Tag Archives: Men

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Little Monsters

The ongoing outing of men acting badly (Les Moonves of CBS, new evidence against Weinstein, Cardinal McCarrick and his cronies, hundreds of American priests who abused in the second half of the 20th century) may tempt us more to disgust than self-examination. I refer here to my brothers who may not be big players in the Catholic hierarchy or media but who are familiar with sexual disintegration—ways we have squandered our powers of life and love.

The cycle is all-too-familiar: high stress, low significance, mounting pain, decreasing words, sensational pleasure, greater shame, riskier business, escalating shame, huge-consequences-if-caught, SILENCE. Until exposed. Then the glare of public scorn burns off hope of restoration.

We may never have coerced another person sexually but our sins of omission and commission have doubtlessly wounded others. And fractured our dignity. We thank God that we are not felons yet we share in the wound of corruption common to men, disordered desire which results from mistaking random sexual release with power. Then the delusion: ‘it’s what I need’, or ‘(s)he likes it.’

This is especially tragic when paired with religion. Many of the abusive priests were orthodox in their understanding of purity. They just failed to become what they believed. Mastered by lust and shame, they learned to compartmentalize, to live elsewhere, to tune out the lament of a dying conscience and conjure an unreal world. Then religion becomes part of the defense against reality. I dreamt last night of a priest who wrapped himself tightly in scholarly and spiritual vestments; instead of guiding or cleansing him, these garments protected then mummified him, hastening a shameful death. ‘If religion does not make you better, it can make you a whole lot worse’, to quote C.S. Lewis.

What good purpose can these monstrous sins have? They can reveal our little monsters, men, and invite us to do urgently and persistently what Weinstein and Moonves and McCarrick never did: we can expose ourselves before the throne of grace and receive grace to help us’ (Heb. 4:16) so that our little monsters stay small and cease to govern us. Rather, we tame them, and learn to direct our sexual energies in alignment with the dignity afforded us by God and His friends.

We must be the first to confess our sins, to reveal our monsters before we are silenced by shame and dwell in darkness. Presumption and pride fall away, and the narrow way which leads to life becomes lit for our brothers. That is precisely what we as men accomplish together in Living Waters. We live in the light of mercy for 6 months of daily accountability; connection rather than shameful isolation begin to define our lives.

In the shaking, the exposure of monstrous things, we can fall on the Rock before it falls on us.

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Living the Dream

‘When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel had commanded him and took his wife into his home.’ (Matt. 1:24)

Men live their dreams when their entire beings are aligned with God’s will. Those dreams, as St. Joseph reminds us, may well involve angelic encounters in the night, but more than that, it involves a daily ‘yes’ to manning up for the mundane needs of those God entrusted to us. Not-usually-mystical or sexy, living the dream is about the good of others. And it always involves forsaking vain dreams in order for our lives to be a blessing, not a waking nightmare, for persons we love most.

A man’s value hinges upon the value he demonstrates to those God entrusts to him. His dependents become independent, better able to master difficulties, when a man uses his power to empower wife and kids (or any dependents God entrusts to us.) Happy is the family whose head focused his strength to summon the good of his beloved ones. When he lives to provoke and protect the dignity of his family, a man lives the dream for which God created him.

Conversely, our corporate sadness is sourced in men who fail to keep their promises of love. Uncontestable and radical are the wounds perpetrated by the man who got away—the one who employed his strength to satisfy the sensual gods but wasn’t man enough to stay. Binding up the deep cuts of betrayal takes up much of our time in Living Waters. The hard truth is: our church world is full of adult children and ex-wives of men who abandoned their families.

Rather than live the dream, these men now pursue vain dreams that become more nightmarish as time advances. Sexier, younger partnerships reflect a ghastly image of the man who gave up everything for a glimpse of beauty that eludes his grasp. Adulterous partnerships are phantoms which please in order to torment. By their very nature they cannot grant true happiness. These days, lovers of either gender will do but we must be clear that this is the same old nightmare—the man exchanging beloved ones for new models while choosing to numb himself to the monstrous consequence of his actions. A sure sign of entrenched evil in our culture? When such choices are interpreted as ‘justice’ for the man, be it in the form of a more ‘understanding’ woman, a ‘gay’ mate, or the ‘freedom’ to pursue his transgender self.

For such a time as this, we need the witness of St. Joseph. God chose a just man to fulfill God’s dream for his life. In saying ‘yes’ to that dream daily in how he cared for Mary and Jesus, St. Joseph brought forth the Savior of the Universe.

We don’t know much about him from Scripture. He spoke only though righteous action. He quietly united himself with the Father’s will; he demonstrated his manhood by advocating for his family at its most vulnerable—Mary in her social shame, Jesus under the rage of Herod. St. Joseph is (for me) Scripture’s best witness of inspired masculinity. After all, the divine apple was sustained and strengthened by this most noble tree.

We too may have dreams that we believe God has put on our hearts. Like St. Joseph, we must wake up and act upon its fulfillment every day in order for it to come true. St. Joseph’s fidelity to God and loved ones made him great. May we follow his lead of guarding God’s best for his family. May we too live our dreams in fear and trembling, exchanging phantoms for the Father’s will and true happiness.

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