|THE VITAL TRADITION OF MANHOOD
By Leon J. Podles
It is a straightforward fact that half of the human population is born male. Being a male and becoming a man, however, are two different things. To become a man, a boy has to undergo a process that is often stormy and perilous.
The primary caretakers of young children are almost always the mothers (in all cultures). A little girl can therefore model herself comfortably, right from the start, on her sexual elder. A boy, however, must at some point pull away from the security of his mother to seek out his male identity. He must confront challenges and dangers, and then learn to nurture in a masculine way by shedding sweat and blood to protect and provide for his mate and children.
Becoming a man requires the young boy to die to his old, mother-sheltered self and be born as a new person. He is forced to leave a warm place to find his natural role. Without a guide on this difficult path a man can easily lose his bearings, fall into the abyss, and even become an evil which threatens the community, rather than a front-line defender of the community.
Most boys learn what it is to be a man from their father. The most valuable thing a father can give his son far more valuable than an inheritance, or a career, or a network of business associates is a clear sense of the requirements of manhood. A father knows that becoming a good man requires transcending ones self, and he knows how difficult that is, and that even he has only partially succeeded. He knows that good men must be taught and trained up that way, and that the body of male tradition and ritual is a very important tool for achieving this.
Fatherhood itself is a tradition unlike motherhood, which is a fact of nature. A man must be educated into connecting himself to his children, and fathering them. He must have the traditions of previous fathers passed down to him. Staying through long years with the woman he has impregnated and the resulting child is a challenge to a man, who is urged by biology to seek younger women and work only to support himself.
Parents need institutional help in initiating boys into manhood. Pre-modern societies often have puberty rituals, and they are almost always for males. Boys are forcefully taken from their mothers and put through an ordeal which may even result in death, and which always breaks down their personality. They are whipped, tattooed, scarred, circumcised, buried alive. When the old boyish personality is dead, the adult men of the society instruct the boys in the sacred traditions of their society, the myths of origin, the meaning of sex, the necessity of being always ready to face challenges and to expend oneself for the life of others.
Societies that do not have puberty rituals make it even harder for boys, because the boys never know definitely when they have become men. The cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and of the Germans did not have rites; instead they had epics. Every Greek boy traditionally learned the Iliad and the Odyssey so that he could know what it was to be a man in his society.
The Jews, too, wanted their boys to grow up to be men, sons of the covenant. The books of the Old Testament were written, in large part, to show men what it was to be a man. The writers showed the dangers and pitfalls along the path to true manhood, the traps into which even Adam and Abraham and Moses had fallen. The writers showed Israel being guided by a Providence that was slowly forming the perfect man, a man who would learn to be a man by studying the traditions of his people, the books that his ancestors had written.
Institutions dedicated to making men out of boys are always full of tradition in its most concrete form ritual. The armies and athletic teams and fraternal orders of the world have uniforms, flags, toasts, songs, music handed down from one generation to the next, all as reminders that others have gone this way before and succeeded. It is no accident that members of the male-dominated armed services have below-average crime rates, while underclass boys, living in matriarchal families and experiencing the least male dominance, have the highest crime rates.
Boys who are growing into men need guidance. If a boy tries to become a man on his own, he will probably fail, and in any society where a significant number of men never grow up, there will be suffering. For unmanly men tend to two extremes: either soft and selfish, unwilling to support or defend others, or harsh and violent, accustomed to brutally taking whatever they want.
Alas, the traditions that build manhood are being lost in our society. Many grown males neglect them, and feminists assault them directly. There are attacks on masculine tradition in the American military, in education, and in family life. Men have already vanished from black families and are rapidly vanishing from white families. The churches, even those nominally run by male clergy, have long since been turned over to women. Most now provide little guidance on how to become a man. A lad of mushy personality will now be told to join the Marines to become a man, not pushed toward the seminary.
Wherever they do remain, masculine traditions are derided as irrational. Of course they are irrational. But manhood is not rational. It is not rational to die to protect others. Manhood is a cultural invention that is practical (indeed, vital) for society. But it is not built on individual reason.
Without the guidance of men and the traditions of manhood, boys pick up what clues they can from the media, or gangs of one type or another, and they often make a botch of their growing up. Violence is the only consistent message they see. But while willingness to risk violence against evil is part of manhood, without the full tradition of manhood and the moral guidance it contains, male aggression can convert boys into monsters that prey on society, the Grendels lurking in the dark, the predators who shoot women and children.
It is very, very easy for a boy unguided by the inheritance of the traditional male script to go wrong. Critics who attack "patriarchy" and the teaching rituals of masculinity are wrong if they think the result will be a gentler, more androgynous society. It will be gangsta rappers and beyond them, when the chaos becomes intolerable the dark shadows of nihilism and the black uniforms of the S.S.
Leon J. Podles, father of six, has his doctorate in English from the University of Virginia. He is an assistant scoutmaster and is completing a book, The Castration of Christianity: Why Men Think Religion is Effeminate.
One reviewer wrote the following article:
|When's the last time you went to church? The chances are that, because
this is a men's issues newsletter, it's been quite a while, if at all. If you did go, the
chances also are that you and the other men were in the minority.
ARMIES OF WOMEN
Fact is, most Christian churches in the West have high female majorities. It's been that way for a long time. That's the message in Leon Podles' The Church Impotent, The Feminization of Christianity. (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Co. 1999.) His first chapter, "Armies of Women," starts with this statement: "Despite the constant complaints of feminists about the patriarchal tendencies of Christianity, men are largely absent from the Christian churches of the modern Western world. Women go to church; men go to football games." He then declares, "Men say they believe in God about as often as women do, but they attend church much less frequently than women, and they engage in private religious activities far less often ... The clergy have long had the reputation of not being very masculine" which is another reason why men tend to stay away. To most men, religion is a gal thing.
It wasn't always that way. Podles tells how it once was and might be again, and in the telling he provides still another way of recovering the past, rescuing the truth about our pre-1970 lives from the feminist mythology that now obscures it. One of the myths has been that the big Christian churches, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, are bastions of patriarchy. The truth is that the RCC in particular has been increasingly feminized since the early middle ages, one reason for the Protestant Reformation.
The RCC has an all-male clergy, for which it is constantly damned, and still asks her (that's right, we speak of the RCC as a "she") faithful to pray to a God the Father and His Son, Jesus. But, as Podles points out, a large number of the male clergy rank low in the masculinity scale, and they have supported a strong feminist movement within the Church which has relentlessly pushed for an "inclusive" clergy and gender neutral language for the deity. They are thus further feminizing a Church that has suffered feminization for almost a millennium, and, if not stopped, will turn it into a goddess cult.
In his discussion of Judeo-Christianity's origins, Podles exposes another feminist myth: that "the patriarchy" began as a monster system to oppress women. It began instead, he reports, as a masculine ideology into which males were initiated, part of a process found in nearly every society. Men are born male but become masculine only by separating themselves from (the) feminine in which they have been immersed during their early lives and then immersing themselves in masculine communities. There is a temporary period of misogyny during which the male tries to distance himself from whatever looks or sounds feminine, in particular the primarily female drive toward intimacy and communion.
Masculinity separates. Femininity unites. And for a while, the male must separate from the feminine in order to achieve an identity which will enable him to re-unite with the feminine, not as oppressor but as lover, protector, and provider. Masculinity is an ideology of sacrifice and service: duty ... honor ... country.
As Podles puts it, a man "must give up being mothered before he can become a father. He must reject the feminine in himself, cultivating a distance from the world of women, so that he can one day return to it, not as a recipient but as a giver. To be masculine, a man must be willing to fight and inflict pain, but also to suffer and endure pain. He seeks out dangers and tests of his courage and wears the scars of his adventures proudly. He does this not for his own sake, but for the community's, to protect it from its enemies, both human and (otherwise). Masculine self-affirmation is, paradoxically, a kind of self-abnegation. A man must always be ready to give up his life [and accept the knowledge of his expendability.] A woman faces danger in childbirth, a risk that she cannot (in pre-contraceptive societies) escape. A man has to accept danger freely and willingly, or else he is not masculine. Men nurture their society by shedding their blood, their sweat, and their semen, by bringing home food for both child and mother, and by dying if necessary in faraway places to provide a safe haven for their people." Masculinity is not a natural endowment. It is a difficult achievement.
It is these same dynamics which makes God masculine. As feminists perpetually deplore, the God of Judeo-Christianity is masculine, a He who has a Son. He is not male. God is spirit, neither male nor female ... but, Podles emphasizes, He is necessarily masculine, for two reasons. "He transcends creation: it is not part of him, nor did it come out of him he spoke, and it was. God is therefore, utterly separate from creation, that is, he is holy. To be holy is to be separated, set apart from common or profane use ... Though God transcends his creation, he loves it, and is involved in it. A transcendent God is a masculine God, a feminine or bisexual God is an immanent God, one who is part of creation or the creation is part of him-her.
Such a concept of the deity is more than a matter of religious preference, as good as any other. It is for example the precondition for science. Some today are in the habit of seeing religion and science as antagonistic, but the monotheistic masculine God of Judeo-Christianity is actually the precondition from which science can emerge. It is because of its fundamental separations: creator from creation, observer from object, law giver from laws. There is, in the concept of such a deity, the presumption of a single source of order and unity in the cosmos.
It is also the precondition for patriarchy, a system that disciplines men for fatherhood, which is a man's way of imitating God. "Patriarchy," Podles writes, "is not simply an affirmation of masculinity; it is not 'a synonym for male dominance or for a system in which male traits are valued over female ones.' Still less is it simply a synonym for exploitation and domination, though that is the current feminist usage. Patriarchy is a system in which fathers care for their families and find their emotional centers in their offspring. In ancient Israel, the image of father was not primarily one of authority and power, but one of adoptive love, covenant bonding, tenderness, and compassion. Patriarchy, we can easily forget, was and is a great achievement in the face of the male tendency to promiscuity and alienation from children and the women who bear them. It is ... one of the greatest achievements of any religion."
Patriarchy has its risks and inner tensions among which is the female disinclination toward separation and objectivity and rationality. In its first thousand years Christianity, like the Judaism out of which it emerged, was strongly masculine and, by the middle ages it was becoming, with its scholastic theology, hyper-rational, at least as the female faithful saw it. There then began those developments which set Christianity toward the widespread feminization that threatens it today. One was a subtle shift in the mystical belief in brideship. The Church was understood as the bride of Christ, that is the entire Church as a community. But in the early middle ages the belief was altered to mean that each individual was Christ's bride ... passive, obedient, receptive ... and that was a role which men in increasing numbers felt uncomfortable with. In addition there was something of a feminist movement at the time, the "Frauenbewegung" which brought more women into religious orders. And more women meant increasing trends toward mysticism, which emphasizes the emotional bonding with God.
Such developments led to near heretical beliefs which deeply concerned the Church fathers and, in the long run, contributed to the female moral vanity which has blossomed in feminist ideology. One was Quietism, which declared that "man's highest perfection consists in a sort of psychical self-annihilation and a subsequent absorption of the soul in the Divine Essence. From this comes Illuminism, the doctrine that the perfected soul, since it is God, or so closely united with him as to be indistinguishable from him, cannot sin.
It is easy to see in this belief the origin of the feminist belief that a woman can do no wrong. You see it most prominently displayed in the concept of "choice" as it applies to aborting a child or setting up a fatherless family. Such choices are morally right not because they correspond to a universal law but because they correspond to a woman's personal assessment of her needs. It is "right for her" and therefore it is right. (My emphasis. RFD)
This self-referencing morality and gender egotism which feminism has been preaching to a widespread female congregation, was already manifest in 19th Century America, helped along by a largely feminized clergy. "By the nineteenth century," writes Podles, "the home, mother, and God were joined in a Victorian Trinity, and Heaven was the restoration of the family circle beyond the grave: Women, confined to the home, already lived half in heaven ..." Throughout that century ministers and women worked together against men, especially young men; 'It was often as a covert crusade to salvage not the alcoholic but the woman at his mercy. The drunkard, usually a male, destroys by his debaucheries himself and his saintly wife, mother, daughter, or sister who loves him and would draw him from the saloon to the fireside; Women took over the leadership of family prayers; men were obviously unsuitable."
One wonders if all this stomach turning sentimentality and woman worship was what was driving men to drink in the first place.
Podles describes the masculinity at the heart of Judeo-Christian patriarchy as a "natural ideology." That is, it is natural for men to seek masculinity. Boys want to separate from the feminine and become men, and they will enter societies that helps them with that effort. But not all masculine societies will turn boys into men and men into fathers who will return to women as lovers and protectors. Masculinity has a propensity toward fascism as happened in that hyper-masculine cult that Hitler organized. It is also happening in street gangs, where boys go to find a masculinity denied them in our increasingly male-hostile society.
All of this suggests still another variation of Churchill's dictum: that Judeo-Christian patriarchy is the worst of all the masculine societies , except for all the others.
Which is also another reason to worry about feminism and feminization, because, for the last thirty years feminists have busily trashed Judeo-Christian masculinity. It is for them the Satan System which oppresses women. They believe that on its ruins they can build a non-masculine society that will produce males who are nicer to women.
They're in for a colossal disappointment, which many of them are already experiencing. Because if they didn't like the kind of men traditional society was producing in the twentieth century, they are going to like even less the kind of men a feminized society will produce in the twenty-first century.
In the book Defending the Family: A Sourcebook edited by Paul C. Vitz and Stephen M. Krason Leon is an "anthology critiquing contemporary anti-family trends and provideing a scholarly defense of the family. One article is by Leon Podles titled "The Destiny of Men: Patriarchy or Crime." We haven't read this article but the title makes it clear that where there is no patriarchy and especially where there is matriarchy like in the slums there is more crime than there is where there is strong male leadership.