This consideration of the male of the species was as part of my training for ministry and was hugely challenging.
To get us thinking we looked through a copy of The Metro and highlighted all the stories that were ‘about men’. They were, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost completely negative. Stories of violence and crime, cry babies and deadbeat dads, sexual and emotional disfunction and of course six pages of sport.
Men are bombarded with contradicting messages about what it means to be ‘a real man’. The loveable rogue or criminal scum. The protector or lout. Compassionate and caring or soft and wimpy.
We considered some archetypes from Moore and Gillette:
We wondered which types ministers are expected to be and how much of what we have seen and experienced is the shadow sides of these ideals. We wondered about how the move away, quite rightly, from associating the language of war and violence with faith in hymns about soldiers and armies and swords and victories has affected and perhaps feminised faith and the church? How do we see Jesus? As a strong man, used to felling trees and working wood, well able to survive 40 days alone in a wilderness? Or as gentle, meek and mild? And are those two stereotypes incompatible?
We wondered if men are trying to attain these images of masculinity without really understanding what they are trying to be, or why?
We grappled with our indoor, risk averse, cosseted society where boys only exposure to danger is on an xbox.
We explored the differences between male and female networking and support structures and asked questions around what pastoral care looks like for men who hide their emotions or find themselves coming out of a long term relationship with few friends who they feel they can talk to.
Most of all we wondered why church wasn’t dangerous anymore and what impact that has on men’s faith?