From Fight Church to Bronies: Reimagining Masculine Spirituality

During the last several weeks I’ve been seeing three-a-day movies at press screenings for the Seattle International Film Festival (Siff). Besides serving as slim justification for my lack of posts (obligatory genre requirement, fulfilled), this random factoid will provide context, later on, for why I am posting about Bronies.


Before I get there, however, I need to back up a few steps. There’s a disturbing phenomenon that I’ve seen and heard in news stories about the growing trend of “open carry” demonstrations in public places. I am deeply disturbed by groups of people–usually composed of Southern, white, men (like myself)–carrying loaded assault weapons into crowded public places (and–spoiler alert–some of these groups have been making violent threats against women. I wonder how they feel about immigrants and equal workplace protections. . .?).

To be honest, this behavior doesn’t surprise me. It is a predictable outcome of a culture that has operating definitions of rights (and righteousness) as well as masculinity, that grow from a deeply rooted fear of what is different.

It is fear, and the frail attempt to control what is unknown, that drives us to arm ourselves against our neighbors. Couple this culture of fear of others with a fear of a God who will damn us to hell for getting anything wrong and, well, it sets us up for one hell of a shitshow (pardon my technical theological language).

And yet, at the same time, there is much good in our world. There is a growing tide to expose and prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. There are cultural shifts, changing institutionalized oppressive norms that protect abusive masculine power structures that have allowed for a range of wrongs, from domestic violence to unequal pay.

And so, it is no surprise, that those with male bodies and male identities are feeling the pressing need to beg the question of what kind of masculinity we will cultivate in ourselves and in one another.


As I mentioned, I’ve been gorging on cinema at Siff. And to tell it true, my taste in film runs a little bleak. Give me a depressing documentary about one woman battling a terminal illness while trying to complete her life’s work to save ancient cultural artifacts that are being destroyed by a climate-change-denying despot who is eating children for breakfast while poisoning water through fracking (all accompanied by a gray piano soundtrack) and I’ll swoon.

So, when I saw, on the schedule, a documentary called “Fight Church” I knew I couldn’t miss it. This film follows a number of Evangelical Christian pastors who run “ministries” centering on teaching boys and men mixed martial arts and cage fighting. The film would be less disturbing if, like snake handling church, these ministries were aberrant oddities of a tradition, rather than a fairly predictable outgrowth of this subculture–with estimates of around 700 of these ministries around the USA (as compared to about 40 snake handling churches).

What I saw in the film made me cry–particularly one scene in which a young boy who was being trained to fight and, after being hurt, was told by his father and minister that what was happening was good and that he was not hurt–Trauma? Check. Brainwashing? Double-check.

I think what’s so heinous is not just that this is happening, but that it is happening in the name of Jesus; this violent masculinity, which its practitioners described as being about protecting, battling “the enemy,” and converting people “through whatever means necessary,” reeks of contradiction to the gospel of Jesus, so how can it be a useful model of masculine spirituality for Christians?

(Also,–spoiler alert–news reports this week say that one of the pastors featured in the film has been accused of multiple instances of sexual assault of women and men in his church. No, no one is surprised by that.)


In contrast to using strength to aggressively inflict violence in a competitive system predicated on winning through inflicting harm, I believe that masculine strength can be used in other ways.

One model that seems like it would be helpful for evangelical males is, ya know, Jesus.

But since that doesn’t seem to be working out all that well, perhaps St. Francis–tamer of wolves and fearful people seeking self-preservation, might be of assistance (no really, go read the story of St. Francis and the wolf. I’ll wait).

There’s a prayer from the early part of the 20th century that captures the spirit of St. Francis, so much so, that it has been called the prayer of St. Francis. It’s also noteworthy that it became popular in The United States during and following WWII–a time marked by fearfulness, deep racism, and the rise of nuclear-backed global military domination.

One version of the prayer goes like this:

O Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light, and
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are awakened to Eternal Life.

I make mention of this prayer, because it came to me this evening as I watched, out of curiousity, my first (and second) ever episode(s) of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

You read that correctly.


The reason for my excursion into the land of Equestria is that, today at Siff, I watched another documentary entitled “A Brony Tale.” For the unaquainted, a “Brony” is typically a male between the ages of 15 and 30 who is a fan of My Little Pony. Though the etymology is debated, most people think of it as a combination of “bro” and pony.

When I first saw a preview for this film, I knew that I had to see it. I had heard of Bronies before, but had never been motivated enough to research and see what they were all about.

But the truth is, I have a deep fascination with fandoms of all types. I don’t understand them whatsoever. I’m as geeky about my favorite shows, films, music, and games as the next person, but I’ve never felt so swept up by them that I would don a t-shirt, draw a picture, write fanfic, or go to a convention.

I guess the closest I’ve come is in my love for Wendell Berry. If there’s a BerryCon out there somewhere that I haven’t heard about, someone please tell me–though I’m sure I’d have to find out by letter and it would be held somewhere in the foothills of Kentucky–and only accessible by riverboat.

But I digress. Back to Bronies.

Before watching the film, I didn’t know what to expect, other than that, like with most online fandoms, my stereotype was that they would be pretty socially awkward. This was somewhat true–but no more so than the every day kind of awkward that we all participate in (see: Daniel making small-talk, Daniel walking toward a stranger and trying to figure out who will pass on which side, etc.).

The thing that stood out to me the most along the way was that all of these young males shown in the film have come to a place where they have taken a stand against the type of isolating masculinity that they were handed as boys. Moreover, they found that they resonated with the values of friendship, cooperation, and community found in this show aimed at very young females (Of course, much could be said here about which characteristics we socially encourage on a gendered basis).

Out of their embrace of the imaginative world of the ponies, these men are artistically and enthusiastically reaching out and forming communities with other men (and some women), wherein they are celebrating values around cooperation, creativity, playfulness, and growth through making mistakes and learning together. In some sense, it’s as though they’ve picked up that society neglected to teach them these things and so, they’re going to where those lessons can be found and learning them now.

I really don’t know what to say. After the film, I couldn’t stop smiling. On discussing it with the friend sitting next to me, he confirmed that he also realized that he had been smiling through the whole film. I really don’t know the last time I smiled through an entire film.

What was it that impacted us both so much? Is it the strangeness? The bizarre factor? Or perhaps–could it be–the Bronies, like St. Francis, are on to a different way of holding a masculine identity that finds male strength–not in violence, but in working and playfully imagining the world in the direction of greater peace?


I know, it’s a hard sell to suggest that we replace fight churches with Bronycons. But I’m pretty sure that it would make the world about 20% cooler.

As I watched the story of a young man who had served military tours in Afghanistan speak of how, on his return, drawing ponies helped him through depression–as he spoke of internalizing the mothering presence modeled in Princess Celestia, and I saw the tender aliveness in his eyes, I could do nothing else but break into a smile as I witnessed the beauty of transformation. The resourcefulness of these young men–to go out and find what was withheld from them by a destructive version of masculinity–is breathtaking.

So, when I got home, I searched “My Little Pony episodes” and got a result for episodes 1 & 2 from season 4. Watching them, I began to piece together the mythology of the show, particularly the recap of the history of a trickster character named discord–a dragon who’s chaos-making is stopped by the ponies’ commitment to mutual support  and cooperation, through the magic of harmony. And that’s when these words swelled up in me:

. . .Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony. . .

What is going on in USAmerican masculinity–particularly in Christian churches, that we define thriving as violence rooted in defensiveness and fear that boisterously denies our human fragility? What would it look like to embrace the full range of our emotions, to be honest about our inability to protect against harm–even to name where we have been harmed, and reach out to build a community that celebrates our dependence on one another, thus enabling room for recovery?

I believe that the Bronies may have found some of that, and I’m quite of fan of their fandom.


I have a photograph that I have lived with for the past decade. It is of a cosmology mural on a wall at Mitad del Mundo (literally, “Middle of the World;” a park at the equator) in Ecuador. It is a spiritual landscape containing sacred condors, mountains, ancestors, and a ladder to the sky. And in the center is an image of an indigenous man who is tied to a stake, and next to him another man–a conquistador–is about to kill him. Next to these two men stands a third man–a priest–reading from an open Bible. It is a picture of conversion at any cost.

This legacy of violence is the natural unfolding of a Christian spirituality paired with masculinity that is defined by fearful assertion of strength over and against others who are different; who we don’t understand.

But after my afternoon with the Bronies and Saint Francis, I re-imagined that image in a way that I had not considered in ten years of its weight on my conscience.

What if the priest was there to convert the conquistador rather than the victimized indigenous man? What if, failing to convert the violent warrior, he placed his own body between the other two, in community with the other man who was also unable to stop the violence on his own?

And where is Jesus in this picture? Where is Jesus in the fight churches, in the peewee football clubs, in the open carry demonstrations, in the ROTC programs in impoverished communities, in the frat houses and the board rooms? And could it be that healthy masculine spiritual identities might be better modeled after a My Little Pony fandom than rhetoric derived from the violence of the crusades?

I never imagined that was a question that I’d be asking. But then, I’m often surprised at where God’s Spirit is working in the world.

 

 

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50 thoughts on “From Fight Church to Bronies: Reimagining Masculine Spirituality

  1. Fantastic! Too bad the men that need to read this won’t because they’re too busy being Neanderthals. What you described is exactly why I married my late husband. He was my friend and not a threat. My dad was the same for my mom except that my dad was gay and later died of AIDS after their divorce. I have tried to teach my children that no race or gender is superior to another. I have taught them violence is never a solution but they have a right to defend themselves. I too grew up in the south where I was expected to be seen and not heard, to find a husband in college, get my Mrs. and be a stay at home mom. All the expectations of a true southern belle. Only problem is I’m a Texan and I come from a long line of ornery. It’s difficult to raise a son without emasculating him or turning him into a psychopath. There only seems to be one extreme or the other these days. Now that my husband has passed my son is even more lost and has been since 2010. My grandfathers are dead, as are most of my uncles so my son has no real role models to show him how to be a father to his daughter. Of course I never dreamed my husband would die at 37. Then there is the fear of creeps like Sandusky and the pastor in this story. You send your child to camp or church to gain knowledge and skills only to find they’ve been assaulted and molested.

    • Sorry for your loss. It sounds like you’ve had some amazing men in your life, and I don’t doubt that your son will grow to be another one based on your own perspectives. And don’t worry, you don’t need a man to teach your son to be a man – all you need is yourself to teach him to be himself.

  2. Beautiful post. Just thinking, if we could change masculinity, if we could change the conversion at any cost – what glorious ripples would that send across other social issues, like prejudice and rape culture?
    As a side note – the show yes, is meant to target little girls, but the writer kept in mind that mothers AND FATHERS would watch the show with their little girls and she hoped to write something parents would like to watch with their children. So there you go.

  3. “Couple this culture of fear of others with a fear of a God who will damn us to hell for getting anything wrong ” Pretty sure everyone gets something wrong. The fight churches apparently missed the verse that says their struggle isn’t supposed to be against flesh and blood.

  4. Well done in your illustrative writing to two contrasting approaches. I think it was Isaiah who wrote in his letters of the Old Testament, “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” and not Beautiful are the fist of those who bring good news. How interesting that this writing would come to terms and be illustrated during Jesus’ time in the book of Luke. That time frame was from around 740 B.C. to 70 A.D. People fought then. Fast forward to 1100 A.D. – 1400 A.D. during the time of the crusades, people fought then and of course now, people still fight. People also find contrasting ways to illustrate the love of God through the simple non violent ways you mention. They are equally powerful. One though is fueled by fear and mans in-ability to understand just what Gods power really is and the other is fueled by simply submitting ourselves to Gods divine power which by the way is something we truly cannot own. We have to submit. Man has a problem with this. We certainly have the ability to show violence as a means of illustrating our boundaries with one another; however, perhaps Gods intention is for us to trust him by submitting our human power completely to his spiritual power. Men and women will always be in search of a way to hide behind a mask and be the toughest around. We simply don’t realize that, as my pastor said one time, true power sometimes comes from not doing what you wish to do to someone. Later you realize that is Gods power at work. Serving one another is not an easy thing to do. Communally, this is exactly what God intends for us to do.

    • I agree that I’d like to see better and more options for understanding masculinity–just not sure about the at any cost part. I think responding to violence with something other will require us all to get better practice at imagination and play.

      I was quite curious about the writers of the show. The Brony Tale documentary didn’t really get into that part, but I hear there’s another doc that does feature the writers. I’ll have to learn more about the show–I’m just getting informed about it. 🙂

  5. “God’s Spirit (is) working in the world”? Are you kidding? Of course you are not, unfortunately. Since you interchange the words Jesus and church and God’s Holy Spirit with such aplomb I suppose you want everybody who reads this blog to believe you understand what Jesus and God and the Christian church are all about. As one who does regularly try to listen to the Holy Spirit as Jesus invited his disciples to do (these instructions are recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, incidentally) I must take exception with you equating those “churches” who are trying to use MMA to “instill masculinity” in young boys. That is pure hogwash!

    Jesus was unjustly accused, arrested and tried for crimes no one could honestly accuse him of. This was all the plan of God since the foundation of the world. When the mob who arrested him came to the garden of Gethsemane Peter used a sword to defend Jesus but Jesus rebuked Peter and told him to put the sword away. He (Jesus could have called two legion of angels to safe him, but because he knew he had to die he was silent. We are called to follow this example, not to play Kung Fu!

    • Hi fogwalker,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m always happy to approve comments disagreeing with my position as long as they remain respectful and appear to be genuinely engaging in conversation.

      If you are interested in how I am using theological language, you might want to check out some of my older posts. I write from a Protestant, trinitarian perspective and I don’t expect everyone–even other Christians to agree with me. I’m just speaking from my perspective and I am grateful that you were willing to read through the piece.

      -Daniel

      • Hi, danieldidwell,

        I commend you for approving my post though it was obvious rather other than “respectful” in tone. Diplomacy is something I need to really work on – especially when I become upset over something I feel strongly about. So what upset me? It was those people who are staging those MMA bouts with the intention of inducing (would that be a good description?) masculinity among their young people. And this under the banner of a church? Excuse me but doesn’t this kind of fly as a little twisted considering what Jesus said about loving our neighbor as ourselves?

        Couple that with all the negative “publicity” the church gets with all the other extremes which folks display for all the world to see. So, I was also upset that you would highlight this kind of extremism. Unless you support such circus acts in the name of Christianity?

      • Fogwalker, well I’m certainly in agreement that the whole MMa for Jesus thing is pretty counter to the gospel and a damaging model of masculinity. That’s kind of what the post was about.
        The reason I felt like writing about this and potentially drawing more attention to it, is that while fight churches are extreme, the toxic cultural versions of masculinity are pretty widely pervasive in all of Evangelical Christianity, and I believe it’s useful to push us all to engage this conversation wherever we can. The other reason, of course, is that I just saw a film about it and I expect more people will be seeing it in the future.

        Again, thanks for reading and, more, for caring enough to share your passion about this. Peace.

  6. “It is fear, and the frail attempt to control what is unknown, that drives us to arm ourselves against our neighbors.”

    Wow! That is probably the most lucid, succinct appraisal of gun culture in the US I have ever come across. But there’s so much more that’s great about this post. I agree that progress is being made and cultural shifts are under way. Unfortunately, progress and cultural shifts tend to result in backlashes among certain populations. And in all seriousness, Wendell Berry himself could probably make a good model for masculinity; “macho” farm labor meets ecological responsibility and introspectiveness.

    • jmchri13,

      Thanks for reading and the kind response. I agree, Berry does offer much light in the world and balances strength and tenderness in both his artistic and personal engagement with masculinity.

      • As a spiritually-minded male who identifies as a male, I’m appalled by fight churches. I’m reminded of the lyrics of the song Gun Shy by 10,000 Maniacs:

        “There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
        you won’t meet it with your gun taking aim
        I don’t mean to argue, they’ve made a decent boy of you
        and I don’t mean to spoil your homecoming my baby brother Jude
        and I don’t mean to hurt you by saying this again,
        they’re so good at making soldiers
        but they’re not so good at making men.”

        Basically, I think any pastor or follower of a fight church (or any participant of an open-carry demonstration) needs learn that there is indeed a whole world “out there.” “Out there” can mean a lot of things. For me it was sojourns into the hills of my native New England, and discovering the awe and beauty of nature (a la Wendell Berry), which in turn deepened my spirituality. And this spirituality borne out of awe for the beauty of the world makes mutual support and cooperation for a harmonious world a no-brainer, and is no doubt a part of my own personal masculine identity. While My LIttle Pony would be a tough sell for most men, maybe fight churches could be replaced with “nature churches.” Just some rambling thoughts…

  7. Aw, just getting to read about the bronies made me smile! I wish I could watch both films to better see the juxtaposition you present, but you do a very good job of it. I will definitely be checking out your other writing now as well!

      • “the toxic cultural versions of masculinity are pretty widely pervasive in all of Evangelical Christianity” – is that so? Really? No kidding, this assertion just floors me!

        If Evangelical Christianity has been reduced to being so influenced by worldly norms would you not also say this is a very sad state of affairs for Evangelical Christianity? Excuse me, but as Evangelical Christian myself (what is your definition of Evangelical Christianity by the way?) I believe we are rather called to be thermostats not thermometers of our culture, sir.

        Would you please explain “and I believe it’s useful to push us all to engage this conversation wherever we can”? Expand on that a bit, please?

      • Hey fogwalker,

        I guess if you look around the blog a bit, you’ll see that my view of all churches, and USAmerican Evangelicalism in particular, is that we are messy humans living our lives and trying to follow the way of Jesus. I offer a lot of critique because I care enough to want to see growth. I think that all churches are products of our cultures and that churches, at their best, can offer critique of cultural problems. That we don’t always do that isn’t so surprising; when it comes to culture, we are all like fish that don’t know they’re in water. It’s too simplistic to think the church exists apart from culture. And I believe that God is much bigger than the church and one way the church is led to grow in following the way of Jesus is by being scandalized by a culture that can sometimes reflect more of the kingdom of God than our church frameworks allow for. So, what I’m saying is culture has both good and bad and so does the church and following the living way of Jesus requires a dance of creativity and repentance to try and listen to where God is leading us.

        From a place of cultural gender norms, a lot of USAmerican churches offer really damaging frameworks for engaging gender and relationships. To the extreme, it can look like things like fight church, but I believe the seeds of that are much more subtle. Because Christians often imagine ourselves as being apart from culture, we don’t take responsibility for things like rape culture and we fail to make the connections between such awful violation and the everyday disrespect of the personhood of women in our congregations (denial of leadership, blaming for men’s lust, shaming their sexuality, etc.).

        I personally don’t think these things change by our ignoring them, so I choose to talk about them here in my little corner of the interwebs.

        Cheers,
        Daniel

      • After reading your latest reply it was like a light went off, and I seen immediately what your problem is. In your reply you said “I guess” “I offer” “I think” “I believe”. Your stance is solely based on your perspective and your own understanding without any inference / deference to God’s word – the Bible. Because men will not submit to God’s word – for this reason they are living “messy human lives as they try to follow Jesus”. It’s for this reason they are subjecting themselves to MMA and all sorts of other ridiculous notions like Jesus embracing phantom ponies. That is occultist because you are asking people to believe in something which is make believe. What people need to put their faith in is God’s word. Nothing else. From the beginning God has warned his people about deviating from following close to obeying his Word. If churches are “products of their culture” it is because they have turn aside to fables (II Timothy 4:4); “that churches at their best can only offer their critique of cultural problems”if this is all they can do it is because they are depending on their own wisdom and resources (as you appear to be doing) rather on the power of God.

        Finally, it is not “too simplistic to think the church exists apart from culture”. God has called us to “come out form among them and be ye separate”. That is how I live, me and my wife and those Christians with who I regularly fellowship. No, we are not perfect, but we well know what God expects and it isn’t conforming ourselves to this world.

        Take another look at your Bible, sir. God changes not.

        In Him,
        Frank

  8. I have a lot of “bronie” friends and i always wondered why they loved that show so much, myself as a woman, thought them to be moronic. You have given me anew view on them. Thanks.

  9. Powerful post! I am definitely sharing this one! Thank you for writing such a thoughtful, provocative piece.

  10. I’m not evangelical, not even close.
    I’m Eastern Orthodox.
    Still, this was a good communication of honesty.
    Truth is truth, regardless of the source. And if it’s truth, it’s from God.
    God help our pitiful society.
    Best regards,
    PraxtersPoppa

  11. Nice post. Thank you for encouraging a thoughtful discussion on masculinity. I wish more people would understand that it’s a cultural signifier that humans invented. Lol.
    I wanted to thank you for sticking up for your faith also. I noticed that some comments were a little bashing towards that. I’m a gay Christian who used to be a porn star, and I get attacked from gays, Christians, and all kinds of people because of it. However, like you, I will always stick up for my faith in Christ as my Savior. God bless you, Brother! ❤

  12. Thank you so much for this. I was personally convicted by your remarks about some of the things that slip out of my mouth when talking to my own children and my students on the subject of masculinity.

    I need God to teach me – yet again – what it really means to be a man.

    Thank you.

  13. Daniel… Was wondering if you would actually post my comments on your blogs as an opposing viewpoint to some of your stances. If not, are you really concerned with having a real “conversation” here on your blog with anyone who is interested?

    • In your comment, “It is fear, and the frail attempt to control what is unknown, that drives us to arm ourselves against our neighbors.”, as well as other comments you make seem to presume that you “know” why others do or don’t do thing that you speak about, even though you are not yourself a part of the particular group or segment of people that you are speaking of. How can you presume to “know” what drives each person to arm ourselves, as by your own admission, are against such methods of protection?

      I, on the other hand can say that it is neither “fear” nor the “unknown” that informs me to protect those I love. Rather it is a love for those around me, even my Hispanic neighbor across the street or African American neighbors on either side, that I am willing to protect. It is the knowledge that there are those in this world who would are capable of heinous acts of violence that informs me that the guy driving the wrecker at the filling station where I stopped yesterday, who has the pistol on his side in plan view, is, in itself, a deterrent to the thug trying to harm the innocent.

      Additionally, I arm myself against those who would do harm, not against my neighbors. If someone needs something, just ask. You yourself have seen me give even the shoes that I had on to the homeless guy at Rescue Atlanta who was in need.

      There is a balance and I’d be willing to bet that if more people carried guns in plain site, there would be much LESS violence in the world.

      • Dad,

        Thanks for the comment. I am grateful to hear how you are personally engaging this difficult question about how to navigate love and self-protection.

        I feel like it goes without saying, that my blog is opinion. I don’t presume to know the interior motives of anyone–indeed, I think we rarely fully understand our own internal motives for our actions–specifically actions related to deep emotions like fear and love. What I am trying to do is draw connections between large cultural patterns of violence and try to understand some of the possible patterns that collectively shape us across the differences of our particular responses.

        I do consider myself someone who is a part of this group of people. I arm myself with personal defenses, relational distance, and with the armed forces of police and military. I do not carry a weapon on my person, but I am a member of an armed society that has taken the land I live on by force, has enslaved and indentured other humans we did not consider our neighbors, and has carved out economic and political security with the greatest show of force on the planet. So, as long as I keep paying my taxes, yes, I am well armed.

        As a Christian, I have to contend with the practices and teachings of Jesus in this matter. Particularly, I must ask how Jesus would negotiate who is neighbor and who is thug? Matthew 5:43-48 seems particularly helpful for me in trying to sort this out. Jokingly, some have put it this way: WWJK? Who would Jesus kill?

        I can only read the gospels and come away with one conclusion–Jesus turns upside down our notion of who is an enemy and tells us to call them our neighbors. That there are people in the world who would want to kill me simply tells me that there are people in the world who need to be transformed by God’s love. I see no way to demonstrate that love looking down the barrel of a gun. This doesn’t make me feel safer, but I do sleep better at night.

        As you are aware, there was a gunman who attacked students on a nearby campus this week. It was close enough that we had to shut down our campus as a precaution. I have a number of friends and colleagues who were there on the campus where the shooting took place. My job entails ensuring that the campus where I work is secure and protecting my students and colleagues that I hold dear. While I would love to keep myself and all of them safe, I can’t ensure that. No matter how well armed I am.

        I choose to try to engage with love by devoting my resources personally, vocationally, and democratically to address systems that prevent people from accessing mental healthcare, that allow access to dangerous weapons, that maintain income inequality that creates conditions of desperation and greed that fuel heinous violence at both ends of the economic spectrum.

        And mostly, I try to move the conversation to a place where we can all engage with what is shaping us to believe we are in a violent competition with each other. Because I know that I need help in developing an imagination for how to live with the kind of love that allows me to move past the kind of fear that makes me see another person as an enemy or thug rather than a neighbor. I believe that it’s that kind of radical love that Jesus models and invites us into, and I hope to follow Jesus into that kind of life.

    • Hi Dad,

      You, like everyone else, are welcome to join the discussion on the blog. I moderate all comments because there’s a fair amount of spam, and I do ask that everyone remains respectful and on topic (I tend to not post vague comments because it’s hard to tell if they are spam or not).

      I am happy to see people post who disagree with me, but if there is no room to learn from each other in the conversation, then it ends up that we just talk past each other. Since this is my blog (not a forum or a message board) and I am writing from my particular perspective, I reserve the right to draw boundaries around the conversation. Ultimately, anyone is free to start their own blog where they can say whatever they would like.

      I invite people, you included, to get in touch with me personally if you have something personal to say to me.

    • Agnestadia,

      Thanks for the comment. I think what I’m making a case for is that our spirituality informs how we engage with specific cultural categories of feminine and masculine (and I am most familiar with USAmerican dominant white cultural definitions). I do think that our biological as well as psychological particularities are important to our spirituality. I think I would err on the side of saying that spirituality spans the universal and the particular in a way that goes beyond the gender binary, by recognizing gender complexity rather than presuming gender neutrality. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I am grateful for your comment because it helps me see where I may not have communicated that nuance.

  14. I love this so much that I am trying again to comment after I’m pretty sure the internet ate my first one xD.

    I was grinning ear to ear after I watched the Brony documentary tooooo. I came away feeling like they were all just SO precious. That fandom <3. I didn't go much further in my head trying to articulate WHY. And I am so grateful that you did that here.

    These thoughts are so important to me as I raise this little boy-child … And also as I go about, yanno, being a human.

    Thank you for this. ❤

  15. You seem like an awesome person. 🙂 I love the topics you tackle on your blog and the seemingly unrelated ideas that you pull together in a way that makes perfect sense. I love the prayer of St. Francis, it’s so beautiful. My children watch My Little Pony (including my son) and I love the lessons they learn from it. I don’t understand fandom as I’ve also never been one to take my love of something that far, but I do love seeing and supporting movements that stand up for humanness, especially when they fly in the face of cultural expectations. My son occasionally chooses to wear dresses to school and my kids know that it’s ok for boys to like pink and My Little Pony and Princesses and it’s ok for girls to like super heroes and cars and such. I can only hope that as they grow older, there is less gender stereotyping that occurs and more love and acceptance. Thank you for helping to spread love and acceptance through your blog!

  16. I really enjoyed this. While I’m not as familiar with the fight churches, I did go out of my way to research the Brony movement because I found it fascinating. I know it may be difficult for some men to understand (it certainly would be for my husband), but some men are never going to fall into the old standard of masculinity. I just don’t believe that loving My Little Ponies will make you any less manly. Does learning martial arts make you manlier? Are girls allowed to attend fight church? Surely those religious folks don’t want “manly” girls running around? With all that said, I do feel a certain sense of loss when I’m around large groups of teenagers. I feel so sorry for these teeage girls now. Their dating choices are awful. They can date your typical alpha male or boys in skinny jeans so tight they are getting yeast infections. It feels like the masculinity spectrum is widening, but that an outsiders perspective. Anyway, thank you for the good read.

  17. The Crusades were never from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures make it plain that Christ’s Kingdom is spiritual and not physical; He said so Himself. As far as fight churches…all I can say is…sad. When people takes the Scriptures out of context…you get weird-ities. I would invite you to watch a video I did, and which is out on youtube, “An Exegetical study of 1 Peter 3:7” which exposes some of the other masculine driven interpretations of Scripture that should never have been.

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