I got click-baited this week by the headline, “How To Raise Sons Who Don’t Sexually Assault”.
This has been on my mind a lot, since watching the Kavanaugh hearings and realizing how many Brett Kavanaughs I know. It is among my great fears that I will inadvertently raise a Brett Kavanaugh.
I looked at his angry contorted face and realized that this same culture that teaches women how to try to avoid, protect, or wiggle politely out of sexual violence isn’t doing any favors for men and boys either. Should nothing change in our culture, my little future-white-men will need some unique skills to navigate a world that cultivates in them such anger, entitlement, loneliness, dominance, imperviousness, emotionlessness.
I can’t stop thinking about one of the instructions I read in the article. “Make your boys feel as comfortable as possible experiencing and discussing emotions.”
I’ve been thinking about David. The Bible one. Seems to me that David and Brett Kavanaugh had a lot in common, at least in terms of the whole rape thing and the whole power thing. It seems to me that David is a relatable guy to many of the issues that men face in modern life.
One thing that I think is refreshing about David is the clarity of his emotional range. In the Psalms we can see his shame, his fear, his joy, his vulnerability, his confusion, his loneliness. He felt it, he spoke of it.
I’ve been thinking about this — about how much we love King David, and what this tells us about church culture and masculinity. I thought about how the churches I’ve been part of have, I think, done a good job of teaching and normalizing an emotional vulnerability… before God, anyway. I know a lot of good men who can cry in church. I have been around many a dinner table when men get choked up as they pray. I love this. I need it.
And lately it makes me wonder if we church-folk have cultivated a culture where it’s (only?) appropriate for men to have an emotional range in the confines of their personal relationships with Jesus. Before the cross, men can feel shame, fear, confusion, regret. (But not before their children, coworkers, softball team.)
But what I think our boys are dying for is a culture that permits this — encourages this — in front of one another as well. How can we become families who identify and normalize, encourage and support, a range of emotions in both our boys and our girls? And beyond families — can we become churches who teach the formation of deep and intimate friendships not just at craft night but also at campout? Can we be pastors, elders, worship leaders, youth group mentors who model an emotional range, and who prize it for the depth of the human experience it affords us?
I believe that this is how we were created — to have, to name, to cope with and learn from a broad spectum of emotions in this life. I believe there is no true way to live as the beloved community without this.
I have a deep fear that I will inadvertently raise a Brett Kavanaugh. Church, I need your help.