Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reclaiming Our Manhood as a Society

This is a journal thing I wrote a year or two ago, but goes along well with the last post I just wrote. Again I'd love your thoughts. This one is written more from an exclusively Christian perspective and my views have changed a bit since I wrote this but I still generally agree with the spirit of it. Let me know what you think.


I’ve realized over the past while that as a society we are facing a crisis that not many are aware of. We are losing masculinity and femininity. Why is it important that there are recognized distinctions between the genders? We are made male and female separately we are not the same and need to be real to who we are as God’s creation. It is only in the unity of male and female that we see the full characteristics of God who created both genders separate but in his image. It is important for healthy sexuality for men to grow up knowing they are men and that women are other and for women to grow up knowing they are women and that men are other. These are vital to our sexualities and our desires for one another in true love.

The crisis arises in that as a culture we have lost all idea of what is male and what is female. We have decided to define male as what is not female and female as what is not male. The problem with this is that perhaps because of the feminist movement in western society (a generally positive movement, I believe) pretty much everything is now accepted as female. Thus because of our definition of male as what is not female there is an ambiguity as to what this means. What we are left with is a view of male as an extreme form which few women have taken on as feminine. It is an extremely superficial, greedy, brutish, slob, thick headed view of the person. This is what is becoming accepted as what it means to be a man. The sad part is that for the most part of society we have accepted this view. This is not the idea that God had in store for us. Men do more than fight, love more than sports and want more than sex. Many of these things are healthy desires in men, and I don’t in anyway want to say that these things aren’t great and unmanly; they’re really needed in our society and are definitely something that applies to mainly men. The problem is that these are the only things that are seen as manly. If a man does pretty much anything else it is seen as feminine. This is not so we have let the feminist ideology trample over us, actually we have surrendered with open arms to their claim on many practices.

One example of this is dancing. Back in biblical times dancing was not seen as a feminine activity. David, one of the most manly characters of the old testament lead the entire nation in dancing. Do you think at the time anyone was laughing at him and calling him a woman? No, of course not, he was the mightiest warrior in the nation. But he danced with all his might before the lord. Am I saying that dancing should then be a male activity, no, not anymore than playing the guitar should be a gender issue. David probably was not doing the same motions and moves as the women were. His dancing was distinctly male. The issue in our society is not that feminine dancing has been labelled feminine but that the entire category of dancing has been labelled only feminine. In our society what is the choice for men to dance. Either they must learn to dance as women and in doing the things that women do, lose a sense of their God given masculinity or they must refrain from dancing. There is very little room for male dancing. Male dancers are often mistaken for homosexuals as homosexuals have found the freedom of dance but in a style that is still very influenced by femininity but since having a homosexual identity this is expected and encouraged by society.

This should not be, men need to recognize the areas of society that their involvement has become limited in since it has been given the name feminine.

I also am not trying to condemn the woman’s lib movement. Masculinity and femininity are always spectra. There is a wide range of people and characteristics in each gender and many of these characteristics overlap as we are also singly the image of the divine. I think it is important not to limit a gender as a whole in what they do. God gifts people differently from different genders. Should we not let a man who is extremely gifted with bringing up children in the lord teach Sunday school? Should we not let a woman who has been gifted with the gift of prophecy speak in front of the church a word from the lord that he wants us all to hear? My mind always runs to Deborah who was a gifted leader in the book of Judges, she was recognized because of her gifts, she was not condemned for leading nor did anyone believe she led because there was an absence of male leadership. She led because she was uniquely gifted by God in that circumstance for leadership of a nation. And she followed God’s call on her life. During the entire time though she was seen as a woman, the woman of God that she was. So why should we be so quick and thoughtless about categorizing certain things as man things and certain things as women things? Shouldn’t we let people be who God has made them and not so limited by human categories?

Friday, December 30, 2005

A long coming rant on society's masculinity....Please read this.

Well, I've been wanting to write this rant for a long time, and have already written about it a lot in papers, forum wall postings (for those Wheaton people who know what that is), and in journals that will probably remain forever unread on my computer. But I was recently reminded of it again. What am I ranting about? Well I think our western English speaking culture (I can't really speak for other cultures) is experiencing an outright offensive on masculinity and manhood (and on femininity and womanhood for that matter), and I hate the effect it's having on us.

I was reminded about it the other day when I was sitting with two women and they were saying how the boyfriend of one of them is such a "woman." I asked what made him a woman? They said, "well first, he eats chocolate." So chocolate now is another thing that makes a man less manly. It wasn't necessarily this comment that I get worked up about, but more the general culture that's behind it. Somehow over the past 100 years our society has been increasingly narrowing down the definition of what masculinity can be. It seems that the image of masculinity that our society allows now as truly masculine only really includes a reckless, aggressive, maybe violent, physically intimidating, character, such as a rugby international, or a soldier. It almost seems that anything less than this warrants a questioning of maleness or even sexuality.

I think at all times in all places there have been societal conceptions of things that are masculine and things that are feminine but I believe it is at our time that these conceptions have become surprisingly narrow and to think of the tolerant and accepting society values that we seem to be trying for, it looks as if we are going the opposite direction that we supposedly intend to be going. Michel Foucault who wrote about many things, one of them being sexuality, wrote that society may seem like it's becoming more accepting of various sexual behaviours and tendencies but infact it is becoming more controlling of them. I'd agree with this. Instead of our society becoming more open in terms of gender and sexuality we are becoming more closed by having to place people in simple categories, that they don't naturally fit into.

Let's take an easy and obvious example of this, homosexuals. Back in the 80's the media would portray homosexuals in a sort of Village people look, dressing in leather and dog collars (sort of the image in Police Academy 4- just on T.V. yesterday) we tolerated the presence of homosexuals back then as long as they stayed to our societies rules, they had to stay in their dark underground bars, wear this special uniform and only come out at night. Nowadays things have changed, but only ever so slightly. Now we put certain constraints on homosexuals which if they stay within, we will tolerate them, but if they deviate, our acceptance will ware extremely thin. These today are things like language, the words they use and the way they speak (a generally higher voice), interests (they should be interested in things like fashion and pop-culture rather than football and car engines). The fact is if we see homosexual men that don't fit these cultural expectations, we get a little uneasy. Just think of how many sports professionals that you can think of who are openly homosexual? Let's look at rappers, how many of them are openly gay? Now let's look at the other side of the spectrum, when we see men Flight Attendants or nurses what is the first expectation about their sexuality? When we see male interior designers or fashion commentators, isn't it the same assumption? We have culturally approved roles and categories that if people venture out of them it challenges our comfortable social construction.

Okay, so now you're probably thinking, "what does this talk of society and homosexuality have to do with an offensive on masculinity?" I'll get to that shortly. As a society we've given away too much from masculinity. We've made masculinity about certain activities, physical attributes, personality, and forgot that basically masculinity really depends only on one thing, maleness. If your a man and like art, your no less of a man for it. If you're a man and find that you're pretty good at the old American Football, that doesn't make you any more of a man. You're automatically masculine because you're male. The same goes with women, if you're a woman, and love fixing cars, that makes you no less of a woman, and if your a woman who is obsessed with makeup that by no means makes you more feminine. You're feminine because you're a woman, that's it. Why do we limit ourselves so much, and really miss out on so much of what it is to be human.

So where's the connection with homosexuality? I was watching an interview on Conan O'Brien the other night with one of those television interior designers who is homosexual. He had just written a children's book about a child who is homosexual. He said that even though he had written the book about homosexuality, it was a book for all people who were different. What he left out though, is that is was a book that required it's protagonist to be different in a very particular way. Some people believe that you can know if you are homosexual even when they're children (even before they've reached a sexually aware age). Many times people say they've always felt different, that they weren't interested in the same things as "normal" young boys are interested in. I've heard this a thousand times on T.V. and from friends of mine. The fact is though, that there is no absolute standard of "normal male" that they feel different from, but only from what the particular society in that particular time portrayed as normal. If a male child wants to play with a baby doll rather than a toy tank, why should we question that child's masculinity? Are we not just forcing that child into our preconceived classifications that have no real basis?

I've just arrived back from Cambodia, where men are very touchy with one another, and no question of masculinity is ever raised. You're friend will grasp you on the inner thigh if he is sitting beside you, just like an affirmation of friendship, something that in our closed culture, only really has one meaning. It's a society where you're best male friend might sit there and play with your hair, it's a tender behaviour and doesn't fit anywhere into our categories.

I was reading a book by John Eldridge one time called "Wild at Heart" talking about A man's Christian walk, I seriously threw the book across the room because I was so sickened by it's scarily narrow view of masculinity. It stated somewhere in the first few pages that little boys love to run around outside and get dirty, and that you'd never see a little boy care about having a clean room or being neat and tidy. It wasn't so much that I was personally offended by what Eldridge was saying (if you know me, you'll know I never really was all that neat and tidy) but I do know kids currently who are like that, and people who have told me they used to be like that. What Eldridge is doing (I'm sure unintentionally) is alienating boys and men who don't fit his mold of masculinity. These classifications are meaningless and usually just harmful. In alienating young men from believing that they're masculine they are turned to huge insecurities and other relational problems.

I've only scratched the iceberg on my feelings toward this issue. I'd really welcome your comments. If you think you agree but don't know how you could help change this huge societal trend, just pause and think the next time you say something like "men always" or "that's a woman thing". Once we realize how socially molded we are we can start remolding society.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Happy Christmas Everyone! First I'd just like to say, that please go to my brothers Blog and read his Christmas post entitled "The World Right Side Up". He writes a lot of the things I'd like to write but don't always have words to express.

So a quick vote, which is more festive? The picture of 4 generations of Kingsleys gathered together around the Christmas tree or Eoin with both fingers in my nose? It's a tough decision but I know which one I choose...

Today was a great day. Our church meets in a local school and every year we need to find a different place to meet for the Christmas day gathering because we can't really expect the school's caretaker to come in on Christmas. This year two different families opened up their homes and we had a great time coming together. I was blessedthat many of the people who came to the house that we went to were people that I've grown up around in Church. I really felt like I was with family as we sang carols and shared Christmas memories, prayer requests and the importance of in incarnation in our lives. It was so nice to be informal and unstructured, they had a piano there and I decided to play along to the carols with my dad, we didn't have most of the chords, but we figured it out. It was a lot of fun.

Then we got home and Matt, Hailey and Eoin came over around 1:00 and we opened gifts together. Christmas comes alive again when there's a kid around, even though we're more excited about the toys we're giving him than he is. We had just opened our last present when the Taylors, arrived and shortly after the Covells. The Taylors and Covells are good family friends of ours, and have spent several Christmases with us. In all we had 16 people over for dinner. We had a good time and we were all thoroughly full by the end of it. My mom's cooked ham (which takes about 24 hours to cook) was the best as always and we'll be eating that for the next week till mom has planned to cook another one for New Years...

Most amazingly though, is that my sister-in-law Hailey, did great for most of the day. She even felt well enough to try some Christmas dinner. Thanks for you all you've been praying for her, it means a lot.

Well, that's it for now, I'm up late watching stupid random programmes on the telly and I'm the last one up so I should get to bed. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas is the one time of the year we experience real life...

Growing up, it seemed that Christmas was the one day of the year that my dad didn't work. I mean he definitley did work, but not the type of work that he really doesn't like, such as writing reports, required correspondence, and the like. He still usually had to organize carols and the Christmas day service for our church (which many times was held at our house- imaging having 70 people cramming into your home just after opening gifts Christmas morning). But during that day, the work that we did (like cooking, cleaning the house, and all that fun stuff) was for the purpose of being with each other. The day is focused on community and just being with each other. My family sadly reflects the wider pop-culture everyday, and eating altogether around a table is only an occasional occurence, we usually eat on our own schedules and almost always infront of one of our televisions. It's strange though, even though we're reluctant to spend time together throughout the year (we're too busy), on one of the busiest day of the years, that seems to be all we want to do. Human's were designed by God to be communal. We need to live in close relationship with one another for full lives, psychology confirms that. But most of the year we live under the same house and miss it. This is one of the days of the year that reminds us who we really are.

There's been two people these past few weeks who have really given me a lot to think about...

My Grandad.

Grandpa Kingsley had his 83rd birthday the day after he arrived about tw weeks ago. It's one of those strange things for everyone in the family including himself to see him getting older. He's still the wonderful guy that he's always been but as we get older we just don't move as quickly as we used to do, and recent health problems haven't helped things either. My introduction to philosophy professor, who in his 20s suffered an accident that left him with serious physical disabilities once exhorted us to work on our strength of character as it will be something that remains. He said he decided to give up swearing when he was first in hospital when he was our age. He was in a room with an elderly man who was getting to the end of his life. This man was too weak to give out the nice clean, friendly, public face that we all put on when we are conscious that there are other human beings around, and what was left of this man was a complaining, annoyed, bitter and who's every second word began with an F. Our professor had been told that this was a generally nice and genial man, but when weakness and ill health got to him, this is what came out. In turn our professor promised himself that day that he would stop the habit of swearing so that even when he was not in volantary control of his body vulgarity (as he described it) wouldn't be what people associated him with. I keep remembering this story as I see my grandfather age graciously. I have been struck by my grandad's generous and servant heart. At every stop of the day he is there eager to serve, even though with his diminished strength, there are fewer ways that he can help out. Whenever the car stops, he is the last one in the house, after waiting to see if anything needs to be brought in. We were at the carol service of the College my dad teaches at the other day, and my grandad was helping with cleanup by holding the power chord for the man that was hoovering the main floor. At every meal he is offering his food to others, even when he has a great appetite himself. His generosity and selfless behaviour has become second nature to him. Even at this moment everyone has left the kitchen and he is doing the washing up (I think his third time doing it today). I'm sure that even many years from now, when my grandfather is coming to his final time here with us on this earth, his servant heart will still be completely evident and something that I need to learn from.

My brother.

My brother has shown me a real life Christmas. My sister-in-law Hailey has been incredibly ill and in constant pain. The worst part is that she can't keep any food or water down, and so every few days she is needing to go into hospital because she is becoming inceredibly malnourished. On top of that, the day after Christmas my brother is in charge of leading a group of 12 youth from all around europe on a 5 day trip to Ireland, and he needs to finish the last bits of organization that keep coming up. My brother has been amazing though. He's got a son to look after still, and even though he is getting loads of help from my parents and his Christian community, he's still got a ton to handle, not to mention the thought of your wife being in hospital over this Christmas time. You've got to laugh at the image of Hailey on her hospital bed in pain on the day before Christmas, in a room with 4 other women (all at different stages of pregnancy) while they're trying to get some sort of festive feeling in the clinical sterility of it all by blasting Christmas carols, when the hospital decides this would be a great time to start testing the fire alarm system. All matt and hailey could do was cry at the absurdity of it all. This is Christmas reality. Why is it that sometimes when things hurt the most and we're feeling the most intense emotions (whether high or low) is when we feel the most alive? And why do we feel that way so infrequently?

Happy Christmas Everyone!! God bless!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Defending the doctrine while betraying science.

I just finished watching a news section that was on the Evening news from Channel 4 (based in the U.K.). It was discussing a new decision in the American courts that "Intelligent Design" was not science and therefore could not be allowed in the classroom. I am little informed about the whole politically, culturally and religiously charged debate happening in the U.S. and I'm not sure the exact changes to the curriculum that were being proposed by the Dover School board, but I have been extremely surprised by the way that the issue has been reported.

I guess I should first say where I'm coming from, I'm not entirely sure, and I wouldn't stake my life on it, but it seems to me that macro-evolution is the best theory that we have at the moment to explain the formation of the universe and life on Earth. It's not a perfect theory, but it's the best we have at the moment. I'm surprised though that people feel they are defending science by silencing any voices that would question darwinianism. It seems to me that through out western history it has been only through the testing and questioning of theories that we have been able to make progress in our understanding. It really seems that the tables have turned, it used to be that the authorities had it in for scientists like Galileo and Darwin and tried to silence their views, not because of scientific reasons but because it shook their world view, now it seems the same is happening at people who would raise issues with current evolutionary theory. It is not in the spirit of science to try and silence dissenting voices. Instead, scientists need to take any proposition and deal with it on a scientific basis, not through a heated argument including calling of names. Let us not be so attached to our scientific theories that we aren't free to question them, if we hadn't questioned our previously held theories we would still believe that light was simply made of particles and that the atom looked like a plum pudding.

When people point to weaknesses in evolutionary theory (e.g. what intelligent design proponents call irreducible complexity) we should not take that as an attack that needs a reactionary and political response, we should instead take the challenge so that we can relook at the theory and improve it if necessary. The way many have been approaching this issue in the name of science, by trying to silence opposing views, seems scarily similar to the Christian Church of pre-Reformation Europe.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Latest.

Hey Everyone! Thanks those of you who made it to my Cambodia night last night, and sitting through what I was talking about. It's difficult to know how to summarise a 6-month life changing experience in a way that others can understand and be interested in, but you were all very gracious to me and thanks for the support.

First of all I'd like to ask all of you to pray for my sister-in-law Hailey right now. A few weeks ago Hailey and Matt found out that Hailey is pregnant. Hailey's last pregnancy was really difficult where she was sick almost straight through it. Well this one so far has been much worse. She has basically been bedridden for the past two weeks and can't keep food or water down. She's been taken into hospital twice now for severe dehydration and the doctors are saying the entire pregnancy could be this way. She's in hospital right now. Not great right before Christmas, and especially as this is her first year in Ireland since about 6 years ago, so I'm sure she's missing things being familiar. My brother has been writing updates about her condition on his blog.

My grandparents arrived here from California today, it's great that they're able to come for Christmas this year, although the trip is getting more difficult as they are getting on in years.

It's getting more and more difficult to get the motivation to keep working on my research for Wheaton, but I know I need to keep going and not get distracted. So let's just say if you suddenly see an overwhelming surge of blog posts over the next few days, it might not necessarily mean I'm having a spell of inspiration.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Well, I'd like to invite anyone and everyone who can make it to my house for a night where I'll talk about my time in Cambodia. I'll put together some pictures and (never before seen!!) video shots of my life there and people that I began to love. It will be on Saturday night the 10th of December at my house at 8:00, I'll probably start talking at 8:30.

I'm going to try, but no promises, at having some Cambodia things to nibble on, at least just to taste, and I promise no Spider unless I get really desperate. I may have to change that though, because there's not much in the whole "snacking" area in Cambodian cuisine.

Transitioning with out forgetting...

Well, I'm now well and truly back. Today marks the 2 week marker of me being back at home. I have an unbelievable amount of work to finish before the new year, (my research to finish and a huge paper for the HNGR programme to turn in). And instead of doing that right now, I decided it would be a good time to reflect on my first two weeks here.

I really believed that coming back would be much more difficult than it has been. I suppose part of it is that I'm a person who's used to transition and jumping between countries and cultures, but I thought it would be different after such an experience in one of the most broken countries in the world. I thought the wealth and materialism would be more shocking and that I would be more cynical, but instead I am finding myself falling into the temptations of such comfort.

That's not to say it's been a completely smooth change from a Cambodian slum to my life in South Dublin. My first few days especially I did have quite a few experiences of how strange it was to be drinking water from a tap, or to have warm water and a shower. The sensation of being in an airtight room was unnerving (but welcome in the freezing weather) and the realization of living in an 11 room house with just 3 people from a 5 room house with 17 people has been almost scary in the silence and aloness of the place.

The temptation I'm finding with myself is to just try and not think about my time in Cambodia, to imagine it was a dream. This is because acknowledging the reality of both places co-existing at the same time is a bit too painful and difficult to allow. I know though, that I have a responsability NOT to forget. If I don't change my life, my habits, as a result of this experience, is there any hope for the rest of us who haven't gone and who haven't seen?

Part of the difficulty is that again I'm in transition (I only have a month left in this current place), I also have all this academic work to get done (or to avoid as the case may be) which is impinging on the free time that I could be using this time of year. I look forward to getting back to Wheaton where there is a community of people who will keep me accountable to living the life that I have chosen and where I have a certain amount of stability and place in my school, church and (hopefully, if they take me back) job.

If you believe life, and God's plan, is all about relationship, it's difficult to begin something new when you have such a short time in a place.