Posts Tagged ‘manhood’

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Final Post of Men on the Moon

30 June 2014

If my grandfather were still alive today, he would have turned 100 this month. Raymond Hitchcock made it to 88, having lived a generous, courageous life. There were the remarkable occupational elements of his career: he exercised considerable skill in farming, automobile repair, business management, and real estate. He did everything with great determination. He was and is an icon of manly strength to me. All importantly, Raymond was known for his kindness. He showed tenderness to his family, friends, and neighbors. He demonstrated sacrificial integrity. He told great stories. He was famous as the designated hugger at his local Methodist church.

I mention Raymond Hitchcock as I close shop on this long-standing blog. It was started six years ago as a way to explore aspects of masculinity in the modern world. So often manliness is understood as a kind of oppressive imperative, some kind of social conduct which burdens men with high, even unrealistic, expectations. This blog has tried to show that masculinity can affirm many of the great traditions for men without demanding of them exact codes of conduct and being. Men can walk on the moon.

I close this season of my e-life with gratitude for the men in my life who instilled in me a solid core. My father, my pastors, friends like Mark and Travis and the guys from the Round Table and MKP. Men like Raymond Hitchcock. They affirmed that men can strive to be true men – from a starting point of real manhood. My grandfather had a center, and from that center he lived joyfully.

I wish the same for you, friends and strangers. May you be free men.

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Manning up with Casting Crowns

28 March 2014

Casting Crowns arrived on the music scene in 1999. By a long but steady ascent, they have become one of the few Evangelical bands to move between Christian and secular radio, touting positive messages for general audiences. As such, their lyrics hold special insight into values popular among conservative American believers. Among the consolidation of virtues Casting Crowns is responsible for is a set of gender expectations for men. In particular, their code turns on concepts of moral integrity, inner piety, protection of women and children, and evangelism.

In 2011 Casting Crowns released the single “Courageous,” which accompanied the film by the same name. With a story about a police officer in the background, the song laments the loss of traditional manliness, when men “were warriors on the front lines, standing unafraid.” Now, men are “watchers on the sidelines while our families slip away.” The golden days of patriarchy have waned into the dark days of men without backbone and purpose. The refrain that Christian men are “taking back the fight” does not refer to a program to subject women. Rather, the fight is directed at the heart, turning to a life of prayer. This battle to regain the authoritative self starts with the regaining of the authentic self, “on our knees with lifted hands.” Those who “reignite the passion,” the song goes on to say, “become warriors.” Accordingly, the battle for one’s place in the family has been internalized to take place on the war-field of the heart, in which lethargy and cowardice are put to death via prayer. The song ends with the promise, “In the war of the mind I will make my stand.”

Casting Crown’s inner masculinity continues to the be the basis for external masculine honor in 2014’s “Heroes.” The woman of the song expresses her valor in financial ways, supporting her two children (notably after her breadwinning husband abandons her). The high school boy in the second verse “walks against the flow” in fairly nebulous moral ways, not following “the hopeless road” but “willing to stand alone.” His manhood comes through principally in a moralistic separation from the world (though this is somehow equated with seeing the school as “his mission field”). Again, the battle is fought in internal terms, battling for moral integrity through self-discipline and prayer.

Through both songs one hears the moralistic theme of Promise Keepers set in the militaristic language of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Thus lead vocalist Mark Hall confesses his penchant for uber-manly movies like Braveheart, saying, “I think that’s my spirit in me longing to be the warrior that God created me to be.” Yet his battle-loving language is simply the key through which he sings of a longing to return to traditional values beginning with the conquest of self. Notably, this sort of Evangelicalism is still psychological and inward-facing while much of the rest of Christianity is turning toward the social sciences and political action.

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Move over, Chuck Norris…

5 January 2014

In the field of New Testament studies, N.T. Wright is practically omnipresent. Somehow he seemed to take over every relevant theological conversation while baptizing babies and curing poverty and wisecracking on The Colbert Report. Accordingly, Url Scaramanga’s post on the new Chuck Norris cannot not be shared.

Here’s a teaser: “N. T. Wright doesn’t parse nouns. They decline themselves before him.”

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Book Review: R. Todd Romero, Making War and Minting Christians

20 May 2013

R. Todd Romero, Making War and Minting Christians: Masculinity, Religion, and Colonialism in Early New England (Amherst: MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). 255pp.+xiii. $26.95.

The interaction of native tribes with early English settlers meant each culture had to change. That change included masculinity, argues R. Todd Romero in his attentive history of 17th century New England. Both natives and Puritan immigrants were concerned with manly ideals, ideals which would undergo significant changes through the Pequot War (1636-37) and King Philip’s War (1675-76). Sensitive to the underlying gender scripts, Romero’s book unspools a nuanced double-narrative.

In Part I of Making War and Minting Indians, Romero chronicles the cultural “counterpoint” between native and Anglo-American groups. A surprising similarity exists between the two. Each culture valued assertive, strong men with military skills. Each culture connected manhood to religious zeal. Nevertheless, Puritans and other Englishmen chose to highlight the differences. Manhood for them meant a carefully defined patriarchy, strenuous labor, educated western civility, and biblical, evangelistic zeal. The greatest commonality between the two worlds, it seemed, was martial culture. But the brewing of actual war between the parties made for a deep bifurcation.

In Part II Romero takes a deeper look at the colonizing efforts of Puritans with the Indian “praying towns.” Imposing western notions of manhood upon natives was a priority, even to the point of insisting (in the case of Thomas Shepard) that one must “make men” of Indians before “making Christians” of them. Puritans, especially at Massachusetts Bay Colony, struggled to get Indian men to abandon polygyny, as well as their lax posture of discipline that made children “sawcie, bold, and undutifull” (125). Assimilation efforts foundered after King Philip’s War destroyed remaining goodwill between Puritans, Christian natives, and traditional natives.

Part III of the book plays out the re-scripting of masculinities in and after the throes of war. Presented with annihilation through war or (especially) disease, some tribes sought to bargain with the Christian God. Other tribes felt a strong pull back to their traditional earth religion practices. Puritans, for their part, strenuously preached God’s providence in warfare – even as missionary efforts quickly devolved. While rhetoric between the groups transpired criticizing their inferior senses of manhood, Romero picks up on some unwitting crossovers. For instance, “The evolution of Anglo-American martial culture after the 1670s was especially ironic, given that successful colonial warriors often adapted the very Indian tactics they had formerly dismissed as dishonorable and unmanly” (191).

By necessity, Romero works from Anglo-American records. His deconstruction of their rhetoric smacks of ungraciousness at times, but he uses a hermeneutic of suspicion to render a better picture of actual native culture. Readers may find themselves frustrated that Romero does not choose to distill many conclusions from his study. A “cross-cultural” study through “gender counterpoint” does not yield larger anthropological or historical insights so much as make the reader feel the dialectical mutation between American societies. One might look to Ann M. Little’s Abraham in Arms to clarify a picture of the geopolitical legacy of New England.

Romero’s careful soundings of 17th century America amount to a genuine contribution to colonial studies. Researchers and local historians will benefit most from this sensitive narration of Anglo and Indian masculinities forged in a tumultuous era.

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Manly T-Shirts

25 February 2012

The folks at http://www.cafepress.com continue to hawk an abundance of funny (and disturbing) t-shirts pertaining to manly virtues and vices. Here’s one of my favorites:

T-Shirt

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Anonymous Editor Commenting on the Rev. John Wesley (1827)

23 February 2011

His style was nervous, clear, and manly; his preaching was pathetic and persuasive; his Journals are artless and interesting; and his compositions and compilations to promote knowledge and piety, were almost innumerable.

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American Tragedy

18 September 2010

The American, Anton Corbijn’s new film about an assassin-spy who hides out in Italy while he tries to finish his final job, has received very mixed reviews.  The slow pace and minimalist script has thrown a number of people expecting to see another George Clooney thriller.  Others, however, have recognized the fantastic cinematography and the impressive acting from a cast of relative unknowns.

What hasn’t been discussed as much is the classification of The American as a modern tragedy.  Jack (George Clooney) cannot escape his past; neither can he seize his future.  Attempts at honesty and romantic love are thwarted by his dark occupation.  Only in the last ten minutes of the movie – spoiler alert! – does he try to get to Clara to tell the truth about him, and reaches her only as he dies.  She has come out of her cocoon.  But he is a stillborn butterfly.

The movie can be understood as commentary about the traditional male, I think.  The opaque lives we live often never way to transparency.  A desire to love is always handcuffed by mistrust and self-defense.  Clooney’s wordless acting in that final stretch of road captures the tragic dynamic so well.  He will die before he has the chance to love and be loved.