by Mario Gerada
your hearts to me, come close. Say in a loud voice your intentions and your
Messages of Our Lady in Medjugorje, July 20, 1984
History, shaped by Man’s desire and struggle for power, is a clear indication of the destruction and misery brought about by such domination. This kind of lust is rarely mentioned, a destructive lust crushing many human lives, and sometimes whole nations too. Often we hear the powerful people of this earth (be they religious or political), pronounce judgment or condemnation towards ‘others’, usually groups already marginalized by society itself. Often, such condemnations bring despair to those judged. Judgment always clouds the love and mercy of the Living God.
The Bishop of Memphis, Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D. in his letter ‘Church is home to all people of God’ says: ‘a brief look at history from slavery to the "march of tears" of our Native American sisters and brothers to the grape strikes in California reminds us that God's work is always hampered when human beings are afraid of differences in each other’. Later, he goes on to say: ‘The message of Jesus is clear: "Love one another as I have loved you." In my frequent meetings with gay and lesbian Catholics, I have often told them that God does not withhold love from any of us and I believe that wholeheartedly. God's love is unconditional and that is the gift God offers us in Christ Jesus: the gift of loving each other with that same Godly and unconditional love.’
Over these past few decades, society has witnessed a tremendous shift. Gay men and women are more visible in society, our rights recognized and protected by legislation. Recently, more countries are introducing civil laws recognizing marriage between gay couples too. Women’s rights for equality became the norm, at least from a legislative point of view. So many other rights and laws, protecting and bringing to the same level marginalized groups previously outcast, ignored or downtrodden without any second thoughts. Are these shifts throwing some straight white men in crisis? Is masculinity in crisis? Are some heterosexual white men in crisis, since Manhood is not automatically bringing the dominance and power within the social, political and religious realms anymore, as in the ‘good old days’? Often it appears that these melancholic voices are crying out, claiming how good it used to be! One can hear these voices in our country too! It is obvious that some want to cling and bring to life an old idea of masculinity expressed in a system of an old ‘macho-ness’, an old patriarchal structure to order, religion and society. It is sad to note that in promoting such old traditional religious or political beliefs there is a forgetfulness of the bloodstains that such beliefs carry. The bloodstains left after domination, control and power have been way too many.
Unfortunately, throughout history, men have misused their masculine power, in both the religious and political realms; many became arrogant in their powerful roles, abused and harmed individuals, groups and whole nations. Such abuse often brings about revolutions, as happened in many countries throughout history. Notwithstanding all this, do we want to do away with straight white men? Do we want to do away with masculinity and what I like to refer to as ‘macho-ness’? I do hope not!
Probably, most of you reading this article will think that this is another article against patriarchy! This is not the point I would like to make. At this stage, I would like to take a different route. May I dare propose: Let us embrace macho-ness and let us celebrate masculinity, masculine power, dominance, and patriarchy! However, please let us embrace masculinity and macho-ness that are not abusive, destructively domineering or overpowering.
If macho-ness is the result of man’s insecurity or need to prove one’s own masculinity then, please, no! We do not need more of that. I believe that today’s society needs a macho-ness that stems out of real masculine strength and power- a macho-ness that defends the weak, tends a hand to those in need, and shows its strength in confronting the powerful and not the weak.
I hope that today’s ‘masculine’ men live up to their masculinity in defending those who are in need of protection rather than oppressing them. I pray that ‘masculine’ men do not oppress or exploit the weak as a proof of their masculinity for their own sake and that of their friends.
As a Catholic person, my God and Lord is Jesus the Nazarene – A Man who fascinates me over and over again. At this point I ask myself: was Jesus Masculine? Did he express His masculine power and dominance? Got to this point, I would like use the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery as a clear example. This ‘little’ woman was dragged in front of Him for judgment (possibly naked), caught in the very act of adultery to be eventually stoned to death.
Now, can you take a glimpse of the ‘lustful macho-ness’ present in this scene, thousands of years ago? Can you see the masculine destructive power bonding men together in the very act of ‘justified’ murder? Now, if Jesus was some insecure man in need of proving His own masculinity to fellow men, He surely would have joined the mob, passed His judgment in an ostentatious tone and stoned the woman to death. The woman would be dead– who was she anyway? No one gave her much importance, and was probably regarded as insignificant and superfluous by her community anyway! Her death would have only served to bond the men in their macho-ness, displays of power and approval towards each other’s judgment.
A destructive macho-ness demands more and more murders, a masculinity craving incessant approval and proof. However, how did Jesus behave? Jesus, the real Man, the One who has real strength and masculine power steps out of this trap. He confronts all the men present. He steps out to protect the adulterous woman; he gives her importance, a person most probably abused throughout her whole life by this kind of machismo. He fearlessly confronts the weak-powerful men and protects this little woman. Now I believe, this is what real masculine power is all about, a power worth reflecting upon, to long for, desire and celebrate. This is masculine strength stemming out of love!
The world is so hungry for this strong love. How often do we find ourselves caught in the trap of ‘doing the right thing’ but in the wrong sprit! Maybe out of our own neediness for approval and acceptance and not out of the spirit of love! When this happens it all goes haywire!
Sometimes we might find ourselves impressed by people claiming to be religious and wanting to defend faith, nation and values… ooh very macho! What kind of macho-ness are we talking about here? In what spirit are these people preaching? Is it some personal crisis of masculinity that demands the oppression and abuse of marginalized groups as a proof? I feel that we should rather be talking about a strength stemming out of love: The love of God for all of His children, all equal in His eyes!
If the result of ‘religious’ talk is greater love towards others, especially towards those hated by society, then the preacher is someone who is worshipping the living-God. On the other hand, if religious beliefs are leading someone to propagate sentiments of hatred, lusting for power and instigating the desire for the oppression of others or their destruction, then something is indeed very wrong here. Are these words coming out of a spirit of a fake religiosity, an idolatrous worship? Maybe a worship of the idolized self, be it individual or national?
Macho-ness as a response to a weak masculinity, hiding behind religious beliefs; a space where only the strong can survive. A mentality that may nicely fit lizards but I hope humanity is capable of much more than that. May we discover a Christianity that listens more to the voice of our Lord, the Living God in the silence of our hearts. May we participate within a Roman Catholicism that celebrates the life-giving Jesus Christ and not promote a neurotic religiosity that propagates fear, judgment, condemnation and oppression!
Jesus to Sr. Faustina says: ‘I perform works of mercy in every soul. The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy. My mercy is confirmed in every work of My hands. He who trusts in My mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine, and his enemies will be shattered at the base of My footstool.’ I love reading and hearing these words of mercy, His words of mercy, His life-giving words! Where is the judgment here?
shepherd says: I pity the one who draws herself back from my love,
and does not seek the joy of my presence,
though my heart is an open wound with love for her.
- St. John of the Cross
© 2006 Mario Gerada
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