New Book Offers Fresh Voice About Men’s SpiritualityUnder Construction: This book reframes men’s spirituality and explores new images that go beyond warriors and monks.
When it comes to male spirituality, men seem to have only two choices for models.
“They are told to be strong, take-charge and independent, like warriors, or silent and alone, like meditating monks,” says Gareth Brandt, author of the new Herald Press book Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality. “Being aggressive or passive seems to be the only options out there.”
For Brandt, who teaches spirituality at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, British Columbia, those images—made popular by some Christian men’s movements—are too limiting.
“When I started examining the subject, I thought there must be other images we could use to help us define what a Christian man looks like,” he says. “I was sure that not every man wants to go into battle, or withdraw from others.”
He decided to test his idea by inviting some male friends to participate in a discussion group exploring different images of male spirituality. “Within 24 hours, the group was full,” he says. “It showed me that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.”
Brandt sent each chapter out in advance to the group, which then met to talk about it. The result of those meetings is Under Construction, which uses the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis to explore other images of male spirituality.
“The discussion helped me refine the book, and made it a group project,” he says.
Brandt selected stories about Joseph for the book because “he was an ordinary man who experienced a lot in life—tragedy, shattered dreams, temptations and fulfillment in life and work,” he says. “Yet he was strong and gentle, showed a love for God, was able to forgive and be reconciled with those who had harmed him.”
The desire to be a peacebuilder, and to promote God’s shalom in the world, is a key element of male spirituality for Brandt.
“Male spirituality reaches its height when it shows compassion to all people, beginning with those close to us,” he says. “It’s about being part of building God’s commonwealth of love and justice, having the courage to face the wounds of our past and building a marriage, a family, and a career while empowering others to build with us.”
As for the topic itself, Brandt acknowledges that it can be tough to get men interested in reading about spirituality.
“That’s why I call this a ‘men’s book for those who don’t read men’s books,’” he says. “I didn’t read men’s books either until I began to research for this project, but I have become convinced that we need to talk about our unique spirituality as men. I just don’t think the resources out there up to this point tell every man’s story.”
Plus, he adds, “North American men are the most powerful group of people on the planet. It would be good for us to do some humble self-examination, and explore some healing and holistic metaphors of spirituality.”
Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality was made possible through the generous support of Mennonite Men, an organization of the Mennonite Church that promotes and develops resources for men. It is available from Mennonite Publishing Network at www.mpn.net/underconstruction or by calling 1-800-245-7892 (U.S.), 1-800-631-6535. Cost is $13.99 USD/$16.99 CAD.
John Longhurst directs marketing for Mennonite Publishing Network, the co-producer of Gather Round Christian education materials for children, youth and adults.
Originally published on the Mennonite Publishing Network website, January 2010.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2010 Christianity.ca.