Saturday, February 11, 2012

How big is the "masculine tent" especially among conservative religions?

 By Charles M. Blow, New York Times, February 10, 2012
.....masculinity is wide enough and deep enough for all of us to fit in it. But society in general, and male culture in particular, is constantly working to render it narrow and shallow. We have shaved the idea of manhood down to an unrealistic definition that few can fit it in with the whole of who they are, not without severe constriction or self-denial.

The man that we mythologize in the backs of our minds is a cultural concoction, an unattainable ideal, a perfect specimen of muscles and fearlessness and daring. Square-jawed and well-rounded. Potent and passionate. Sensitive but not sentimental. And, above all else, unwaveringly heterosexual and without even a hint of softness.
A vast majority of men will never be able to be all these things all the time, but they shouldn’t be made to feel less than a man because of it.
And this narrowed manhood ideal has a truly damaging effect on boys.
In “Boy Culture: an Encyclopedia,” which was published in 2010, the editors point out: “Boys are men in training. As such, most strive to enact and replicate hegemonic masculinity so that they achieve status among male peers, and pre-emptively guard against accusations or perceptions that their masculinity is deficient.” The editors went on to quote a 2001 study in which a boy who does not measure up to dominant prescriptions of masculinity is “likely to be punished by his peers in ways which seek to strip him of his mantle of masculinity.”
Mr Blow's piece is directed to the incident(s) of CNN political commentator, Roland Martin, who has been dismissed by CNN for comments disdaining (apparently in jest) the gay and lesbian community, specifically "men in pink suits". Martin's wife, a Baptist minister, has been counselling gays and lesbians to "go straight" because her brand of Christianity considers homosexuality a sin.
Mr. Blow clearly wants to include even men in pink suits in the "tent" he calls masculinity. A noble goal!
However, with the Baptist church, among others including the Roman Catholic church, considering homosexuality a sin, it will be a long time before such a noble goal is attained.
We have a masculine culture that quite literally opposes homosexuality, in both genders. We have mounting evidence of bullying in elementary and secondary schools on both sides of the 49th parallel targetting young boys and girls who are gay. Even when the Premier of Ontario, himself a Roman Catholic, creates committees of peer students to mediate such disputes in the Roman Catholic Separate Schools, we see board members demanding that those schools teach the Roman Catholic postion, of considering homosexuality a sin.
When both parents and board members hold fast to the church's position, how can we expect their children not to dramatically "act out" their parents' contempt of the gay community and lifestyle?
It is not only because acceptance of the gay community and lifestyle is "politically correct"...that the culture needs to change. It is also in a rejection of this antedeluvian, archaic and frontier "bigotry" that the culture needs to move, abandoning both the "conservative" religious position and the hate crimes that those religions help to generate, foster and sustain.
Interesting also is the relative relationship between men and women in those faith communities that hold the position that homosexuality is sin. The men in those communities are, incomparably superior to their female partners; the kind of God those churches worship is a Kingly God, postulating laws and punishments for deviation from those laws, while supposedly intervening with a penitential right at confession. the theology practiced in those faith communities can be characterized as hierarchical, with little tolerance for ambiguity, and even less tolerance for exploration, discussion, reading and learning as core "processes" in the spiritual journeys of their adherents. and what is missing from those conservative faith traditions is the principle of "questioning authority" as integral to the spiritual growth of the adherent. They (conservative churches of both Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions) teach an interpretation of scripture that carries with it the authority of "God" speaking in written form. Speculation, imagination and uncertainty are banned from the church's processes and teaching methods, even though their thought leaders have to acknowledge that much of the "holy word" was written by very fallible men, albeit inspired and guided by a force known as the Holy Spirit.
So long as the churches require an authoritarian King (as God) emphasizing a male-dominated ecclesiastical organization, with women serving in very subservient positions, espousing a theology of rules, laws and punishments (especially characteristic of the Old Testament) while almost virtually ignoring the scriptural teachings about forgiveness, agape love of neighbour as self and man's creation in the image of God...these teachings, counsellings and bigotry and contempt for both the gay community and lifestyle will not only continue but grow. And these churches that attract those needing that kind of religious experience will continue to fill their coffers and their pews.
Clearly, I will not be one offering my time, talents or gifts to their definition of God's treasury.
And I hope more will protest their positions, their intolerance and their definition of both God and theology.

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