. Male spirituality has been suppressed by a shift towards the softer and more romantic female side.
A most important issue in this regard, is the love expressions in worship songs that use a vocabulary strongly paralleling the romantic love of a woman for a man. My friend Mike Bickle, whom I consider the greatest leader of the 24/7 prayer movement in America, speaks of the need for all to experience bridal love for Jesus. The Song of Solomon is very important in Bickle's teaching, and we are compared to a woman in love with her bold and adventurous lover. I do have passion and total commitment for Yeshua. Yet it is difficult for me - as a man - to embrace the concept of having "bridal love for Yeshua".
C. S. Lewis noted that the corporate Body of Believers is a feminine reality in relationship to God's masculine. Lewis thus argued that occasional feminine images for God are exceptions (e.g. Isaiah 49:15). He argued that the male image of God must predominate since it projects greater strength and authority. Our egalitarians will take issue with this. However, I think that Lewis is right. In Tikkun, we uphold the headship of the husband in the marriage and family and male leadership of congregations and ministries. We relate to God as masculine as well.
Again, most men tend to be attracted to different things than women. There are "overlapping" attractions, and then there are predominantly different attractions. Men, especially younger men, are attracted to competition, physical challenge, risk and difficult ordeals. Our worship and preaching often concentrate on the more feminine aspects of spirituality - such as:
Yet there is another side of spirituality that is greatly needed. Where is the masculine flavored challenge of:
Where is the call to:
The Masculinity of Jewish Spirituality
Historic Jewish spirituality is really quite male. As a matter of fact, though I would never argue for this, the ancient synagogue was primarily a male domain as is the Orthodox Synagogue today. Some years ago, I was walking down a street on the Sabbath in a town north of Haifa. I passed by an Orthodox synagogue. I had never before heard men praying with such fervor, loud volume, and unison as they recited the ancient prayers. It was a male sound: strong, faithful and deep. Just the sound of all these fervent male voices made quite an impression on me.
I now realize that most of the worship in the Bible is very male. Yes, there is also a female dimension, but it is secondary. Worship toward God is more akin to the love of David's mighty men for their leader-King, their commander and chief. God is seen as a commander and chief, over the hosts of heaven (a military image) and over the armies of Israel. Anointing itself is connected to men being empowered for war. Holiness is not merely a sweet and demur thing, but also holds a Spartan quality of dedication and focus that enables real concrete military victories. I could quote so many passages, but let us note a few: Psalm 18:29 states, "With your help I can advance against a troop, and with my God I can scale a wall"; then verse 34, "He trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze". Then there is Psalm 144:1-2:
"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me."
We apply this primarily to spiritual warfare, and to the challenges people of either gender face with battles in the work place and in society. Biblical spirituality is not a crutch for our weakness or cowardliness, as atheists assert. Rather it is about the anointing that makes us bold conquerors and people of great purpose who seek to extend the Kingdom and see the redemption of the world. It is about that passionate love for our King and commander who leads us in victory. There are some examples today of praise and worship that emphasize this, even one that I really like based on the verses above. We need many more such hymns, together with solid preaching and teaching of the same character. In addition to feminine aspects, our faith has many muscular, adventurous aspects as well. It is not a withdrawal from life, but a bold engagement with the world and with the forces of darkness.
There should be many strategies and even programs that attract men and challenge them toward Kingdom advance in all sectors of society. May we engage in developing this kind of spirituality.
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