The Men's Movement and Jesus Christ

As The Men of Goodwill (the men's division of Discover Identity) we boldly claim that our mission is to share and create Christ-like masculinity, but what is that exactly and where did we come up with this idea?

Over the last 35 years there has been a movement in this country and around the world challenging men to reconnect with the roots of their “sacred masculinity.” In secular and psycho-therapeutic circles it is known as the Mytho-poetic movement and was inspired by writers like John Bly (Iron John), Sam Keane (Fire in the Belly), and Robert Johnson (He; She; and We). In response to this call other men were inspired to create initiatory and fraternal experiences and organizations that brought these thoughts to life. The best known of these is the “New Warrior Training Adventure,” run by the Mankind Project.

Many have sought to explain this movement among men as a reaction to the impact of the feminist movement. Others suggest that it is a rebellion against a post-industrial era in which men have lost contact with the primal influences that make men, MEN. Whatever the reason, it is widely acknowledged that there is a crisis in our world today amongst men and boys, thus creating a demand for reconnection to male identity.

This movement has impacted men of faith as well, who saw their secular brothers “initiating” and asked, “What about me?” Many who read the books and attended the retreats were deeply moved by this “call to manhood” (this writer included) and set to work to adapt this “new” experience to their own faith traditions and communities.

The leading voice for this faith-based approach is undoubtedly John Eldridge (Wild at Heart) who in addition to writing the book, created a series of weekend retreats that invite men to get in touch with their “wild side” within the context, language and brotherhood of their Christian faith. There are many such programs in the Protestant (Marked Men for Christ; Dare to Soar; Edgeventure; New Adam; Deepwater Men) and Catholic (Kings Men) worlds, and even for a season in the Jewish world (Call of the Shofar). Through it all, there has never been, that I know of, a comparable book or retreat experience offered to LDS men in their own context, language, and brotherhood.

And so, we seek to create a movement among Latter-day Saint men that will inspire growth beyond the obstacles that inhibit them from being the men they and God want them to be.

We have learned from our experiences with other organizations what we will emulate and what we won’t. Unlike some of the organizations we have encountered we are not:

  1. Setting out to start a new community. Most of the men we hope to attract have a community already within their quorum, family, or community. Those that don’t can join or create their own male community. Our goal is to give men tools that will strengthen their existing communities and their ties to them.

  2. Borrowing language or rituals from other traditions. We have a shared LDS experience and language with a rich history from which we can establish a safe and growth-oriented experience.

  3. Seeking masculine role models from other cultures, whether primitive or popular. There is much good that we can learn from male role models, and we could even look within our own LDS history for examples of commendable masculinity, but we are choosing instead to look to Jesus Christ.

  4. Retrofitting Christ to be consistent with a stereotypical image of masculinity. One criticism of the Christian based men’s movement is articulated in an excellent article by Brandon O’Brien; “I’m not sure where a man like me fits when the only categories for masculinity are 'metrosexual' and 'Ultimate Fighting champion.' Like Jesus, I’ve worked as a carpenter, and I’ve sweated in a lumber mill.But I don’t gauge my masculinity by the girth of my neck, and I’d rather not sweat for a living. I’m happiest when I’m reading and writing. I like lattes.” (“A Jesus for Real Men – What the New Masculinity Movement Gets Right and Wrong”; Christianity Today, 04/18/2008)

So, we are determined not to make Christ what we want him to be, but rather we challenge ourselves and other men to answer the question for themselves, “What is Christ inviting me to be?”

In addition, our experience with these movements and our own research has taught us that we want to create a retreat that provides . . .

  • a safe place where men with a common LDS experience can learn ways to grow into the man they and God want them to be, based on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

  • a challenging place that will allow men to envision a future life based on that which is worth retaining from their lives thus far and by letting go of that which no longer serves them.

  • an inspiring place where men can create their own sacred, Christ-like masculinity and become men who are willing to go first by modeling that masculinity in their lives.

  • an inspiring place from which men will leave ready and eager to build a life and world that will bless themselves, their families and communities, as men with a Zion vision.

Are you such a man? If so, won’t you join us as men of good will and become as He is?