Promise Keepers and the Men's Movement
RESURRECTING PAGAN RITES
Part 1: THE MEN'S MOVEMENT
(From the December 1995 issue of Christian Conscience magazine)
The popular, separatist, men's movement uses pagan rituals to define manhood.
How could a book become so controversial? It all began with a mass distribution.
Every man who attended the 1993 Promise Keepers convention in Boulder,
Colorado, received a copy of "The Masculine Journey: Understanding the
Six Stages of Manhood" by Robert Hicks. Promise Keepers went on from there
to become the most rapidly growing national, ecumenical men's movement
in the history of the church in America. Promise Keepers has steadfastly
continued to "endorse" "The Masculine Journey", even though they no longer
distribute it. NavPress, a well-respected Christian publishing house,
has continued to aggressively market it.
Perhaps the book would have gathered dust on the back shelves of Christian
bookstores if it hadn't been an integral part of a broader ministry. But,
that was not to be. The book was destined for controversy from its very
inception. Its unorthodox approach to Christian manhood, including references
to a "phallic" Jesus, set it apart from mainstream evangelical publications.
Its uneasy association with the secular men's movement, its use of contemporary
Jungian jargon, and its use of motifs like "sages", "warriors" and "rites
of passage" raised the rankle of a number of national ministries.
To date, only the more fundamentalist, discernment-oriented ministries
have dared to crack open "The Masculine Journey" for critical comment.
Much of the criticism has centered around its use of psychology and the
offensive content. The book's association with Promise Keepers, the stunningly
popular men's movement, has led to a "hands off" approach by many who
would normally be more critical of the book. Also, most of the recent
PK recruits have had little or no exposure to the book and simply slough
off any criticism of the book as not relevant to their own personal experience.
The book continues to be prominently featured in NavPress catalogues under
the Promise Keepers supplies, and can be found in Christian bookstores
across the country in the Promise Keepers section. Robert Hicks credits
both NavPress and Promise Keepers "for having a vision for this project"
(p. 11), a statement which indicates the original depth of support given
this work by the Promise Keepers ministry. The form letter issued by Promise
Keepers in defense of "The Masculine Journey", which has been distributed
widely across the country, states:
Keepers desires to lead men into God's Word and to lift Jesus Christ
up as our model through the resources that we develop or sponsor. In
1992, Dr. Hick's manuscript for `The Masculine Journey' was presented
to NavPress and Promise Keepers as a candidate for inclusion in our
line of books. What we discovered was a biblically-centered, frank and
honest account of a man's journey with God. We were convinced that it
would help men pursue Jesus Christ amidst the challenges of the twentieth
book was not designed, nor was it written, to be an inclusive statement
of the values and distinctives of the ministry of Promise Keepers. We
endorsed it because we believed that it would be a tool that challenged
men to grow in Christ likeness, to become `zaken' - or `wise men of
God' - as Hicks writes.
In the January 1995 issue of "The Christian Conscience" we reviewed a
study guide accompanying "The Masculine Journey," written by Robert Hicks
and Dietrich Gruen. It was subtitled "A Promise Keepers Study Guide".
In our widely distributed review of this, "`Encountering' Men at Risk",
we contended it was offensive because of its content and it use of encounter
group techniques to facilitate change in men. We also expressed a concern
about the repeated references to the men's movement. We felt that some
men could be led into this movement via reading "The Masculine Journey".
We have since come to have an additional concern that Promise Keeper's,
by endorsing Hicks' book, might be associating itself too closely with
the men's movement and may in fact have doctrinal agreement with it at
some level. A summary of this concern was expressed in a sidebar in the
April issue, entitled "Promise Keepers: A Militant Unity?"
Manhood As A Journey
While evangelical Christianity first balked at and then vilified the feminist
movement and all of its trappings, this is not true of the men's movement.
Numerous magazine articles and accounts of the success of Promise Keepers
refer to it in the context of the "secular" men's movement, one which
superficially appears to be a move toward "kinder, gentler" men. This
"secular" men's movement, which has increasingly grown in both prominence
and impact over the last decade, is introduced to Christian men via Robert
Hicks' books. After reviewing the research, it is our contention that
"The Masculine Journey" represents a major philosophical and theological
shift away from the orthodox Christian view of maleness. And further,
the "secular" men's movement is anything but "secular."
Robert Hicks began with the challenge to "define" manhood - a big task.(p.
18) Using the "lengthy adult life cycle for men" as a model (p. 18), he
credits his ideas for the stages of this masculine journey to Daniel Levinson's
book, "The Seasons of a Man's Life".(p. 19) While on an airplane trip,
Hicks records that he wrote down the Hebrew terms for these stages of
a man's life on a napkin. Hicks noted that the words he chose "also seem
to reflect the same seasonal or developmental aspects that have been demonstrated
in so many of the recent men's studies."(p. 19-20)
To review, there are six Hebrew terms and descriptive phrases to describe
the six stages of adult male development according to Robert Hicks:
Male-'Adam-: The Noble Savage
Phallic Male-Zakar: The Mysterious Taskmaster
Warrior-Gibbor: The Glorious Hero
Wounded Male-Enosh: the Painful Incongruency
Mature Man-Ish: The Reborn uler
Sage-Zaken: The Fulfilled Man
We found this list of adult male life cycle terms to be more puzzling
than helpful. We were perplexed by the many strange-sounding terminologies.
The references to the male "phallus" and referring to men as "sages,"
for example, are not terms found in a traditional Christian view of manhood.
Customary biblical models on manhood are drawn from passages in Proverbs,
regarding a young man's chaste sexual conduct; from Boaz, a businessman
of integrity and exceptional moral conduct; and from passages in the New
Testament on the holy manner of life (conducted in such a way over many
years) of a biblical elder. And, while being a warrior was an honor in
the Old Testament and a distinctive stance for the believer in the New
Testament, the biblical references are not specific to the male gender
but include all believers. Equally true in this regard is the potential
for wounding that is common to all believers, and the biblical admonition
for maturity in the life of all believers.
In order to understand the rather unorthodox terminologies utilized by
Robert Hicks to describe "The Masculine Journey" model of manhood we learned
that one must read the authors and experts he cites. The terms can be
readily found in the works of the leaders of the men's movement. There
are repeated references to both the men's movement and its leaders in
"The Masculine Journey" and its accompanying "Study Guide".
Many Christian men will not have had exposure to the men's movement prior
to reading Hicks' books. It is possible that men may be encouraged to
delve deeper into the men's movement, or be curious about it, after reading
Hicks' books. For example, in the "Study Guide" to "The Masculine Journey",
men are asked,
you, or someone you know, do not have enough fight left in you to advance
or defend yourself at work. Such men defeated by life do not even work
for a better family, much less the cause of social justice. What about
the growing men's movement could help such men?"
weekends (don't forget to bring your drums)"
a 'fire in the belly' by recalling good warrior myths."(p. 42-43)
The "Study Guide" also suggests that men "review `The Masculine Journey'
and its endnotes, which may spur you on to study the men's movement further."
This, in our estimation, is direct encouragement for men to become involved
in the men's movement. We decided to do exactly what was recommended in
this sentence: we read the original sources referenced in the endnotes
to see what Christian men might find.
The men's movement, a response to the women's movement, arose during the
mid-80's, supposedly to combat "wimpiness" in men. This movement is a
conglomeration of current Jungian psychology, New Age mysticism, beating
drums in the wilderness, initiation ceremonies, and occultic rituals.
It has been characterized in the press clippings as "Men Seeking `Different
Drummer,'" "Modern Men Turning to Ancient Ritual," "The New Masculine
Mystique," and "A Kinder, Gentler Gender."
Robert Bly is credited with "founding" the men's movement in America.
As early as 1982 "The New Age Journal" conducted an interview with this
famous poet. Bly told the interviewer, Kevin Thompson, that men needed
to 'visualize the wild man that is part of every modern male." To do this,
he recommended that men "go back to ancient mythology, you find that people
in ancient times can help us to visualize the wild man."
as women in the '70s needed to develop what is known in the Indian tradition
as Kali energy - the ability to really say what they want, to cut relationships
when they need to - what males need now is an energy that can face this
energy in women, and MEET it. They need to make a similar connection in
their psyches to their Kala [sic] energy - which is just another way to
describe the wild man. If they don't they won't survive. (quoted in "Connecting
With the Wild Man Inside All Males," "Utne Reader", Nov./Dec. 1989, p.
Reader", a leftist counter-culture magazine, can also be credited for
exposure of the men's movement during the mid-80's. In 1989 they ran a
descriptive piece titled "Of Hawks and Men: A Weekend in the Male Wilderness"
in which reporter Jon Tevlin details his account of attending a seminar
to "reunite the modern man with the wild man." Some of the activities
of the men that weekend are too vulgar to recount; however, the promotional
material promised that "We will become animals and heroes," and Shepherd
Bliss, well-known New Ager who conducted the seminar promised: "You may
find yourself behaving like these four-leggeds; you may be scratching
the earth, getting in contact with the dirt and world around you." ( p.
53) Suffice it to say that the men at the seminar gurgled, bleated, butted
heads, made wolf calls, shrieked like hawks, and performed other more
unseemly activities common to animals but bizarre when imitated by humans.
Robert Bly popularized his "wild man" concept in his 1990 book "Iron John",
a mythological fairy tale of the wild, hairy man who helps turn a young
boy into a prince. A "San Francisco Chronicle"article ("Men Seeking `Different
Drummer'" by George Snyder) credits Bly with mainstreaming the men's movement:
phenomenon, once largely confined to the New Age underground, has recently
gained mainstream respectability, in part because of author Robert Bly,
whose recent best-seller, `Iron John', urges modern males to rediscover
a profound and spiritual masculinity through the ancient tools of mythology,
ritual and initiation. Only then, says Bly, can men truly come to find
common cause with women and ultimately, with themselves and the universe.
Robert Bly can still be found frequently in the pages of "The New Age
Journal", and is a regular speaker on the New Age conference circuit.
By the early 90s the men's movement came to be associated with drumming,
where "men try to rediscover their primal instincts through ancient rituals,"
(Ibid.) performing Native American rituals on wilderness weekends in such
places as sweat lodges, and using talking sticks. The most frequently
cited movie illustrative of the men's movement is Kevin Costner's "Dances
We reviewed two randomly selected publications originating from the men's
movement, "The Green Man: A Magazine for Pagan Men", (Spring 1993, Premiere
Edition, published by Alan and Anne Niven), and "M.E.N. Magazine", a publication
of the Seattle Men's Evolvement Network (Vol. 6, No. 4, April 1995). In
these, we found advertisements for psychotherapy, therapy and spirituality
for gay men, circumcision support groups, rolfing, "New Moon Rising: Journal
of Magick & Wicca", an invitation to join Odd Fellows, and ads for little
god statues. We found workshops for "Foreskin Fairy Tales: Stories of
Denial about Infant Circumcision," "Jungian men's group," "Healing the
Mother Wound," "Mythos: Myth and Life Stages," and "Ritual Healing, Power
& Community." Articles included "Mythic Images for Remembering the Earth,"
"Interview With A Druid," "Men for the Earth: A Call to Action," "Shadow
of Initiation," and "An Interview with Shepherd Bliss."
This cross-section of the separatist men's movement included men's rights,
gay men's rights, divorced men's rights, minority men's rights, men in
search of spiritual or personal growth, Marxists, and environmentalists.
We found no positive references to Christianity in these publications.
To the contrary, we found numerous references to alternative, pagan, New
Age, and occultic spiritualities.
Both the Old and New Testaments warn strongly against engaging in the
activities promoted in this sampling of the men's movement literature:
am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any
thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that
is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,
nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love
me, and keep my commandments." (Ex. 20:2-6)
also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace,
with them that call on the Lord out of a pure hearts." (2 Tim. 2:22)
evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being
deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou has learned
and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou has learned them; And
that from a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
(2 Tim. 3:13-15)
Robert Hicks has stated that "the Jungian definition of manhood doesn't
work for me." (p. 17) However, we found, much to our consternation, that
the model employed by Hicks in "The Masculine Journey" has all of the
trappings found in the currently popular Jungian architects of the men's
movement, including their common use of terminologies and concepts. In
fact, the entire men's movement seems to be the creation of the Jungians.
There are several key works cited by Hicks that bear further scrutiny.
But first, what do we mean by Jungians? We mean the followers of the Swiss
psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) who pioneered a psychoanalytical
model based on the interpretation of unconscious symbols and mythology.
Jung's use of mythological metaphors is attributed to his obsession with
the occultic doctrines predominant in Germany at the turn of the century.
Jungian psychology is founded on an evolutionary worldview of man.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of popularity of Jungian
psychology, especially in New Age circles. Jung's ideas, like many other
"schools of thought" have been plundered and widely diluted by modern
movements, and the men's movement is no exception. Of special note is
the excessive emphasis that the men's movement places on mythology, a
revival of the ancient legends of gods and goddesses, to explain the inner
psychology of man.
Robert Bly's "Iron John", frequently cited by Hicks, is based on a Grimm's
fairy tale. This is clearly noted to be in the Jungian tradition of using
mythologies to define reality. In fact, one "Jungian scholar, Marie-Louise
von Franz, often quoted by Bly, puts it: `Fairy tales are the purest and
simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic processes.'" ("On
The Issues", Summer 1991, p. 18)
John", like "The Masculine Journey", speaks about the stages of a man's
life. The book is about male initiation, a path of eight stages which
follows the story line of "Iron John" the fairy tale. (pp. x & xi) The
modern male needs to find the "wild man" within, according to Bly. He
defines this wild man: "The Wild Man, who has examined his wound, resembles
a Zen priest, a shaman, or a woodsman..."
Elsewhere, Shepherd Bliss reiterates this characterization of the men's
movement's new (Age) wild man:
a wild man, I don't mean a savage man. I don't mean a brutal man. I don't
mean a man of malice. I mean maybe a Zen monk" ("Utne Reader", p. 54)
John" is a treatise on the need for men to experience the ancient, occultic
rites of initiation. This agenda is not hidden, but rather the entire
theme of the book. Pagan rites of initiation are a cross-cultural phenomenon
common to primitive societies past and present, and are also a component
of secret male societies such as the Freemasons. In "Iron John" it becomes
evident that the life stages or cycle of the male journey is defined in
terms of the stages of the rite of initiation. Initiation can be defined
methodology of the ancient Mysteries: long and intensive training with
the aim of elevating the one who undergoes it to begin (initiate) living
a new, higher life, often described as being on the level of Godhood,
above and beyond the state of ordinary mortals - hence, the initiates
of former times were viewed as incarnate Gods by ordinary people. ("Seekers
Handbook", p. 297.)
An initiate is:
who underwent the full course of training in the Mysteries, and who thereby
became elevated to a superevolved or God-like state, gaining powers of
knowledge and extraordinary faculties that allowed him to assume responsibility
for teaching and guiding the human race, and specifically for initiating
Robert Bly writes that young boys "in our culture have a continuing need
for initiation into male spirit, but old men in general don't offer it...
the active intervention of the older men means that older men welcome
the younger man into the ancient, mythologized, instinctive male world."
He describes this initiation on pages 80 and 81 of "Iron John" in clear,
unmistakably pagan terms: "The boy between eight and twelve years of age,
having been taken away from the mother, passes into the hands of the old
men guides who cover his face and sometimes his whole body with ashes
to make him the color of dead people and to remind him of the inner death
about to come. He may be put into the dark for hours or maybe days, introduced
to spirits of dead ancestors. Then he may crawl through a tunnel - a vagina
- made of brush and branches. The old men are waiting for him at the other
end, only now he has a new name."
Bly's second stage of manhood involves a wound. This wounding is to occur
during the process of the rite of initiation. It is clear from the description
that the unfortunate young boy is severely traumatized and immensely frightened
as he is forced to undergo this pagan ritual. Bly weaves back and forth
between describing inner (psychological) and outer (physical) wounds.
This is characteristic of Jungians, and accounts for how they can later
distance themselves by saying that they intended the entire description
to be interpreted as merely "psychological". But Bly makes it clear that
"Ancient initiation practice" gives a new wound." Indeed, the wounds necessary
for initiation in pagan cultures are real!
Two Jungians, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, who are noted leaders
in the men's movement, and closely associated with Bly, describe this
wounding in vivid detail in their book "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover".
They define initiation as a "genuine transformation of consciousness."
(p. xvi) Their description of the rite of initiation is similar to Bly's:
good, explicit example of this can be found in the movie `The Emerald
Forest'. Here, a white boy has been captured and raised by Brazilian Indians.
One day, he's playing in the river with a beautiful girl. The chief has
noticed his interest in the girl for some time. This awakening of sexual
interest in the boy is a signal to the wise chief. He appears on the riverbank
with his wife and some of the tribal elders and surprises Tomme (Tommy)
at play with the girl. The chief booms out, `Tomme, your time has come
to die!' Everyone seems profoundly shaken. The chief's wife, playing the
part of all women, of all mothers, asks, `Must he die?' The chief threateningly
replies, `Yes!' Then, we see a firelit nighttime scene in which Tomme
is seemingly tortured by the older men in the tribe; and forced into the
forest vines, he is being eaten alive by jungle ants. He writhes in agony,
his body mutilated in the jaws of the hungry ants. We fear the worst."
the sun comes up, though, and Tomme, still breathing, is taken down
to the river by the men and bathed, the clinging ants washed from his
body. The chief then raises his voice and says, `The boy is dead and
the man is born!' And with that, he is given his first spiritual experience,
induced by a drug blown through a long pipe into his nose. He hallucinates
and in his hallucination discovers his animal soul (an eagle) and soars
above the world in new and expanded consciousness, seeing, as if from
a God's-eye view, the totality of his jungle world. Then he is allowed
to marry. Tomme is a man. And, as he takes on a man's responsibilities
and identity, he is moved first into the position of a brave in the
tribe and then into the position of chief."
can be said that life's perhaps most fundamental dynamic is the attempt
to move from a lower form of experience and consciousness to a higher
(or deeper) level of consciousness..." (p. 4-5)
For some in the men's movement, then, the definition of manhood is clearly
rooted in the rite of initiation, and it involves a change in consciousness.
Moore and Gillette describe it graphically as "Death - symbolic, psychological,
or spiritual - is always a vital part of any initiatory ritual." They
advocate the use of active imagination as a psychological technique, but
caution that it can cause one to possibly "encounter a really hostile
presence..." (p. 147).
The change in consciousness that results from these rites of initiation
may in fact be demon possession, which is the ultimate intention of pagan
rituals. The Scriptures clearly warn against the use of drugs to alter
consciousness, commonly associated with sorcery and translated as "witchcraft"
in the King James version.
pharmakeia, far-mak-i'-ah; from G5332; medication (pharmacy), i.e. (by
extens.) magic (lit. or fig.): - sorcery, witchcraft." ("Strong's Concordance")
the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication,
uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft [pharmakeia], hatred,
variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings,
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell
you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do
such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:19-21)
In the Scriptures God consistently warns the Hebrews to stay away from
the pagan, occultic practices of their neighboring nations.
thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt
not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not
be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass
through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or
an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits,
or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination
unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth
drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy
God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers
of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not
suffered thee so to do." (Deut. 18:9-14)
Robert Hicks references the Moore and Gillette book on page 77 of "The
Masculine Journey" in his chapter "The Warrior - Gibbor: The Glorious
Hero." Hicks states: "Therapist Robert Moore has observed that behind
every creative artist, competent author, or successful student, there
is an active warrior at work who recognizes transcendent values and relativizes
temporary needs or immediate needs."
This quote is footnoted, and it references the pages in a chapter in the
Moore and Gillette book also called "The Warrior." It is one of their
four archetypes of manhood. Moore and Gillette agree in their book with
Robert Bly - that a man is a warrior in an eastern mystical sense:
characteristics of the Warrior in his fullness amount to a total way of
life, what the samurai called a do... These characteristics constitute
the Warrior's Dharma, Ma'at, or Tao, a spiritual or psychological path
through life." (p.79)
These two Jungians talk about "transpersonal commitments" to "a cause,
a god, a people, a task, a nation - larger than individuals." (p. 84)
To Moore and Gillette, it transcends individuality.
transpersonal commitment reveals a number of other characteristics of
the Warrior energy. First, it makes all personal relationships relative,
that is, it makes them less central than the transpersonal commitment.
Thus the psyche of the man who is adequately accessing the Warrior is
organized around his central commitment." (Ibid.)
In their modern Jungian version of masculinity Moore and Gillette include
a bad ("shadow") side of the warrior (the "sadist" or "masochist") which
can be exemplified by "Yahweh," who in the Bible "orders the fiery destruction
of whole civilizations. Early in the Old Testament, we see this angry
and vengeful God reducing the planet to mud through a great deluge, killing
off nearly every living thing." (p. 89)
This is a gnostic-sounding interpretation of the God of the Bible, which
demonstrates that Jehovah God is not who the occultic Jungian analysts
would recommend for a warrior's "transpersonal commitment."
Robert Moore is a "friend and consultant" to the New Warriors Network.
This is described as:
order of men, called to reclaim the sacred masculine in our time through
initiation, training, and action in the world." (fundraising letter from
Dr. Robert L. Moore, Ph.D.)
believe strongly that the New Warrior Network has the potential for making
the decisive contribution in the task of transforming masculine leadership
and stewardship of masculine power in the world."
New Warriors, like Promise Keepers, also sponsors weekends for men. New
Warriors are trained "to initiate and empower men to take on the courageous
task of expressing themselves authentically and stepping into a life of
genuine service." The men are trained in the "Four Quarters" model of
the male psyche, Moore and Gillete's modern theory of Jungian male archetypes.
On these adventure weekends (sometimes called "shamanic retreat[s]", men
can participate in sweat lodges, fire pit ceremonies, mask making, spiritual
cleansing, vision quests, solo fasts, and bow hunting. Men in New Warriors
often acquire an Indian name for their middle name, such as "Sun Bear"
or "Moose walks with Polar Bear." (Information quoted from conference
Rites of Initiation
Returning to Robert Hicks, we find that his view of the rite of initiation
in "The Masculine Journey" is strikingly similar to that of Robert Bly.
However, his view is "Christianized", which inserts Biblical stories where
Bly references pagan myths. An indication of this is Hicks' comment about
the necessity of shedding blood: "To be a successful warrior, blood must
be shed. The blood of enemies is always mixed with one's own blood. The
life of the warrior, necessary as it is for developing manliness, has
its liabilities." (p. 91-92) Hicks does not dispute the men's movement's
emphasis on the necessity of wounding as part of a rite of initiation.
In fact, he appears to agree with it:
must win some battles to prove to themselves that they are men. In past
cultures this was ritualized but, unfortunately, today men must fend for
themselves and almost declare themselves men. But it still involves blood,
risk, and sacrifice. Just as in times past, whether through circumcision
or other cutting of the body, the passages to manhood involve the shedding
of some blood."(p. 92)
We must hasten to point out to the reader that circumcision was not a
passage to manhood in the Bible, but rather an expression of obedience
to God, sanctioned by the parents of an infant. An eight-day-old male
child is hardly at the suitable age for passing from boyhood into manhood.
Circumcision was simply a sign of the Abrahamic covenant between God and
His chosen people; a sign which distinguished the Hebrews from the surrounding
pagan culture! Further, we know of no credible reports of circumcised
men who can vividly recall this "passage into manhood" during their infancy.
This suggestion seems to arise from the currently popular "repressed memory"
Hicks also quotes from Sam Keen, another men's movement leader:
Keen states more bluntly: `Masculinity requires a wounding of the body,
a sacrifice of the natural endowment of sensuality and sexuality.'"
Keen is alluding to is the almost universal history of primitive societies
whereby the males went through a formal puberty rite that required the
experience of pain and wounding of the body. Circumcision is a permanent
wounding of the body that reminds the Jewish (and now Gentile) male
that he is what he is - male. Other societies have their tattoos or
cutting of the body. American Indians bond through blood. Young boys
even today emulate the old rite of cutting the fingers and mingling
the blood to become `blood brothers.'" (p. 101-102)
Is this view really biblical? Or, has Hicks superimposed pagan views of
manhood onto Scriptural themes?
Circumcision reminds the Jewish male that he is what he is - Jewish, i.e.,
a set-apart person with a unique and blessed covenant relationship with
our first hours of maleness until we become adult, pain seems to be the
doorway to manhood. Thus, the wounded male experience is common among
most civilizations, but contemporary Western men have either denied or
forgotten it. Consequently, when pain arrives we Westerners struggle against
it. The emerging men's movement may be, at its roots, the attempt to reframe
the wounding experience for men and give it a new and more honorable meaning."(p.
Sam Keen, whose book "Fire In the Belly" is cited six times in footnotes
to "The Masculine Journey", more honestly tells us the men's movement's
purpose for the rite of initiation:
The purpose of the tortuous rites involved in severing the boy from WOMAN
and nature was to deprogram, brainwash, break down the childish identity
so that he could be given a new self-understanding." (p. 31)
Keen's passage to manhood involves separation, initiation and reincorporation.
This is very similar to Levinson's four seasons of the male life cycle,
expounded upon in Levinson's book "The Seasons of A Man's Life", which
Robert Hicks used as his model. Levinson's four stages are: separation,
initiation, transition, and temporary confusion. This similarity begs
the question: what exactly is "the masculine journey"? There clearly are
occultic stages, or levels, that seem to closely parallel the psychological
life-cycle models. Because Carl Jung viewed psychotherapy as a type of
initiation this may provide a partial clue to the answer of this question.
In Keen's chapter, "The Initiation and Mutilation of Men," he describes
an identical scene to the ones discussed earlier. Keen tells us that
many tribes, the men kidnap the boys and take them to live in the men's
clubhouse where they are subject to hazing, discipline, and teachings
of the elders."
form of painful ordeal inevitably accompanies and dramatizes the separation
from the world of WOMAN. The list of minor and major tortures imposed
upon initiates reads like a page from the fantasy life of de Sade and
includes: lip piercing, scarification, filing or knocking out of teeth,
scourgings, finger sacrifices, removal of a testicle, bitings, burnings,
eating of disgusting foods, being tied on an ant hill, subincision of
the penis, solitary confinement, exile in the wilderness for long periods,
sleeping naked on winter nights, etc." (p. 29)
Keen also trivializes the significance of circumcision. He says:
so primitive and brutal a rite continues to be practiced nearly automatically
in modern times when most medical evidence indicates that it is unnecessary,
painful, and dangerous suggests that circumcision remains a mythic act
whose real significance is stubbornly buried in the unconscious."
We have already stated the biblical significance of circumcision. Is Keen
inferring that the Bible and all its contents are merely myth?
Robert Hicks has apparently bought into the men's movement's dislike of
circumcision. In the "Study Guide" to "The Masculine Journey", men are
asked to explore this issue with other men:
For Robert Hicks the first memorable experience of wounding was as a five-year
old when his granddad took him fishing and the fishing hook pierced his
finger. For you, what memorable flesh wounds signaled a passage to manhood?"
The first possible answer to this guided question is:
to circumcision (as an infant or an adult)." (p. 52)
The last chapter of "The Masculine Journey" lays out the plan for "A New
Male Journey" which involves beginning to find "appropriate initiation
rites which might fit each of these stages." (p. 176) Hicks states:
sure many would balk at my thought of celebrating the experience of sin.
I'm not sure how we could do it. But I do know we need to do it. For example,
we usually give the teenagers in our churches such a massive dose of condemnation
regarding their first experiences with sin that I sometimes wonder how
any of them ever recover. Maybe we could take a different approach. Instead
of jumping all over them when they have their first experience with the
police, or their first drunk, or their first experience with sex and drugs,
we could look upon this as a teachable moment and a rite of passage. Is
this putting a benediction on sin? Of course not, but perhaps at this
point the true elders could come forward and confess their own adolescent
sins and congratulate the next generation for being human. Then they could
move on to the all-important issues of forgiveness and restoration, but
this time on common ground, with the young person as a fellow sinner!"
Hicks also proposes other possible times for initiation rites: wet dreams,
pubic hair, the wedding night, spiritual victories; wounds like "a man's
divorce, or job firing, or major health problem, or culpability in some
legal or sexual indiscretion," (p. 177-178) To underscore this, the "Study
Guide" concludes with a suggestion for an "Awards Night" which celebrates
the "growth within each man and" progress along the masculine journey."
New Christian "Order"?
Many would argue at this point in our article that surely Christian men
would not get involved in pagan rites. We would sincerely hope that this
is the case. Yet, in the past several months several examples have come
across our desk.
One noteworthy example comes from Boulder Valley Vineyard, home church
of Pastor James Ryle who sits on the Board of Directors of Promise Keepers,
and who is the pastor of Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers. According
to a conference brochure, this church sponsored "Rites of Passage: The
Defining Moment of Manhood" on August 25-26, 1995. The brochure states:
of Passage. The boy Samuel prophesying at the tabernacle of Shiloh, young
Samson fighting the lion at Timnath, the lad David slaying the giant Goliath,
the youthful Solomon ascending the throne of Israel, the boy Jesus confounding
the lawyers in the Temple... Every boy dreams of becoming a man."
the Executive Pastors of the Boulder Valley Vineyard for a time of teaching
on what true manhood is for a Christian.
Ryle's church has apparently created "orders" or levels of initation for
Christian men, because the brochure states:
New This Year, The Order of Joseph: A Call to Servanthood. This is especially
designed as the next level of commitment within the Rites of Passage ceremony
for those who have already experienced the initial ceremony."
Like its pagan counterparts, this Rites of Passage which is so closely
associated with Promise Keepers' leadership, uses the rites to "define"
manhood and create "orders." This use of "orders" is common to esoteric
groups and secret societies such as the Freemasons. No such example can
be found in Scripture. But, the hard question does need to be asked: Is
this where Promise Keepers is headed?
Cross vs. the Rites
The assumption that the men's movement is a credible venture, full of
good ideas to incorporate into modern Christianity, is abhorrent and foolish!
It can be argued that the Scriptural warning to "Abstain from all appearance
of evil"(1 Th 5:22) would include mimicking pagan rituals, including rites
Likewise, paganizing God's divine plan is also fraught with peril. Satan's
desire is for all creation to worship him as God and he has done much
to delude mankind into devising their own plans for redemption, including
blood rituals (Satan's substitute for Christ's death on the cross) and
rites of initiation (Satan's counterfeit for salvation). Throughout the
centuries pagan societies have taken the things of God and skewed them
into ungodly schemes. The ugly nature of these false religions is ultimately
revealed by open idol worship, which is already demonstrably happening
in today's men's movement.
themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the
uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds,
and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them
up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour
their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into
a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who
is blessed for ever. Amen. "(Rom. 1:22-25)
The men's movement would create a "new man" for the New Age. Yet scripture
makes it quite clear how the passage to a truly "new" man is attained.
all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely
by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God
hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare
his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the
forebearance of God;" (Rom. 3:23-25)
if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed
away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17)
There is no alternative route to becoming a new creation. There is only
the Cross of Jesus Christ and the blood that He shed. The emphasis that
the men's movement places upon woundings, shedding blood, rites of initiation,
and the like is merely the world mimicking God's plan of redemption. The
celebration of sin, and false redemptive acts, runs directly contrary
to the teachings of the Bible:
God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Gal. 6:14)
Just as circumcision was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham
(and Abraham's descendants), the "sign" of the new covenant in Jesus Christ
is the new creature that we are because of our relationship in Him.
in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creature."(Gal. 6:15)
Clearly, none of the acts or rites to which the men's movement ascribes
can do anything in and of themselves to perfect men. This is truly a myth!
Men would do well to avoid the men's movement and all of its trappings.
In these perilous times, it is increasingly important that Christian believers
deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, and
godly, in this present world. For if we yield to temptation and become
immersed again in the things of the world, the consequences will most
certainly be disastrous for us!
if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge
of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein,
and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For
it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered
unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb,
The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed
to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. 2:20-22)
This is the first article in a multi-part series, published in the December
1995 issue of the Christian Conscience magazine.
Copyright 1995 by Lynn and Sarah Leslie, publishers of The Christian Conscience,
PO Box 17346, Des Moines, Iowa 50317, fax: 515-262-9854.