My thoughts on Kristin Du Mez’ “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.”

Kristin Du Mez’ Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation is a New York Times bestseller and has been the centre of an online debate from the moment it first came out. Du Mez is a professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. I had a chance to read it a couple of weeks ago after borrowing the ebook version from the Saskatoon Public Library.

The publisher’s product description says, “Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, revealing how evangelicals have worked to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism―or in the words of one modern chaplain, with ‘a spiritual badass.’”

I like reading books because of where they take me and how they get my mind to go down trails that may or may not have been the intent of the author. This book is no different. What follows is not so much a critique as it is a train of thought brought about by the book.

I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it. As is obvious from some of my previous posts, masculinities are an important part of my life and ministry. Du Mez presents a view of evangelical masculinity that is frankly disturbing. Rather than evangelicals having a carefully thought out theological argument for being men, what we discover is a political argument for being men that is then adopted by the evangelical church. Each paragraph is footnoted with sources so readers can double check what is said.

At this point I need to point out that while I was reading I did find it a bit like watching the neighbours through their living room window. I was born and raised in Canada and have spent almost half my life in Southeast Asia so the American context is largely someone else’s context. Any understanding of a necessary close connection between evangelical masculinity and politics escapes me. I really can’t for the life of me understand why my evangelical masculinity needs to be so closely connected with politics and political systems.

I will say this with regards to politics: I do believe that all people need to be involved in nationbuilding, Christians in particular. We need to tell people that Jesus is the best possible leader. We need to tell people that Jesus’ Kingdom has an unparalleled set of values. We also need to work at serving them. Finally we need to spend time together discovering the truth.

But beyond that, it is not a part of my framework to connect that with some kind of political system (which I think the Bible refers to as a wild animal rather than a lamb who was slain). So that’s the part that I don’t get. I guess it makes it even harder for me to believe it when I find out that some of the American presidential candidates most hated by evangelicals were in fact evangelicals themselves (and their most loved rivals were anything but). I just don’t get it but that may be because I am not from there.

I do know the names of the key players in the story because they are also of influence in the parts of the world with which I am more familiar. I have attended Promise Keeper’s rallies and seminars. I have been encouraged by Eldredge’s books. I have shown Dobson videos to my youth group. My best friend’s father was heavily into Gothard when I was a kid. So these are familiar names. I must say that it was disturbing to me to see how carefully the crafted a version of masculinity that was so politically motivated. It made be question the things that I had learned from them and wonder what shortcomings my own perspectives have.

I will tell you one thing: As I have written elsewhere (here, here, & here), I don’t hold to universal gender roles, much less God-appointed gender roles. Rarely do we find someone who lives out their theoretical framework (read “theology” in this context) perfectly in life. And rarely do we find a framework that exactly explains everything in the world. As Rorty says, “A + B = C, unless it doesn’t.” The same applies to gender roles. My wife handles our finances because she is better gifted at it — we would be quickly bankrupt if I were to take the reins. My wife is a better missionary than be because she seems to have the abilities to make connections and carry out plans while I struggle along. Both of us are involved in public ministry as our callings and giftings determine. We both cook at home because we both enjoy it. I suspect it’s the same with you.

My wife and I enjoy watching cooking shows — particularly contest shows. What surprises me is the predominance of men in professional cooking and the fact that the women who participate say that it’s a hard industry for them to enter. Wait a minute. I thought that cooking was supposed to be the realm of women? (I see a lot of references to sandwiches on Twitter). What happened? What happened was that the framework that we have been presented with is flawed. Patriarchy still rears its ugly head even in realms where we think that it doesn’t.

Du Mez emphasises one strain of masculinity in her book. At first I saw that as a limitation but then realised that Du Mez does periodically refer to other sides to the story but these are only in passing and in the context of having been rejected by the subjects of her book. She is in fact tracing a hegemonic form of masculinity through the evangelical church. If you don’t remember, hegemonic masculinity is a term developed by Connell to identify the form of masculinity that is the norm in the cultural psyche, even if this norm is not actually the normal masculinity when it comes to practice (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). It does leave me with the question of whether there is there a range of masculinities among American evangelical men? Du Mez may have highlighted the hegemonic form but what about the other, perhaps more practiced, forms that exist? How can we champion those? Is it possible to affect change in the cultural psyche so that more harmful forms of masculinity become marginalised?

I also was surprised to see the inclusion of fundamentalists in the realm of evangelicals, since the fundamentalists that I know try to distinguish themselves from evangelicals. But that is really neither here nor there since the underlying theme tracing is hegemonic masculinity.

The book caused me to reflect on what I truly believe masculinities to be. It got me to examine my assumptions on a deeper level. What is masculinity for me? How does it differ from femininity? Is it even important to make a distinction? Am I, as a man, somehow specially prepared/gifted/enabled/called to something that perhaps a women isn’t? Or are those things determined by personality? How can I best use my manhood (if that’s even possible) for the furtherance of God’s kingdom here on earth?

My own masculinity research, where I talked with men in my community, tells me that some men see themselves sometimes as humans, with the same problems that all humans share. “Tao lang ako” [“I’m only human”] is a phrase often on the lips of the men when they describe their ability to be obedient to God. It encapsulates both their desire to do what is right but also gives them some leeway in their performance since “tao lang ako.” It reiterates their weakness and sets themselves apart from God, who wouldn’t have any problem being obedient.

But men are also men and as such need to become better people. They want to redefine themselves from the traditional ideas that men are violent or womanizers into something better. Knowing Christ has helped one of my friends overcome his hot headedness. He also said that in his opinion womanizers aren’t really true men because all that results is that their families are destroyed.

I don’t have many answers yet but Du Mez’ book has helped me deepen the process of discovery. It may help you as well. Why not pick it up and read it? It may cause you to reflect on your own situation as well.

Then again, maybe God has given you insight into these things. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Remember sharing is what friends do.

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Image is a screen shot from the cover of the ebook I read and is copyright Liveright Publishing.

Imagining what the world is like: The usefulness of windows & doors in our worldviews

Imagine living in a room with no windows or doors. You are not alone. After a while you would develop a worldview limited by those four walls. Anything else would be speculation. Of course your other senses would work fine. You may hear things outside your room. You may smell things. You may feel vibrations. You may speculate as to what your senses were telling you but you wouldn’t be certain. The group would come up with an idea of reality. 

Then imagine that all of a sudden someone else appeared and installed a window. All of a sudden your world view would expand. Not only because the window expanded your view but because you also realised that other people existed outside of your room. 

We can then imagine the changes that would happen as windows were installed in each wall and as more and more of the world became visible. 

Now imagine that a door was installed and the installer invited you outside. What would change? Then imagine what would happen if you actually went outside. How would the group decide who would go? Would everyone go? What factors would contribute to whether people went or not?

What would happen when those who went out returned? Would their stories be clearly told? Would those who stayed behind believe them or not? Would more be convinced to leave or would decisions be made to close the doors & windows? 

Some more questions arise. What if you didn’t enjoy the view? What if what you saw was unbelievable? What if you didn’t want to go out the door? What if you didn’t trust your senses or trust the one inviting you outside? 

The examples could continue on into absurdity. What if the view out the windows wasn’t in fact direct but was an elaborate system of mirrors bringing you reflections of the world outside. What if (ala Plato’s allegory of the cave) all you could see was shadows of activities outside? What if the decision of the group was to tear the walls down and live together with those other people in the world?

How would the worldview change process work? What senses would you prioritise? What senses would you distrust more than others? 

A lesson from Men in Black.

In the classic 1997 movie Men in Black, James Darrell Edwards III is taken into a room with “the best of the best of the best.” As part of their testing before becoming one of the Men in Black, they are all taken into a shooting room full of graphical alien potential targets. They are supposed to shoot the dangerous targets and save the innocent ones. All the candidates go in guns blazing except for James, who carefully looks at each scary monster before calmly shooting the “little Tiffany” in the head. Let’s take a look at the script:

ZED: “May I ask why you felt little Tiffany deserved to die?”

JAMES: “She was the only one who actually seemed dangerous. At the time.”

ZED: “And how did you come to that conclusion?”

JAMES: “Hook-head guy. You explain to me how he can think with a hook for a head. Answer; it’s not his head. His head is that butt-ugly bean-bag thing over there. ‘Cause if you look at the snarling beast-guy, he’s not snarling, he’s sneezing — he’s got tissues in his hand. No threat there, and anyhow, the girl’s books were way too advanced for an eight-year-old’s. And besides, from where I’m looking, she was the only one who appeared to have a motive. And I don’t appreciate your jumping down my throat about it. Or, uh — do I owe her an apology?”

James spent time carefully studying before going off guns blazing. He looked at the world around him to understand it so that understanding could better inform his actions.

The Windowless Room and Theologising.

It got me thinking about how much theology is done from the theologian’s office and how much from wandering about and observing? Which ends up being better? How important is listening to others’ analysis and evaluation as opposed to making your own? 

I love to read books. I particularly love escapist fiction because it draws me into a world that I can live in. I can dream while reading. I can imagine what life would be like if I were a character in the book. I enjoy people watching and trying to image their motivations for doing what they do. I also have a tendency to be shy. I prepare my sermons and lessons in isolation and them present them to people with real connections in the real world. But I realised after a while that my well was running dry. I had no more information to present and no way of finding a way forward into something new.

So I decided to study ways to better understand the world. That meant I had to study things like anthropology. I had to study about culture and society. Each of these fields has its own perspectives and theories that are useful in gaining understanding. Sometimes these theories offer criticisms of the current world. Sometimes they offer ways to better understand it. Sometimes they offer insights into how various and sundry parts of the world relate to each other. Sometimes they offer insights into how to interpret the world. It was great. It was like windows were being opened up for me to see out.

But more so than that, studying forced me to go out into the world and engage with it. I learned to observe people in the everyday environments and wonder why they did the things they did. I walked around my community trying to notice the things that I normally passed by. I learned to ask questions and listen for the answers. I talked to men on the street about their understandings of masculinity and religiosity. We talked about families. We talked about how to know the truth. We talked about their own ideas and perspectives. We developed deeper relationships with each other.

I certainly know that I gained more perspective once I got out into the real world. How do you maintain connections with the real world? How does that help develop your own perspectives and ideas? Please let me know in the comments below.

Remember sharing is what friends do.

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Image by Arm Sarv on Unsplash.

Community. A life lived together. On the street.

Life is certainly lived on the street here in Quezon City. I suppose it’s because the climate is so much more favourable to being outside. There isn’t as much variation as we experienced in Saskatchewan; every day starts at 25 and rises to at most 35. That means the occasional 21 degree mornings are surprisingly cold. In Saskatchewan we experienced a range of about 80 degrees over the nearly two years we lived there!

The small town of Herschel, Saskatchewan (yes the same Herschel immortalised by the backpack company) overcomes the weather when gathering by using a hockey rink. Monday evenings the buses don’t drop the kids at home. Instead everyone gathers at the rink, skates, talks, eats, and cooks. Sometimes a curling match breaks out. But nonetheless community happens. Inside.

Right now I am sitting at the carwash down the street from Emily’s new place and the videoke has just started up. For those unfamiliar, videoke is a singing system invented by a Filipino that features a TV showing various scenes accompanied by subtitle-like lyrics and thumping music. The quality of the voice isn’t as important as participating in community. But it sure is fun!

The carwash waiting area consists of three picnic tables places end to end. A variety of people are seated around these tables but their connection to the carwash has yet be determined. Neighbours? Friends? Passersby? At any rate, community is happening mist obviously through the friendly teasing of the carwash boy. Conversations in Tagalog about having to talk to me in English, which will give him a nosebleed because his brains will explode. Laughter later when they find out I understand them.

What is interesting is that there is never an option given of not speaking with me — because they want me to join them in their community making. Because in Filipino culture it’s not really us vs them but people who share community and identity together. The word here is kapwa and describes a complex relationship achieved after progressing from mere acquaintances to bosom buddies. Everything is about this shared identity: Classmates, barkada (originally those who travelled with you on the ship to prison but now simply meaning your closest friends), wearing a common t-shirt, dressing in the role you are currently in (road cyclists attire, school uniform, clothes for just popping out of the house, security guard uniform).

Everyone’s identity is shared with everyone else’s identity. Everyone knows where they fit.

Community. A life lived together. On the street.

What is your community like? Please comment below.

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is mine.

Some insights on why fake news and conspiracy theories are obvious to some but not to others.

Basahin sa wikang Tagalog.

I have been enjoying Alexandre Horowitz’ On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the art of Observation. It is an eye-opening (see what I did there?) book on how to better pay attention to our communities. One particular part caused me to reflect on the current debate about truth. What is true? What is false? What makes something or someone trustworthy? Why do some believe “conspiracy theories”? Why do others believe “science”?

Horowitz talks about grandmasters in chess and relates it to how we pay attention to something. Here is the quote:

“Grandmasters remember phenomenal amounts of chess. It is estimated that a typical chess master remembers on the order of 50,000 to 300,000 “chunks”—arrangements of five to seven pieces placed normally, not randomly, on a board. They might know, unconsciously, 100,000 opening moves. These memory stores allow them to recall the precise positions of a large number of pieces on a series of games in progress, having seen them once. Sometimes this ability even extends to random piece placements, since a randomly placed piece is surprising, and distinctive, to someone who can see the logic in the piece placement of a game underway. By contrast, when a novice chess player looks at a board, he sees a jumbled arrangement of black and white pieces. If he is attentive, he might later be able to remember a few squares of the board, or a handful of pieces neighboring one another. Nothing else. The difference is that the scene is meaningful to the chess master but not to the novice. To the expert, every piece relates to the others, and every arrangement of pieces on a board relates to previous boards the player has seen or made. They become as familiar as the faces of friends.”

Nahati sa dalawa: Isang master ng chess at isang baguhan. Magkaiba ang kanilang mga alam pagdating sa chess. When I posted the quote on Facebook, my friend Aaron, who also was provoked by the quote, responded.

“As I read this, I thought of a variety of things:

The earliest victims of fake news were Adam and Eve.

Where is the problem, with the “novices” or those who spread fake news and conspiracies? Is there anything we can do to combat this problem? Or it is just unavoidable because we each have our own “mastery” in life and associated with it that we will not be able to master all aspects of the world. For example, some people are good at technology, while others of us are good at history, politics or law. Those who are good at technology may not have “mastery” in politics or law, so they can also fall victim to fake news about it.

Scientists acknowledge that their “mastery” is to discover, improve our knowledge and find answers to questions such as where we came from. The church, on the other hand, also has “mastery” properties such as the strengthening of faith. But there are times when the teaching of the church does not match the teaching of science. Both have mastery, but there are differences. And if there are differences, who are we to believe? And if science has proofs of their findings and the church refuses to accept and continues to enjoy existing teachings that are contrary to the findings of science, who are we to believe? If science has proof but those in the church still believe differently, isn’t it like we are the ones spreading fake news to the members of our church?

These are just thoughts I just want to share. The curiosity of my mind is likely to attack again.”

Great, isn’t it? It caused me to start thinking again so here are my responses to him:

“Thanks for the reply. Your mind is really flowing. I think we will find the answer in the flow of the mind 😉 It is true that Adam and Eve must have been deceived-that is at least what the bible teaches about Eve. Adam knew very well what he was doing wrong.

When it comes to the idea of mastery, one part is experience. Chess masters will probably be good because they have a certain something. But they are also good because of the practice they do every day. I think, even though I know almost nothing about chess other than the basics of the pieces and layout, when I play every day, I will probably also have mastery somehow. Or if not mastery and at least I have an appreciation for the mastery of the master.

For us, it is important to give appreciation to people who are on the other perspective. Often, what we do is purely imaginary. We think that they are stupid. We think they don’t know. We think whatever. But how can we say that when we have no appreciation? There are reasons why those in favor of science are in favor of science. And those in favor of conspiracy theories etc. are in favor of that. We must first find out where they are. We will probably find the solution by talking.

This is the framework given to us by Ka Jose de Mesa when it comes to appreciation:

Attitude #1: Presume the cultural element or aspect under consideration to be positive (at least in intent) until proven otherwise.

Attitude #2: Be aware of your own cultural presuppositions and adopt the insider’s point of view.

Attitude #3: Go beyond the cultural stereotypes.

Attitude #4: Use the vernacular as a key to understanding the culture in its own terms.

Issues such as the conflict between science and faith are likely to be answered as well.

You? What do you think? Is this a solution to our problem of fake news? What would you add? Please use the comment box below. 

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image by Rafael Rex Felisilda on Unsplash. 

Ang ilang mga insight kung bakit ang mga pekeng balita at mga teorya ng pagsasabwatan ay halata sa ilan ngunit hindi sa iba

Read in English.

Natutuwa ako sa aklat ni Alexandra Horowitz na On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the art of Observation. Ito ay isang pagbubukas ng mata (nakita mo na ba ang ginawa ko doon?) na libro kung paano mas bigyang pansin ang ating mga komunidad. Isang partikular na bahagi ang naging dahilan upang pagnilayan ko ang kasalukuyang debate tungkol sa katotohanan. Ano ang tunay? Ano ang huwad? Ano ang ginagawang mapagkakatiwalaan ang isang bagay o isang tao? Bakit may mga naniniwala sa mga “conspiracy theories”? Bakit ang iba ay naniniwala sa “agham”?

Pinag-uusapan ni Horowitz ang tungkol sa mga grandmaster sa chess at iniuugnay ito sa kung paano namin binibigyang pansin ang isang bagay. Narito ang quote:

“Natatandaan ng mga grandmaster ang napakalaking dami ng chess. Tinatantya na ang isang tipikal na master ng chess ay naaalala sa pagkakasunud-sunod ng 50,000 hanggang 300,000 “chunks”—mga pagsasaayos ng lima hanggang pitong piraso na inilagay nang normal, hindi random, sa isang board. Maaaring alam nila, nang hindi namamalayan, 100,000 pambungad na moves. Binibigyang-daan sila ng mga memory store na ito na maalala ang mga tumpak na posisyon ng malaking bilang ng mga piraso sa isang serye ng mga laro na isinasagawa, na nakita ang mga ito nang isang beses. Minsan ang kakayahang ito ay umaabot pa sa mga random na placement ng piraso, dahil nakakagulat ang isang random na inilagay na piraso , at katangi-tangi, sa isang taong nakakakita ng lohika sa paglalagay ng piraso ng isang laro na isinasagawa. Sa kabaligtaran, kapag ang isang baguhang manlalaro ng chess ay tumitingin sa isang board, nakikita niya ang isang pinagsama-samang pagkakaayos ng mga itim at puting piraso. Kung siya ay matulungin, siya baka mamaya maalala ang ilang mga parisukat ng pisara, o isang dakot na pirasong magkatabi. Wala nang iba. Ang kaibahan ay ang eksena ay makabuluhan sa master ng chess ngunit hindi sa baguhan. Sa eksperto, e ang mismong piraso ay nauugnay sa iba, at bawat pagsasaayos ng mga piraso sa isang board ay nauugnay sa mga nakaraang board na nakita o ginawa ng manlalaro. Nagiging pamilyar sila gaya ng mga mukha ng magkakaibigan.”

Nahati sa dalawa: Isang master ng chess at isang baguhan. Magkaiba ang kanilang mga alam pagdating sa chess. When I posted the quote on Facebook, my friend Aaron, who also was provoked by the quote, responded.

“Habang binabasa ko ito, naisip ko itong iba’t-ibang bagay:

Ang pinakaunang biktima ng fake news ay si Adam at Eve.

Nasaan nga ba ang problema, sa mga “novice” o sa mga nagpapakalat ng fake news at conspiracies? May magagawa ba tayo para malabanan ang problemang ito? O sadyang hindi ito maiiwasan dahil may kanya-kanya naman tayong “mastery” sa buhay at kaakibat nito na hindi natin magagawang maging master ng lahat ng aspeto sa mundo. Halimbawa, may mga taong magaling sa larangan ng teknolohiya, samantalang may iba sa atin ang magaling sa kasaysayan, pulitika o kaya batas. Ang magaling sa teknolohiya ay pwedeng walang “‘mastery” sa pulitika o batas, kaya sila ay maaaring maging biktima rin mga fake news na tungkol dito.

Ang mga scientists ay ina-acknowledge natin na ang “mastery” nila ay ang pagtuklas, pagsasabuti ng ating karunungan at paghahanap ng mga kasagutan sa mga katanungan tulad ng saan nga ba tayo nagmula. Ang simbahan naman ay may mga angking “mastery” din tulad ng pagpapatibay ng pananampalataya. Ngunit may mga pagkakataong hindi nagtutugma ang turo ng simbahan sa turo ng agham. Parehong may “mastery”, ngunit may mga pagkakaiba. At kung may mga pagkakaiba, sino nga ba ang paniniwalaan natin? At kung may mga proofs ang agham sa mga natuklasan nila at ayaw tanggapin ng simbahan at patuloy na tinatangkilik ang nakagisnang katuruan na salungat sa natuklasan ng agham, sino ba dapat nating paniwalaan? Kung may proof na ang agham pero iba pa rin ang paniniwala ng mga nasa simbahan, hindi ba parang tayo mismo ang nagpapakalat ng fake news sa mga myembro ng ating simbahan?

Galing, diba? Napaisip ulit tuloy ako kaya it ang mga tugong ko sa kanya:

Ito ay pawang mga thoughts lamang na gusto ko lang ibahagi. Umaatake na naman malamang ang pagiging curious ng aking isip.

“Salamat sa tugon. Maganda talaga ang agos ng isip mo. Sa palagay ko hahanapin natin ang sagot sa pag-agos ng isip 😉 Totoo naman ciguro na niloko sina Adan at si Eva — yun at least ang turo ng bibliya patungkol kay Eva. Alam na alam ni Adan kung anong ang kanyang pinapasukang mali.

“Pag dating ng ideya ng mastery, isang bahagi ay karanasan. Malamang magagagling ang mga chess masters dahil meron silang certain something. Pero magaling din sila dahil sa mga practice na ginawa nila araw araw. Sa palagay ko, kahit halos wala akong alam sa chess bukod sa mga basics ng mga pieces at layout, kapag araw-arawin ko ang paglaro, malamang magkakaroon din ako ng mastery kahit papaano. O kung hindi mastery at least meron akong appreciation sa mastery ng master.

“Para sa atin, mahalagang bigyang appreciation ang mga tao na nasa kabilang perspektibo. Kadalasan, puro akala pala ang ating ginagawa. Akala natin bobo. Akala natin hindi marunong. Akala natin kung anu-ano. Pero paano ba natin masabi yun kapag wala tayong appreciation? May mga dahilan kung bakit ang mga pabor sa agham ay may pabor sa agham. At ang mga may pabor sa conspiracy theories atbp ay may pabot diyan. Alamin muna dapat natin kung nasaan sila. Malamang matutuklasan natin and solusyon sa pamamagitan sa pakikipag-usap.

“Ito ang gabay na binigay sa atin ni Ka Jose de Mesa pagdating sa appreciation:

Saloobin #1: Ipagpalagay na ang elemento ng kultura o aspetong isinasaalang-alang ay positibo (kahit sa layunin) hanggang sa mapatunayang hindi.

Saloobin #2: Magkaroon ng kamalayan sa iyong sariling mga pagpapalagay sa kultura at tanggapin ang pananaw ng tagaloob.

Saloobin #3: Higit pa sa mga stereotype ng kultura.

Saloobin #4: Gamitin ang katutubong wika bilang susi sa pag-unawa sa kultura sa sarili nitong mga termino.

Malamang masasagot din ang mga isyu katulad ng paglalaban ng agham at pananampalataya.

Ikaw? Ano ba sa palagay mo? Solusyon ba kaya ito sa problema natin sa fake news? Ano ba’ng idagdag mo? Pakisulat sa mga comments sa ibaba.

Ang pagbabahagi ay ginagawa ng magkakaibigan

Larawan ni Rafael Rex Felisilda sa Unsplash.

Reflections on COVID-19, Jesus, and Sabado de Gloria (Holy/Black Saturday)

I read Matt Anslow’s take on Holy Saturday a couple of years ago and it got me thinking. I grew up in a context in Western Canada where we didn’t really pay attention to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. My introduction to that day was the idea of Black Saturday that occurs in the Philippines where one popular belief is that we need to stay at home because God is dead that day and can’t help you. (This is related to the idea that if you get injured on Good Friday the wound will never heal). More recently I became aware of a new name for the day in the Philippines — Sabado de Gloria (Glorious Saturday), which has an altogether more positive take on the day. 

How does this relate to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s related restrictions? One of the lessons of the pandemic is that leadership is sometimes practiced from afar, most recently through videoconferencing technology. But apart from recent events, there are many other examples of ministry from afar. The Bible itself reflects the reality that much of ministry is from afar because the entire scripture is in written form. We don’t have direct access to the Biblical writers other than through their writings. This means that it was intended to be read in a variety of locations and times and mostly without the presence of the human author.

Another example is that of Jesus in the Grave. His time in the grave was more complex perhaps that we might first think. I think that I have always thought that Jesus rested while he was there, waiting for the Father to raise him from the dead. And to a certain extent that is true — Jesus was isolated in the grave. However, as Anslow points out, Jesus also took the opportunity while in the abode of the dead to minister to the souls in hell. That’s why we have a Sabado de Gloria to celebrate Jesus’ ministry to those who had been condemned.

I suspect the idea of Jesus in hell somehow went against some kind of theological idea that in the end led to us ignoring or explaining away the parts of Scripture that speak of this. But in spite of the absence of this in my tradition, the Bible does talk about Jesus’ actions while in the grave. For example, 1 Peter 4:6 reads, “After all, the Good News was told to people like that, although they are now dead. It was told to them so that they could be judged like humans in their earthly lives and live like God in their spiritual lives.” Likewise, Ephesians 4:9 tells us “Now what does it mean that he went up except that he also had gone down to the lowest parts of the earth?” To whom did Jesus preach while he was down in the “lowest parts of the earth”? Those who are “now dead.”

Fortunately not all theological traditions have had issues connecting Jesus with hell. We see this concept developed in several of the creeds. The Apostle’s creed says “Jesus Christ … descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day.” The Athanasian Creed says, “Christ; Who … descended into hell.” Tied into this is the concept of the “Harrowing of Hell” where Jesus basically invades hell (ala “and the gates of hell shall not prevail”), bringing Good News to the souls trapped there.

I think that’s pretty cool. It means that the enemy has no hope of winning. And that is the kind of message we want to hear after the events of 2020, 2021, and 2022.

What are your thoughts on Sabado de Gloria? Was it a part of your tradition growing up? What theological issues do you have with the idea of Jesus descending to hell?

Remember, sharing is what friends do.

Image is by Fra Angelico – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain.

Denying the Metanarrative is a good thing, but the process of denial is a bit more complex than we sometimes think.

One of the tenets of postmodernism (if indeed it can be said to have tenets) is the denial of the metanarrative. A metanarrative is “an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.” For many, these metanarratives provide a framework for understanding the world. What’s sad is that sometimes these same metanarratives also provide a framework for oppression and hardship, if you happen to be on the wrong side of the narrative.

Postmodernism has it detractors, mostly people who adhere to a different philosophical system (cough ‘Modernism’ cough). One of their complaints is that denying a metanarrative is a metanarrative in and of itself. Apart from being a bit of a copout because it doesn’t seek understanding, this argument misses the point because it presumes that denial is single-stage process.

For example, in the 1970s, a number of Filipinos devoted their lives to overturning the metanarrative that basically denied their place in the world. Zeus Salazar started telling a new history with his Pantayang Pananaw. Virgilio Enriquez started telling a psychology story with his Sikolohiyang Pilipino. Pospero Covar started telling a new anthropology story with his Pilipinolohiya. Jose de Mesa started telling a new theology story with his work on contexualisation. These four men began telling stories that overturned the metanarrative that prioritised the West and saw places like the Philippines as “deviant.” In retelling the story with indigenous languages, using indigenous concepts, and respecting indigenous knowledge, they were able to open up a new chapter to a previously incomplete metanarrative. We have a lot to thank these pioneers for. And people are continuing the process today in ways that include anti-colonialism and post-structuralism.

But the process must necessarily continue past that point because, even though these guys fulfilled an essential service way back when, that service has now led to claims of essentialism among them. Essentialism meaning a specific definition of what ‘Filipino’ is. In their efforts to make the Filipino voice heard, they by necessity saw that voice as one voice. It was the Filipino voice.

What we realise today is that the Filipino voice is perhaps best characterised as “voices.” The Philippines is an archipelago of just over 7,400 islands of varying sizes, shapes, and populations. There are just over 180 languages in use on a daily basis. Filipinos are also present in all the countries of the world and live in both the most populated and least populated areas of the world. Filipinos are both fiercely nationalistic and regionally loyal. The family is the basic building block of society. All of this creates a rich diversity of identities. I like how Dr. Exiomo puts it: “Being can be expressed in many different ways.”

In other words, the metanarrative still needs to be denied because it doesn’t accurately tell everyone’s story in the proper way. It’s a continuous process of editing and revising that will ultimately lead to a fulfilled humanity.

Where do you fit into the metanarrative? Where does the metanarrative fail you? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash.

What does it take to be a man, Part 3: How many masculinities is too many?

In a previous post, I discussed the idea of masculinities. In it I mentioned that masculinity should really be masculinities because there is not one standardized way to be a man. A followup post focussed on masculinities in the Philippines, an area of significance in my own life. In the comments, Mike Swalm and I chatted about the extent of these masculinities looking at the question of how many masculinities is too many? Mike pointed out a key issue with an infinite amount of masculinities and wisely says, “we move toward negation of corporate meaning. Why even talk about masculinity if it has such malleable and infinite meaning? Doesn’t that remove the very nature of the concept as something that is definable as a category, giving us no real ability to say it is “this” and not “that”?”

I thought I would take the opportunity of Mike’s question to discuss where masculinity studies is in this seemingly infinite continuum. As usual I will take a Bakhtinian approach.

Monologue. Revisiting Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity, we realise that even though there may be any number of variations on the masculinity theme within a given context, there is one that predominates the discussion so much that it drowns out the others. Interestingly enough the predominant theme doesn’t necessarily have the most supporters — it just predominates. Bakhtin called this “monologue.” Even though Connell’s insights have opened the door to other masculinities as being acceptable, masculinities more closely associated with patriarchy continue to predominate.

Dialogue. Obviously dialogue is better than monologue because it allows another voice to provide balance. We actually prefer a dialogic point of view because we enjoy dividing things up into to opposing parties. It is this recognition that leads from singular masculinity to plural mascuinities. In reality, however, things are rarely as black and white as we might like. In fact, they are often greyscale.

Heteroglossia. But there aren’t just two voices in dialogue — there are a multitude of voices, each seemingly clamouring for attention, each contributing to what it means to be a man. This moves us beyond greyscale into millions of colours. It’s actually this final idea that creates the question Mike asks because it seems to leave open the possibility of an infinite number of potential masculinities.

At the risk of oversimplification, on a practical level, there aren’t an infinite number of men in the world; the world is at least divided into males and females. That means that give or take 50% of the worlds population isn’t male. That means that the first line of demarcation is the male-female.[1]

A second line of demarcation is society itself. Society creates a framework for the conversations surrounding masculinity. Sometimes these societies are monologic in nature but quite often they provide limitations on the range of acceptable meanings within that society. For example, in a study I did in my community, where men had a variety of religious experiences and influences, I was surprised to discover that the conversation centred around only a couple of common themes. There is no limit to the horizons of epistemology in Bakhtin but the conversations still revolved around a few key clusters, including the importance of the wants, needs, and input of wives and families and seeing Christianity as central to their faith. Perhaps this means that cultures as a whole exert influence on the boundaries of dialogue that make it difficult for conversation to move beyond those points.

A final aspect of Bakhtin’s idea provides another level of demarcation. Bakhtin wasn’t really looking for that one unifying, universal answer to life. His purposes in developing his framework were not so that we could necessarily make sense of this crazy world we live in. Rather he seems to be giving us a way to recognise and embrace the messiness of this world we live in.

How does all of this work? Let me try an illustration from sports. For me, there is only one hockey team. When I refer to this team I will use the word “dynasty.” I will refer to their preponderance of Stanley Cup wins. I will refer to their aggressive style of play. Yup, you guessed it. My team is the Montreal Canadiens (How ’bout them Habs?). In many ways my allegiance to the Montreal Canadians is monologic. When we were kids we would argue about who we liked best. But through thick and thin it was Montreal for me. I know that other teams exist but what’s interesting is that I am not sure what you could do to convince me to cheer for another team.

But I do have to admit that Montreal is not the only team that exists. After all, they do need teams to beat 😉 The National Hockey League provides the fodder for the Montreal machine. It started with the Original Six (who some believe are the only real teams), then expanded to twelve in 1968, then to eighteen in 1974, twenty-two in 1992, and finally to the current thirty-two teams that take to the ice each week.

What also happened during these years is that hockey expanded internationally. What begun as an almost exclusively Canadian sport now has teams and players from all around the world. I remember watching a recreational team playing in the Philippines’ only ice rink a number of years ago. A friend was a part of a team in the United Arab Emirates around that time as well. Hockey has indeed become a heteroglossia.

What is interesting is that regardless of the level of the sport — from the NHL all the way down to shinny on the street in front of your house — the sport is still hockey. The nuance hasn’t changed that. What this has done for the sport is to make hockey better. I recall as a child reading about how Team Canada defeated some hapless international opponent 50-0. That wouldn’t happen today. In fact, international hockey is incredibly competitive, at both professional and amateur levels. The result is the reality that a team like the Montreal Canadiens cannot dominate the sport any more because other teams are able to join the conversation. Rather than a single dominant team, what we see is an entire sport that is played on an almost infinite number of levels. And the sport is better for it.

In a similar way, a deeper understanding of masculinities can only make those masculinities better. We need to move beyond the idea of a singular approved masculinity into a better set of masculinities.

What contribution are you making to the masculinity conversation? How are you making your voice heard? Please feel free to leave a note in the comments below to let us know.

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Missed the previous posts on this subject? You can read them here: Part 1 and Part 2.


Notes:

[1] The 2SLGBTQ+ conversation is still going strong, and is still undergoing development. What started out as simply “straight” or “gay” has exploded into a seemingly infinite number of options as heteroglossia in that area develops. The male-female demarcation that I use here is not intended as a rejection of those voices but merely a recognition of the fact that, one, the voices are still sorting themselves out and, two, that I don’t understand them enough to place them into an easily-explained framework.

Image by Andrew Wulf on Unsplash.

How can an alternative reading of Ezra-Nehemiah help us relate to the world in a way more in line with what God wants?

I read the last chapter of Ezra the other day & I must admit it’s stuck with me since then. This passage has always raised a lot of questions, the most important being its connection to missions. My seminary Old Testament professor, Dr. Vernon Steiner, taught us that when looking at the canonical structure of the OT, Ezra should be the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, because it’s always better to end on a high note, the editors/compilers put Chronicles last. Having said that, how do we interpret the events that happened in Jerusalem so many years ago in light of the Great Commissioning? Are there limits to going into all the world?

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here is the basic outline. The people have returned to Jerusalem after many years of captivity in Babylon. When they return it becomes obvious that a lot of people have intermarried with surrounding nations – something that was seemingly forbidden under Mosaic Law. When this sin is realised, Ezra makes a call for repentance. Those who had married non-Jewish women divorced them and sent them away, including any kids born as a result of the union. The passage only mentions four people who opposed this action but provides no further commentary on the rightness or wrongness of this action.

Something seems right about this, doesn’t it? God hates sin and wants us to stay away from it as much as possible, doesn’t he? God wants us to maintain the purity of our faith, doesn’t he? God wants us to be separated from evil, doesn’t he? That’s why we have often just glossed over these parts as necessary evils as we keep on reading.

However, even though on some level this seems right, on another level what happens doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of Scripture. If it’s true that God “hates divorce,” how could Ezra’s actions be right? If it’s true that God loved “the world” how does can this mass rejection of the world — via both the wall in Nehemiah and the mass divorce in Ezra — be right?

Before we continue I need to clarify something. Divorce is one of those words that has a lot of baggage. One way to misunderstand this word is to apply our own 21st-century legal understandings of the concept to our discussion. We won’t get into all of those issues here and in fact this post isn’t as much about divorce per se as it is about automatically rejecting people from God’s kingdom merely because of their ethnic heritage.

Over the past couple of years, while stuck in Canada because of COVID-19 lockdowns, I have been privileged to join a men’s bible study at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Saskatoon, SK. One of the books we studied was Ezra-Nehemiah and as a result of our discussions I gained new insights into the book. In our discussions we tried to understand the book and came across a couple of resources that provided some alternative answers to what we were used to. The Bible Project has a great video overview of Ezra-Nehemiah. Tim Mackie, a key player at the Bible Project, has also done some other work on the books. Ray Lubeck, in his 2010 ETS presentationEzra-Nehemiah Reconsidered: Aiming the canon at Godly leaders,” makes some rather suprising comments about Ezra-Nehemiah that challenge the very foundation of what we like about the books. These books, and in particular Nehemiah, have been used as examples of Godly leadership in times of hardship. It’s certainly not hard to see that Nehemiah faced countless difficulties when building his wall.

However, Lubeck posits that Nehemiah’s intense focus on building the wall was in fact misplaced. He looks at how Zechariah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel all talk about the importance of the Gentiles in God’s Kingdom. He then says, “Since these passages precede Nehemiah and his ministry, he should have known that Yahweh’s plans for the gentiles did not exclude them, but offered them full participation into the worshipping community of faith. Indeed, walls meant to exclude are the antithesis to the Isaianic vision of Jerusalem following the captivity.” All of this is interesting, especially given our love for seeing the leadership skills that Nehemiah exhibits in the book.

What of the mass divorce that takes place at the end of Ezra? Is this action to be lauded or condemned? It’s commonly assumed that God’s command to not marry outside of Israel is behind the mass divorce. The problem is that God’s command not to intermarry is specific to those peoples found in the Promised Land when Joshua and the 12 tribes invaded. This is a list of seven specific peoples, namely Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (Deuteronomy 7:1-3). Later on (Deuteronomy 23:3) Ammonites and Moabites down to the tenth generation as well as Edomites and Egyptians for three generations are added to the list. What is interesting is that in Deuteronomy 20:10-18 Israel was allowed to take as wives the women of some of the cities they attacked and in Numbers 15 we read that aliens are allowed into the community and can relate to Yahweh. It’s clear that while some specific groups may, for a time, unsuitable marriage partners, the vast majority of foreigners are perfectly acceptable.

It’s also important to realise that marriages with outsiders — or foreigners — are key in the Bible. These include Joseph and the Egyptian Asenath, Moses and the Midianite Zipporah, Salmon and the Canaanite Rahab, Boaz and the Moabite Ruth, Bathsheba and the Hittite Uriah, and Esther and the Persian Xerxes.

When we get to Ezra and Nehemiah we see how these commands were modified by the people to include “all who were of foreign descent” (Nehemiah 13:1) who “mingled the holy race” (Ezra 9:1-2).

In the end, Lubeck makes six key points, a few of which are relevant to our discussion. Ezra-Nehemiah “exposes how very wrong it is when God’s people seek to hoard his grace as if they own it, refusing to share it with ‘outsiders;'” “teaches us that misguided religious fervor and zeal cannot compensate for misusing God’s Word;” and “teaches us to prioritize family commitment and fidelity;”

What I found interesting was Lubeck’s final comment:

“As a sobering reminder of the gravity of these lessons above, we should note that the Pharisees, whom we know so well from our New Testament, consider Ezra to be the founding father of their movement. Did they pray? Read Scripture? Fast? Take their faith seriously? Expect others to conform to their standards? Assiduously work at keeping every command? Exclude all outsiders? Deem themselves as better than others? Add their own rules to God’s commands? Were they sincere? The answer to all these questions is, of course, yes, just like we find in Ezra-Nehemiah. And rather than seeking to replicate this kind of “godly leadership,” we should seek our positive role models for spiritual leadership elsewhere.”

What are your thoughts on Ezra-Nehemiah? Do you think we need to change our interpretive focus when it comes to these books? Do you think that they represent poor examples of how to do ministry?

Please leave your comments in the box below.

Remember sharing is what friends do!

Image by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.

What does it mean to be a man, part 2? Masculinities in the Philippines

In a previous post, I introduced the idea of masculinities. In it I mentioned that masculinity should really be masculinities because there is not one standardized way to be a man. In this post I will expand on that in talking about how crossing cultures also increases the complexities surrounding the subject. Our specific focus will be on masculinities in the Philippines.

Masculinity in Filipino Popular culture.

Filipinos love to make puns and while humour is used to make people laugh, there is generally a hidden truth behind the humour (Maggay 2002). What is interesting is that the majority of these puns define men based upon their relationships with others, primarily with their wives (see Angeles, 2001, pp. 2-3).[1]

Some of these terms, such as Padre de pamilya [“Father of the family”] and Haligi ng Tahanan [“Pillar of the home”] refer to the key strengthening roles that men play in the home. While men may provide the strength within the home, the mother, as ilaw ng tahanan [“light of the home”], provides the spiritual direction. Does this imply an inherent spiritual role that mothers play that isn’t considered a part of the father’s role?

Other terms clearly depict the struggle for power within husband and wife relationships: Ander de saya [“Under his wife’s skirt”] describes a henpecked husband. Kumander is a common term used by husbands to describe their wives. For example, when asked if he would like to do something, a man will often reply, “Di ako sure kung pwede ako. Magpaalam muna ako kay Kumander.” [“I’m not sure that I can do that. I need to get my Commander’s permission first.”] Machu-machunirin [“obedient to his wife”]. This is a play on words based on “macho” and “masunurin” [“obedient”]. Rubio and Green (2011) see these puns as evidence of the greater-than-equal status of women in Philippine cultures.

Others connect masculinity to the ability to perform various tasks or act in certain ways. When performing certain tasks, particularly where strength is required, men will often be told, “Nakasalalay ang pagkalalaki doon” [“Your masculinity depends upon you being able to complete this task”].

One of my professors recalls that her mother would ask, “Wala ka ba’ng bayag?” [“Don’t you have any balls?”] of her brothers when they acted afraid. On other occasions I have heard mothers telling their crying sons that, “Tumigil ka. Hindi umiiyak ang mga lalaki” [“Stop. Men don’t cry”]. This provides some evidence that mothers share in the responsibility in constructing the pagkalalake of their children.

Formal pagkalalake studies in the Philippines.

One of the first studies of pagkalalake in the Philippines was Santiago (1977), who studied men in a Philippine village in Bulacan. Santiago identifies three ideal measurements of pagkalalake: lalaking-lalaki [“manly man”], tunay na lalake [“real man”], and mabuting tao [“good person”]. Lalaking-lalake identifies those few who achieve the katangian [“characteristics”] of pagkalalake, tunay na lalake identifies those few men who achieve the kakayahan [“ability”] to do the things men do, and mabuting tao identifies those few men who achieve goodness as humans.

She identifies three categories of pagkalalaki, namely “mga katangiang panlalake;” [“male characteristics”], “kakayahan sa pagganap ng tungkulin na initas sa mga lalake o inaasahan ng lipunan ng kanilang gampanana” [“Ability for men to perform the roles that either they or society expects of them”]; and “mga kilos at ugaling sekswal” [“sexual activities and behaviour”] (p. 168).

Santiago divides the measurement of pagkalalake into four areas, namely “ang dapat mangyari, ang mangyayari, ang hindi dapat mangyari ngunit nangyayari, ang nangyayari noong araw ngunit hindi na umiiral.” [“Things that must happen, things that happen, things that shouldn’t happen but still do, and things that used to happen but don’t anymore”].

She identifies three categories to pagkalalake as follows: “Mga katangiang panlalake.” This includes those thoughts, actions and emotions that are not seen in women. “Kakayahan sa pagganap ng tungkilin na initas sa mga lalake o inaasahan ng lipunan ng kanilang gampanana” (p. 168). This includes the ability to perform tasks that either he identifies or society identifes as male tasks. “Mga kilos at ugaling sekswal” (p. 168). Santiago admits that she didn’t gather a lot of information about this aspect of pagkalalake. She identifies two possible reasons: because 1) she, as a woman, wasn’t able to gather this information, or because 2) she didn’t have enough time to devote to this aspect of pagkalalake. She suggests that a male researcher may be able to gather more information on this category because “higit na palagayang loob ng mga lalake sa kapwa lalake” [“it’s easier for a man to open up to a man”] (p. 168). Note that Santiago’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Tan (1989) identifies fathers in the Philippines as either procreators or dilettantes. Procreators neither enjoy nor spend much time at fathering because their understanding is primarily biological. Tan identifies this with the Philippine understanding that all children have utang-na-loob [“a debt of honor”] to their parents merely “for giving them life” (p. 34). Thus, siring children is enough. The dilettante, while having a positive fatherhood experience, is not very “active” as a father. Tan identifies OFW fathers as fitting into this “… supporting role to the main caretaker, usually the mother” (p. 30). Note that Tan’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

de Castro (1995) follows the common gender discussion of distinguishing between sex (physically male) and gender (socially constructed) but also moves into the ethical aspect of the gender debate. According to de Castro “ang pagkalalaki … ay walang aspetong etikal. Wala itong kinakailangang implikasyon para sa dapat at hindi dapat; walang itinataguyod na tama o mali” [“masculinity … has no ethical aspects. It has no necessary implications for what should or shouldn’t be; nothing is right or wrong”] (p. 141). de Castro proposes introducing the term pagkamaginoo in order to achieve the ethics that are missing from the other terms. Ethics seems to mean proper interpersonal relationships between people, regardless of their gender: “ipinamamalas ng magulang na naghahanap-buhay, nagtitiyaga sa pag-aalaga ng kanyang mga anak, nagmamalasakit para sa kanilang kapakanan at nagpapakita ng katagan sa oras ng kagipitan o sakuna” [“this is demonstrated by both parents in working, they both patiently take care of their children, they both care for their interests and show stability during times of emergency or disaster”] (p. 141). While this does provide perhaps a glimpse into how maka- Diyos might fit, it is a primarily theoretical argument based upon imprecise data.[2] This study wants to find out what Filipinos actually believe rather than simply exploring possibilities of what they can believe. Note that de Castro’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Aquiling-Dalisay et al (1995) identify three categories of Filipino males, namely pagkalalaki [“manhood”], tunay na lalaki [“real man”], and ganap na lalaki [“perfect man”]. Note that Aquiling-Dalisay et al’s study does not delve into the area of religion or spirituality.

Pingol (2001) perhaps comes closest to identifying Filipino masculinities. In a series of fifty interviews in Ilocos in 1997, she develops a Filipino notion of male identity, which she categorizes as “Prominent,” “Ideal,” “Other,” and “Lesser extent.” Prominent among the responses were: the “Ability to provide for the family” and “Success in the workplace;” the Ideal responses included: “being a good leader with intelligence and expertise, being principled, being helpful, being decent, being law-abiding, being trustworthy, and being understanding;” while the Other” responses included: “virility, physical strength, and good looks; and the “Lesser extent” response was: “the capacity to take risks, as in gambling or illicit affairs, and yet remain responsible to one’s family.” (Pingol, 2001).

What is disappointing is that she then applies Connell’s (2005) concept of hegemonic masculinity to the Philippines rather than using definitions drawn from her interviews. Pingol does, however, go on to discuss two sub-aspects of Ilocano masculinity, namely kinalalaki and malalaki. Each is seen as a culturally legitimate way of gaining masculine power in society but kinalalaki does this by means of the “ideal typical traits of the responsible husband” while the malalaki does the same through “the machismo of rogues and daredevils or malalaki” (Pingol, 2001, p. 4).[3]

Filipino Male Spirituality.

While some studies have been conducted on Filipino masculinity very few if any have been conducted on the connection between masculinity and spirituality. “Ang Manifesto ng Tunay na Lalaki” [“The Manifesto of a Real Man”] declares that “ang tunay na lalaki ay hindi nagsisimba” [“a real man doesn’t go to church”] (Xyxo Loco, 2009).

Filipino Male Spirituality plays a rather small role in Pingol’s study. I was surprised to initially find a rather negative tone to her comments. At one point, after describing how she had to politely decline the religious advances of three “evangelists,” she commented, “I had to make them feel that their religious mission was as valid as that of others” (p. 23). Her conclusion, however, points to the help that some of her informants, both male and female, did receive from their religious beliefs as they sought to reshape their masculine identity. She does note, however, “[t]urning to the Bible is not something men in the locality automatically do in times of crisis” (p. 252). I was further puzzled by the discovery that when she did a similar study of female migrants in the Middle East that religiosity was front and centre in her study. Does this indicate that perhaps religiosity is not part of Filipino male identity but is a very large part of Filipina identity? Or perhaps it indicates a change in the researcher herself.

In spite of the dearth of information on male spirituality or religiosity, there were some evidences of husbands following a moral code that helped them cope with the departure of their wives. The men interviewed showed varying abilities to cope with the changes brought about by the migration of their wives. In her discussion on changes in the sexual dynamics of the relationship, Pingol refers to a “masculine code” that some of the men chose to keep that ensured the marriage bed would be kept pure (p. 228). She connects this “code” with the concept of kinalalaki (p. 105).

This distinction between two categories of masculinity, however, while not pointing directly to spirituality, at least hints at a kind of morality that makes behaving properly worthwhile. Is this perhaps a hint of Filipino male maka-Diyos?

Rubio and Green (2011) develop a psychological instrument for use among Filipino men called the “Filipino Adherence to Masculinity Expectations scale.” Based on a study of students at St. Louis University in Baguio City, their instrument “takes into account indigenous and non- Western conceptions of masculinity in the Philippines” (p. 78) To this end, they identify seven “Filipino masculine dimensions,” namely Responsibility; Family Orientedness; Respectful Deference to Spouse, Women, and the Elderly; Integrity; Intelligence and Academic Achievement; Strength; and Sense of Community (p. 82). Once again there was no component of this masculinity framework that included maka-Diyos.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you recognise the unique features of the masculinities within your own cultural milieu? If so, what do they look like? Please put them in the comment box below.

Remember, sharing is what friends do.

Read Part 1.


Notes:

1. There are several popular conceptualizations of pagkalalake in the Philippines. Both Aquiling-Dalisay et al (1995) and Rubio & Green (2011) provide good overviews of the discourse surrounding Philippine masculinity, both from the perspective of psychology.

2. de Castro has apparently no hard data to show that this is what Filipinos actually believe. See his use of “halimbawa” [“for example”] with no citation (p. 142). Even his use of “ayon sa ilan, tanda ng tunay na lalaki ang pagtupad sa pangako” [“according to some, the sign of a real man is carrying out his promises”] (p. 142) is supportive of a constructed masculinity that is at odds with what he is proposing.

3. There does not appear to be an equivalent Tagalog gloss for these two Ilocano words. The closest might be perhaps pagkamaginoo and macho.

References:

Angeles, L. C. (2001). The Filipino Male as “Macho-Machunurin”: Bringing Men and Masculinities in Gender and Development Studies. Kasarinlan Journal of Third World Issues, 16(1), 9-30.

Aquiling-Dalisay, G., Nepomuceno-Van Heugten, M. L., Sto. Domingo, M. R. (1995). Ang pagkalalaki ayon sa mga lalaki: Pag-aaral sa tatlong grupong kultural sa Pilipinas. Philippine Social Sciences Review, 52.

de Castro, L. D. (1995). “Pagiging lalaki, pagkalalaki, at pagkamaginoo.” Philippine Social Sciences Review, 52.

Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities. 2nd Ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Pingol, A. T. (2001). Remaking masculinities: identity, power, and gender dynamics in families with migrant wives and househusbands. Quezon City: UP Center for Women’s Studies.

Rubio, R. J. & Green, R. (2011). Filipino men’s roles and their correlates: Development of the Filipino adherence to masculinity expectations scale. Culture, Society & Masculinities, 3(2), 77–102. doi:10.3149/CSM.0302.77

Santiago, C. E. (1977). “Pakapa-kapa: Paglilinaw ng isang konsepto sa nayon.” In R. Pe-Pua (Ed.), Sikolohioyang Pilipino: Teorya, metodo at gamit (pp. 161-170). QC: Surian ng Sikolohiyang Pilipino.

Tan, A. L. (1989). Four meanings of fatherhood. Philippine Sociological Review, 22(1), pp. 27-39.


Image of Jose Rizal by Jim Stapleton on Unsplash.