Ministry Points to Traditional Male Role
By Edward PentinVATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).-
As Western society continues to challenge men's traditional role in the world, so their mental and spiritual well-being is coming under threat, leading to a host of problems. So how should men respond?
Father Phillip Chavez, an American priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, has been concerned about this trend for some time, and is tackling it through the Amator Institute -- a popular ministry he founded, based in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. The Institute helps restore men's Christian identity, making them -- in words from its Web site -- "strong husbands, fathers, and leaders in society -- cultural champions of mature masculine character and courageous spirit." It may sound old fashioned to much of the secular world, yet his ministry has growing support among Christian men and women from all over the United States.
Last week, I caught up with Father Chavez in Rome after he'd been meeting officials at the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Part of the reason for the popularity of his ministry, he explained, is that men have "huge insecurities" in today's Western society, mainly because they are "influenced so much by an egalitarian model of femininity and masculinity." This means that although men may agree with the long-held understanding of a man's role as leader, protector and provider, "they don't think that way, nor do they operate that way," he said. But Father Chavez firmly believes that despite these challenges, every man can rediscover this role given to him by God once they reconfigure their minds to think in these terms. When they do, he said, they find answers in their lives. "Oftentimes, if I ask men what does the leader, protector and provider within you tell you to do in this case. They say: 'Oh, I get it Father, I understand, I think I know what I need to do,'" he explained. "It's really cool."
Father Chavez devised the "leader, protector, provider" model as it relates to the natural order, but is also grounded in the supernatural order -- that is, the supernatural summons to all Christians to share in the three-fold office of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King in building up the Kingdom of God. Since it began, his ministry is not just proving useful to men. Father Chavez said women are also responding positively, mainly because they intuitively want men to lead, but in the Christian sense of leadership, as one "who lays it down, who sacrifices." Everyone knows, he said, that "a true leader is one who sacrifices, who dies to himself" rather than someone who bossily pushes his weight around. But he also believes that women, too, are victims of contemporary society in the sense that they're being wrongly trained to be leaders, protectors and providers -- to be independent and self-sufficient. That brings them inner tension and conflict, he said.
Father Chavez explained that as well as men not being properly mentored by other men, this feminist trend is also causing men to lack courage. "Everything in society is working against the man, so when we talk about men needing to man-up, well, I say at the same time the woman needs to woman-up," he said. "They need to become more receptive to a man's role to lead, protect and provide." In recent months, Father Chavez has been focusing on fatherhood and what he calls "the journey of sonship." Like Christ, he said, young men need to hear from their fathers that "you are my beloved and in you is my delight" if they are to become fully rounded men, capable of raising a family, and fulfilling their purpose in life. With that final thought, and as Father's Day approaches, many Dads would perhaps do well to take note.
I read the totality of Fr. Chavez's blog, in which he's meandering through his thoughts on 'sonship' as the basis for mature masculinity. He makes some valid points about how debilitating a dysfunctional father/son relationship can be, but he needs to get beyond psychology 101. He needs to address the reasons this core relationship can get so out of whack, and it isn't necessarily Western notions of gender egalitarianism. Fathers, sons, and brothers have had messed up relationships for forever. See Cain and Abel.
Fr. Chavez doesn't get into any of this because he conveniently places the truth of the father/son relationship solely in terms of Jesus's relationship with God the Father. There is no mention of Jesus's adopted human father or his human mother and Jesus is not recorded as having any biological siblings. Fr. Chavez deals strictly in the perfect spiritual relationship between Jesus and God the Father. Last I checked, most men I know have biological parents and siblings who tend to get in the way of developing this perfect spiritual relationship.
I've watched a lot of families crash and burn because of the competition between fathers with their sons, and brothers with brothers, over the rights of family 'leadership'. Jesus didn't have those competition problems, but his Apostles sure did. See Peter and Peter's mother. Male competition as a source of stress and confusion can not be left out of the equation, no matter how convenient it maybe to ignore it and I think Fr. Chavez is ignoring male generated problems in favor of straw men arguments and Spiritual idealism. Men will not stop competing with other men just because women return to their 'traditional' place of being led, protected, and fed.
I suspect men do have some angst with the influx of women in the work place, but not necessarily because women are usurping the traditional male role. I suspect it's because men don't want to compete with women as well as other men. I don't blame them. It's too bad the economic reality is now such that both sexes have to compete against each other for the same job. That means both sexes have to take on the protecting and leading and providing and nurturing and healing and loving and disciplining roles with in the family.
Why is this a bad thing? Jesus was all of those things. Real Christians are supposed to be all of those things. It doesn't mean we all have to be perfect in all of them, but it does mean we have no right to deny someones gift in one of these areas because they happen to belong to the less traditional gender.
My daughter and I saw the new Star Trek movie yesterday. This movie more or less revolves around the leadership styles of Kirk vs Spock. For those who don't know the story, it goes back to the time the original characters met each other. Spock is already a Star Fleet officer and Kirk is still in the academy. Anyway, Spock represents leadership by emotionless logic, and Kirk represents leadership by intuition and unstoppable brainless courage. (Kirk gets beat up a lot)
By the end of the movie, they both realize they need each other because their styles of leadership are incomplete without the other. Kirk maybe Captain, but Spock's authority and leadership have not been diminished because he's no longer captain. They both understand true complementarity and their Enterprise family is safer and better for it.
I think there's a lesson there. Oh yea, Spock wins the girl competition.