Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 8, 2010
Men! Stop the show of being hyper-masculine
Prof says the ego must die before God can take over
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
Father Mark Slatter says some groups helping Catholic men explore male identity risk becoming parodies.
These groups promote a "hyper-masculinized version of what it means to be a man," the moral theologian, street minister and Saint Paul University professor told a recent Ottawa Theology on Tap.
Such hyper-masculinity can include speaking loudly, praying loudly, filling the room with one's presence and "taking the leadership reins," he said.
Slatter described this approach as bad psychology and bad theology. It twists the words of Jesus and can halt real transformation.
He also took aim at ways men allow themselves to be defined by women. If men think women want a man who cries, they will cry, he said.
Misandry - a hatred or contempt for men - in society at large is also attacking male identity, especially in the depictions of fathers on popular TV shows, he said. Such programs show them as "hapless, incompetent, clueless boys who haven't grown up with their toys."
Men need to find their identity as sons of God, but this requires the death of the "ego."
"My primary identity is as a child of God," he said. "My relationship with God the Father tells me who I am."
"He is the only one who gets me, who gets you."
But coming to understand that real identity involves facing the interior "civil war between the real me and the B.S. me," Slatter said.
REGURGITATION OF DOCTRINE
Without the dying of the ego, a man's relationship with God is almost impossible. God becomes a collection of projections or a regurgitation of memorized doctrine, and any relationship is with a God "painted in my image."
Men have a propensity to run away from this interior work, and suffer from a form of spiritual sloth. They "too easily become cut off and alienated from their selves."
"Many men live from the head up," the priest said. "If women are trying to recover their voice, our battle is to recover our hearts and live a life that is deeper than our ego."
Many men consider delving inside as silly or effeminate. They dismiss their inner world as "just crazy feelings" which they ignore through projects and causes. "We see in ourselves a polluted void."
"We can take even the best inspirational ideas such as the crisis of male identity and organize a conference around it or memorize them," Slatter said. "We put out of us and away from us what is supposed to be brought into us."
The civil war within gets projected outside and may fuel the battles between conservative and liberal Catholics in the Church. This leads men to think only they "have discovered what it means to be true Catholics."
"The group we are involved in is the one that is right," he said. "The conflict or civil war that should be going on inside is put outside."
One group sees itself as the true remnant of the Church, while the other group sees itself as the progressive cutting edge. "We need to pull the projections back, and engage others with charity."
Men must go to the quiet inner room spoken of by Jesus, Slatter said, to face the ego's need for control, approval, recognition and being the centre of attention,
"The death of the ego is not the death of the self," even though a man may discover that inside he is angry, lustful or afraid.
NO DIVINE FREAK-OUT
He may experience a sense of self-loathing, but "God has a different take. God is not freaked out when the ego dies."
Any spirituality that does not speak of the dying of the old me is usually ineffective, effeminate and touchy-feely, he said.
Before letting go of the ego, men adopt strategies to resuscitate the sense of self such as: getting attention, putting up a fašade, people pleasing, or chronic self-hatred and insecurity. Most men will not let go until they're "put in a corner and don't have a choice."
Slatter advocated living in such a way that kills the demands of the ego little by little.
That could happen by recognizing a tendency to seek attention and deciding to be anonymous, he said. Humility would mean not allowing yourself to either denigrate yourself or play up your version of self.
"The ego will have to experience little deaths or you will never grow.
"Do you want to be crucified? Go to places where it seems God is not and you will be crucified and your ego will be crucified."
Slatter ministers among street people in downtown Ottawa. He described how a drug addict described the need to put his ego "on the compost pile."
DESIRE TO DOMINATE
A man has to die to his egotism before he can make a claim to being the head of the household with any integrity, he said. Unless he has died to his ego, he has "no right to invoke Scripture," because it comes out of a "desire to dominate."
Priests have some additional problems to address in the wider society. "We don't have the trendy hallmarks of a man: no sex, no kids, no mortgage." Men need to carry responsibility and not be looked after, or be kept-men.
"You don't work, you're looked after, you live in a rectory, you don't wash dishes," he said of priests. "That makes the call to be ourselves and confident in our own skin doubly difficult."
"Today's sexual perversion is chastity and celibacy." In society's eyes, if you're not "getting it" there's something wrong with you.
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