Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury -- http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .

 From: Money Sex and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press

Chapter 9

Male Spirituality

[Note to the reader: The following chapter acts like it is more radical that it really is today. Please remember it was written several years before there was any sort of Christian Men's movement or Promise Keepers conventions and in an era when most folk argued that there was no difference between men and women, especially when it came to spiritual things, an idea which happily is now fading]

Men are different than women when it comes to spiritual things. Their basic religious nature differs, the way they express spirituality differs, and the process of spiritual life change is different. Yet, we know so little about male spiritually. The truth is, most Christians know more about the difference between male and female sexuality than their differences in spirituality.

Most churches cheat men spiritually. Modern evangelical religion has been pretty well feminized for more than a hundred years, at least since the American revival awakening period. Evangelical religion is nice and tender, lifting up a kinder gentler sort of a Christian image for men... as if the idea is a kind of Christianized Allen Alda. Men are supposed to accept this feminized brand of religion as new and improved religious expression. The trouble is, feminized religious experience won't fully meet the needs of men. A steady diet leaves a hole in a man's religious psyche which gnaws at his insides. Demons fill that hole. The man senses something is missing, but he can't quite put his finger on it. Feminized religion won't meet all his needs -- especially his deepest needs.

I can hear it already. Most of my readers are already going up in smoke. I know. The majority of readers of this book are women. The majority of the church is women. Plus, women are better at reading books than men. (If you are a married women, and are studying this book for Sunday School class, I bet you are reading this first and your husband expects you to brief him on the way to Sunday School!) If you are angry with my approach in this chapter, let me explain where I stand.

I'm against feminization of religion. I'd like to see a more balanced view of spirituality pervade the church, or at least we should do something special to meet the differing needs of men. However, while I'm against the feminization of religion I'm not against a feminist movement in the church. I personally believe women and men should be equal in the church... woman ought to be called into the ministry, ordained to preach, paid equally, and hold about half of the board and administrative positions in the church. I personally have an egalitarian marriage with my wife, and in many ways I am more feminist than most women in the church. This chapter is not a reaction against the tiny progress women have made is gaining equality in the church. I am not writing about a women's right to equality.

This chapter is about male spirituality. It is about the different needs men have when it comes to spirituality. It is about thinking... thinking about these differences, and finding ways the church can spiritually lead the 30% minority of its adults who happen to be men, and reaching the vast number of men outside the church.

The feminization of religion probably started in Sunday School for most of us. When you and I were children, most men at the church refused to work with children (many still do). They figured children's work was "woman's work," so a host of dedicated women gave us our earliest and deepest bonding with Bible stories. Men were largely absent.

Without ever intending to do it, these women taught the Bible with a feminine bias. They couldn't help it... no more than a man can help teaching with a male bias.

I'm not angry with these dedicated women who feminized our view of religion. Bless them! God will reward them for their dedicated labor. I'm angry with the men who refused to get in there and teach children's classes, providing a balanced views of Jesus. These men preferred serving on a board so they could decide on the weightier matters of theology... like how to pave the parking lot. They passed up the work of becoming a spiritual "male mother" to us Junior boys. Most of us got women teachers, and a feminized view of religion came along with them.

Face it, we were raised on the "Sunday School Jesus," a kinder, gentler version of the real thing. We met a Jesus who a nice boy... gentle, meek, mild, quiet, vanilla. He was polite, kind, closed the doors after himself, obeyed his mom, always took a bath. He turned the other cheek, smiled sweetly, shared his crayons, talked softly but never carried a big stick. This cozy Jesus never caught a butterfly -- he just watched them, according to the pictures we were shown. He helped his mother, cleaned up his room, never wiggled in church, said nice things to people, and evil men in a mob said "Crucify Him!" (Go ahead, check the scenes on your Sunday School pictures -- men did it!)

It's not just the teachers, but the writers and editors too. I suppose it is no secret that 90% of all children's curriculum editors are women (in many denominational offices it is 100%). That is why almost all -- perhaps all -- Sunday School curriculum for children has been feminized. Can you blame these woman for having a feminized view of Jesus? No. But, because of the inequality of our culture any man who becomes a children's editor will almost automatically "move up" into administration within a year or two and thus will no longer directly affect the curriculum. That leaves women editing the children's curriculum as well as teaching it.

I know. I've sat on these committees off and on since 1978. I remember one committee where one lonely man argued vehemently to include in the Junior curriculum "the whole story" of David and Goliath -- right down to cutting off Goliath's head. He lost, of course. These editors liked the harp-player better than the warrior. The final compromise: the story ended with the slingshot, since a third of the women even wanted to omit the actual stones hitting Goliath. This is just one of hundreds of illustrations where the Bible has been "cleaned up" by editors to support a nice Bible which produces nice kids. Most of us were imprinted early with this feminized religion based on a feminized curriculum.

These editors and teachers confused the nature of God -- which is neither male nor female (or, perhaps both male and female) with the nature of Jesus, who was, in fact, a man. For most of us, the Jesus we got was androgynous -- sort of both feminine and masculine. This feminized Jesus is the dominant imprint many Christian men still have of Jesus. Almost all worldly men have it too. In short, Jesus was the sort of boy every mom could hope her son would turn out to be. Most of us still think of Him in this way.

Is this why most men feel so unspiritual? It's true! Most men live with terribly low spiritual self-esteem. Ask a group of 100 married men to bow their heads and raise their hands if "my wife is more spiritual than I am." Every time you'll get 70% to 80% raising their hands (unless, perhaps, they've read this chapter). I've done it over and over with the same results. Is it true? Are women really more spiritual than men? Did God make men more evil? Or, could men just think they are less spiritual? Could they be comparing themselves with a false picture of Jesus and losing out? Are they saying, "Nope, I'm not like Him... my wife's more like that." Are they measuring themselves against a feminized view of Jesus? Have they been permanently imprinted by the Sugar-Jesus of Sunday School? Do the "Snakes, and frogs, and puppy dog tails" in their own life constantly remind them that they aren't as "Christ-like" as their wife or girlfriend?

What is a "Christ-like man" anyway? For many men he is merely the grown up version of the Sunday School nice boy. He is sweet, gentle, cozy, likes quiet talking, and doesn't walk on the grass. The good Christian man dresses nicely, attends Sunday School, sings in the choir, drives slow, wears a tie, shows up, picks up after himself, and is potty trained so well that he always puts the seat down.

Face it, even our view of sin is warped. Ask 100 Christians to list "Ten serious sins." Then ask a totally different group to make two lists: "Ten temptations of men" and "Ten temptations of women." Every time you'll discover the same thing. There will be amazing overlap between the "Ten serious sins" and the "Men's temptations." Christians consider men's sin more "serious" than woman's sin. Is it true? Are men made by God to want to do the bad sins, and woman are more inclined to commit the "better" sins?

Or, is our view of sin warped? Has the church harped primarily on the sins of men and downplayed the "lesser" sins women are inclined toward? Is this why men harbor such deep feelings of shame, particularly sexual shame?

Take ministers, for instance. Has the church adopted the media's own feminized view of ministers? Ministers should always be soft, and sweet, and nice. The media stereotype is a religious gelding... a nicely dressed sissified fat man who likes to drink tea with old ladies. When was the last time you saw a minister hunting, or playing football on TV? Ministers are the eunuchs of today's society. In fact many ministers seem to take off their masculinity when they enter the pulpit. Worse, some abandon manhood when they are ordained. This is how feminized the church, and clergy have become. But these men know they are missing something, but they can't put their finger on it. It is their manhood.

Enough about feminized religion and its effect on males. The effect is so deep and so early most men do not even recognize it, and will heartily deny it. But it is there. Many Christian men feel spiritually inadequate, and sense that they lost something somewhere along the way, but they just don't know what it is. They lost their own manhood. In becoming "Christianized" they thought they had to give up being a man and become more like their mother and wife. So we lose touch with a primary avenue of spiritual progress -- our own manhood.

Male Spirituality

What is male spirituality? Does male spirituality differ from feminine spirituality? I don't know for sure. The truth is, this chapter is ahead of its time. There's not much written about the subject, and there's even less solid research. There will be eventually. But, for now, these thoughts might get a good discussion going in your Sunday School class, or at home. They are preliminary, but based on interviews and discussions with several hundred men. How might male spirituality differ?

1. Male spirituality is more aggressive.

It is not peaceful. The deepest spiritual expressions of a male are hard, heavy, even violent. This fearsome spirituality, when unleashed is scary.

2. Male spirituality is visual-spatial.

Words are less important to men than seeing. Even in their sexuality men prefer seeing, that is why "skin magazines" make it with men yet not women. Some argue this visual-spatial edge is why males consistently score higher in the math section of the SAT. 1 For whatever reason, men are more visual.

In their natural state, men trade hunting stories, jokes, and swap stories -- visual pictures. Male spirituality is more driven by stories and parables than lists and details. A story or drama communicates better with men than a ten point "How to" message. This was how Jesus communicated.2.

3. Men are less relational and more physical-mechanical.

They would rather do something than listen or chat. What does this say about 90% of the church schedule? Most churches are all about listening and sharing. We schedule lessons to talk about witnessing, we don't actually go and do it during Sunday School. Men stutter more frequently, and talk 40% less than women on any given day. They'd rather do than talk. In fact, doing something is their dominant form of spiritual expression, not religious talking and listening. This is why men's lives change more on a five day missions work team than during a hundred Sunday services.

4. Men are often more informal.

This is especially true in their dress. While corporate America has pretty well trained men to get up, dress up, and show up, even many of these corporate guys can't wait to get home and get out of their "monkey suits." Many men don't like to dress up. Go ahead and find 100 men in their natural non-business settings -- how do they dress? Compare that with how we dress at church, especially we ministers. I know, "God deserves our best" and all that, but go door to door and talk just to men about going to church and you'll hear how little they'd love to get up next Sunday and put on their "funeral suit." And I know, the church is always saying "you can come any way you'd like here. (But how ever they dress on the platform is what we really expect.) Face it, we've designed the church for woman (and men) who like to dress up.

5. Men are warriors.

They attack. They fight. They kill. If women ran the world we'd have less wars, maybe none at all. (Not a bad idea!) But, men make war. Is it inherited or a learned behavior? Mothers ban guns from their little boys and what do they do... they shoot each other with their fingers. My own two boys used Bristle-Blocks to manufacture guns and all kinds of other fearsome instruments of destruction! Why is this? Whether inherited or learned behavior, men are warriors. (Some women are great warriors too.) Men are more inclined to attack.

How does this war-making nature relate to spirituality? Who is the enemy? How do we attack the him? Is there a place in the church for the Christian soldier to make war? How?

6. Men carry deep grief.

Grief is not exactly the right word for it, but it's the closest word to explain the notion. Anyone who has retreated with an all-men's group knows it. Grief comes pouring out like blood from a wounded side. Could it be from the inherited memory we have of generations of killing? Do we somehow carry thousands of years of collective memory of death deep within us? Wars. Hunts. Who knows? But it's there. Men sometimes are somber, pensive, non-communicative, and sad deep inside.

Yet today's religion is mostly a cheery feel-good experience. We figure that's how we're supposed to run church: "Aren't you glad to be here on this beautiful day? Turn and shake someone's hand and tell them that you love them," says the Reverend Mr. Cheerleader. We men dutifully turn, shake and smile. But we sometimes feel like hypocrites. Some days we aren't cheerful. We're not glad about much of anything. We grieve. This is not personality -- it is the common experience of all males. The answer to our spiritual quest is to go downward into the grief, and not upward into celebration. There's not much room in today's religion for someone to go down. All routes lead up.

If a man admits his grief, the church will pray for you so you can "get over it." Down is bad, up is good. Feeling good is what most churches are all about. But men know you can never "get over it." Not the essential grief which is so much a part of men's psyche. Grief is part of our nature -- our spiritual nature -- and we need to express it, not recover from it. But how to express it?

For this reason, men intuitively understand the cross. In fact they are fascinated by it. Men also relate to the "unchristian parts" of the Old Testament, even to what seems to be the "unchristian side of God" in the Old Testament. Most men carry a grief which has no place for expression in the cheery sunny evangelical religion of today. So they leave their grief buried deep within and act happy. But they know its still there, and somehow related to their spirituality.

7. Men are earthy.

(Woman say we are "gross.") Who knows why? Maybe it's our raw material -- we were made from the earth itself. It seems like men yearn back toward the dirt they were made from. Why aren't women earthy? Who knows? Bit they usually aren't. They started with a something alive -- a rib -- and the rest must come from high up somewhere -- maybe from heaven itself. Or, perhaps it has nothing to do with our creation, but is due to how we raise our kids. But, for whatever reason, boys and men tend to be earthy. Anyone who has spent more than a day with an all-men's group will testify to this side of men!

Is there any place in the church for the "earthy side" of men? Is there an earthy side to the Bible? Who will tell teenage boys this side of the Bible? Who will help them understand how to channel this side of their natural being into Christian expression? Or, will they learn that to become a good Christian a man has to deny his earthy side, and become more like a woman?

8. Men are risk-takers and reckless.

Ask the insurance companies. Men take chances. They are rash and competitive, especially so when they are young. Men even risk their lives more often than their female counterparts. Men do stupid things -- or at least what most folk would think was stupid.

How does this risk-taking inclination affect their a man's spirituality? How would your church react to a man who quit his well-paying job this week, uprooted his wife and two kids, gave away his house, and took his family off to Alaska to "witness to the Eskimos?" Most of us would believe he'd gone off his rocker. But wasn't this about what Jesus called the rich young ruler to do? What about Abraham? The ruler couldn't take the risk. He was a half-man. Abraham was different. So was Peter. A real man simply walks away from his nets. Real men take "foolish risks" sometimes. Does the church fan the flames of this side of men's spirituality? Or, do we train them to be good little men and behave themselves in their cozy little houses?

9. Men are wild.

In fact, this may be their dominant trait. Even the corporate man has a wild streak deep inside. The corporation has contained it, but he lets it out after work sometimes. Men are unpredictable, untamed, maybe even dangerous at times. Every man has a wild man inside him. For many, it is deep below the surface, and chained up by years of training. But even the most domesticated Christian man knows he's got a wild man deep within. When the wild man is released, it results in action, sometimes life-risking action, and often a fury and energy of almost a superhuman quality.

Most of us men have been taught that the wild man is evil... that it is really our carnal nature, dressed up like a wild man. But it is not. The wild man is Jesus. It is the real Jesus, not the one we've been taught about as a child. It is the Jesus who refused to let people put Him in a box. It is the untamed Jesus. The unpredictable Jesus. This Jesus caused trouble every where he went. He broke the half-men Pharisee's Sabbath rules. He treated women like equals in a society who treated them as possessions. He told the status seekers they would be last in the Kingdom. He railed against the crooked religious bureaucracy. He told people their preoccupation with detailed rules was silly and he replaced the rules with broad-stroked principles.

This wild man Jesus fought with the Devil, declared war on organized religion, and left home and wandered around a couple of years with a group of other guys. This is the wild man Jesus they never told you about. This is the Jesus who knew what it meant to say "Happy are those who mourn." This is the Jesus who seldom said what people expected Him to say. This is the Jesus who withered a fig tree with his anger. This is the Jesus who turned over tables in the Temple as he angrily whipped a herd of animals ahead of Him. This wild man Jesus got himself killed. For you.

Are you a Christian Man? If so, this wild Jesus lives inside you. Perhaps you have repressed His wild side. Of course, you have. We've been taught to do it. But He is there none the less. Every man, sooner or later has got to release the wild side of Christ. Not to unleash evil. Christ never does that. But to release a spiritual fury you know lurks beneath the surface in your insides. This wild man Jesus can induct you into a new level of masculine spirituality. Release Him and let Him go.

A final thought...

This chapter is controversial. It is not a completed work... it's preliminary. You may not agree with part or most of it. You may say, "Woman are like that too." Or, "I don't think men and women are any different spiritually." Of course you think this way. Everyone thinks that way now. But, is it true? The real issue is not whether men are different in the ways I mention above. Some of these may be accurate, and others wrong. The essential question is: are there any differences in male and female spirituality?

If you think there may indeed be some differences, for whatever reasons, then the next obvious questions is: "Do we consider these differences enough in our church's ministry to men?"

My hunch is that there are differences, and we are largely ignorant of (and maybe terrified by) male spirituality. It's worth thinking about... and talking about.


1. This chapter does not deal with the argument over whether the differences between male and female spirituality is a result of nature or nurture. Perhaps some differences are birth difference, others are developed in the environment, and some result from a combination of both. Discussing why men and women may be different is not the issue, the real issue is are they different? If they are indeed different, then the church must consider these differences at times providing ministry to singles, the aged, women, couples and men too. Lumping everyone together is fine most of the time -- but specialized needs can not always be met in the lump. And even in the lump, some consideration must be given to male spirituality.

2.Jesus communication style was almost completely masculine, but his culture his audience was almost totally dominated by men. We need both styles today.

 From: Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
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 To contribute to the thinking on this issue, or to contact the writer e-mail Tuesday@indwes.edu