Christian Men Seek Lost Masculinity

A new men's movement is burgeoning into the Christian scene, picking up men bored in the pews and toughening them up with the other side of Jesus' image - the table-tipping side.

"Men are a punchline in America," said comedian Brad Stine, founder of GodMen, on ABC News. "Anything that's masculine is considered misogynistic, suspect, trying to be oppressive. We're none of those things."

GodMen brings hundreds of Christian men together to do "guy stuff," things they normally would not do in the churches. They watch professional sports screw-ups and witness a man bend a metal wrench with his bare hands. But the integral part of the movement is the raw talks, including discussions on pornography addiction.

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"The biggest thing we're trying to give them is absolute authenticity and honesty," said Stine, who has hosted two conferences so far in Franklin, Tenn. "You get to be real and raw. We're flawed, we're messed up, we're not perfect ... we are on a journey but we screw up every single day."

But now the guys have a tribe of brothers to go with them on their journey - a journey where men can be "fully men."

"Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!" said Stine at the first GodMen conference in 2006.

"I think GodMen is an attempt to recapture some of the masculinity that's been lost in our churches today," David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, told The Christian Post. "I certainly applaud Stine and his team."

Murrow currently runs an organization called Church For Men, calling churches to unleash the masculine spirit. More than 60 percent of church attendants at a typical worship service are women and Murrow writes that the church has become a hostile environment to men, particularly "masculine men" who are uncomfortable in the typically feminized church.

Churchgoers are taught to reflect the meek and mild image of Jesus Christ. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, churches often preach.

But one GodMen attendant says he's running out of cheeks. After attending the ministry's second conference this month, the male Christian said he will no longer turn the other cheek. Instead, he'll "stand up to it," ABC News reported.

"A meek and mild Jesus ... eventually is a bore," said Stine.

Some people are troubled with the new attitudes men go away with after attending the conference, the latest of which had 300 attendants.

Howard Stephenson, 43, called the movement "extreme" for him, according to The Los Angeles Times. But weeks after attending the conference, he boldly complained to a Wal-Mart clerk who was writing "Happy Holidays" on a window. "It should say 'Merry Christmas.'" The greeting was erased.

"I wouldn't have done that before," he told the LA Times.

Murrow said he does not think GodMen will draw criticism. "I think Jesus' meek side has been given lots of press. What's lost is his ... manliness. Any effort to bring that back to the public sphere is going to help us (churches) attract men."

And how do women respond to the now bold and more masculine men?

"Most of them really love it," Stine told ABC News, noting that the GodMen movement does not try to cast women aside but instead tries to find balance with the feminine.

Women of Faith spokesperson Nichole Masker says they are always excited to hear about organizations planning big gatherings of guys "because they take care of our ladies."

Women of Faith conferences draw on average 400,000 women a year.

"As I speak to women around the country, most are delighted when men take a bigger spiritual role," said Murrow.

Murrow recently came out of a meeting with the nation's largest men's ministry, Promise Keepers. The ministry has been hosting large-scale conferences for 17 years, packing stadiums with thousands of men at a time. While also providing men a place to get together with fellow Christian men, Promise Keepers has a different approach than GodMen to building up men.

"We're trying to help guys understand what it means to be a godly man in today's culture," Jim Weidmann, senior vice president of the ministry, told The Christian Post.

A godly man, he explained, is one of integrity. He's serving, loving and forgiving, but also bold and wise as Jesus was, said Weidmann.

And the wives and daughters are all for building godly men as many sign up to volunteer at Promise Keepers events and cheer them on.

GodMen has something more assertive in mind - a knight in shining armor.

"When women see that what they see is what they wanted all along - a man who believes in honesty and integrity and strength and leadership and the knight in shining armor ... we're here to be the man you wanted all along," said Stine.

As for finding his feminine side, which men are often told to do, Stine told ABC, "I found it. I married her. I'm good. I got feminine side 24 hours a day. And I need her.

"But what I wanted to say is 'let's come back and find that balance.'"

GodMen goes national this year beginning September in Mobile, Ala.

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