Is There a Masculinity Crisis in the Church?
A discussion with the co-founder of The King's Men
In the July/August issue of The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin asks if “The End of Men” is upon us. She argues women — with increasingly greater levels of education and more resilient jobs in this economic recession — are going to take charge, making men the second sex. Our quest for gender equality has led to women zooming ahead, leaving men in the dust. Is that true?
I’ve blogged about my thoughts on this article — and various other pieces that encourage misandry and diminish the role of men — but back in April, I met Damian Wargo, co-founder and director of The King’s Men, a men’s ministry group based in Philadelphia, who is an expert on these issues.
He and I met in New York City for an on-camera debate on NET’s Currents, about gender differences and dating from a Catholic perspective. After we sparred a bit on-air, Damian and I had a chance to chat about his organization, his views on gender, dating and family life, and how young men can get back involved with the Church.
Check out my Q&A with Damian. He and I come from different perspectives on some issues of gender roles, but his desire to involve men in family and community activities is admirable. Plus, his advice to men on dating and marriage (read on!) is rock-solid.
Guys, if you’re interested in getting involved, The King’s Men has some exciting events ahead, including an Into the Wild men’s retreat weekend August 19-22 outside of Pittsburgh. Learn more at: intothewildweekend.com.
Christine Whelan: Tell me a bit about The King’s Men: Why was it started? How many men are involved? What’s your mission statement and goal?
Damian Wargo: The King’s Men was started in response to the crisis in masculinity. Sadly, many men are not active in the church in any way. Some men even view faith initiatives for women only. Also, many men are confused about their natural role as leaders, protectors, and providers. My colleague Mark Houck and I started The King’s Men to address this crisis and to call men to action, especially fighting noble battles. The King’s Men mission is “Under Christ the King’s universal call to serve, we as men, pledge to unite and build up other men in the mold of leader, protector, and provider through education, formation and action.” There are about 200 men who are very active King’s Men and our initiatives reach thousands of men a year.
CW: You talk about helping to build faith in a “masculine modality.” What does that mean?
DW: All men are called to be leaders, protectors, and providers. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “grace builds on nature.” So, for a man to soar in the spiritual life, he needs a good formation on a natural level, which will eventually become greatly animated by the grace of God. Men love to build structures that provide for the needs of others. This is the basis of self-sacrificial love, leadership, and provision. Man, by his physical nature is called to protect women and children. We cannot ignore this fact or shy away from this reality or a man’s faith life will lack a component of his God-given mission. Faith presented in a masculine modality always will call men to action for the love and good of his family and the common good.
CW: The King’s Men is very vocal about the dangers of pornography. Why? What is the impact that pornography has on young men—and what do King’s Men groups suggest as solutions to the widespread consumption of online porn among young men?
DW: The pornography industry is a $13-billion-a-year industry in the U.S. Men are the primary consumers. The only solution to this problem is for men to see this scourge on our culture as a battle that needs to be won so as to protect the common good. Most men have grown up in a completely sexualized culture that teaches men from a very early age that using women for lust and sex is not wrong, in fact, mistakenly, they are taught that it’s to be admired. This has had a devastating impact on our culture as it teaches men to develop vice in this area rather than virtue. The results are disease, divorce, violence, addiction and untold pain.
The solution is for men to become convicted that pornography is gravely evil, and that a man can, with God’s grace, lead a virtuous life of chastity. Once a man begins to develop self-mastery, he can also begin to help lead others in this area and form alliances that will not tolerate pornography in their communities or via the internet and other media.
CW: Tell me about this upcoming Into the Wild Weekend. Who might want to attend — and what happens on this retreat?
DW: Building on the principle that grace builds upon nature, Into the Wild is primarily an outdoor skill-oriented weekend focused on providing men with experiences linked to a man’s natural vocation of leader, protector and provider.
Set on the State grounds of Pennsylvania, Into the Wild trains men in orienteering, topography, weaponry, self-defense, survival skills, outdoor construction, fishing, hunting, wild game food preparation and more. Early mornings consist of prayer, mass, and a short talk linked to the daily masculine archetype we are striving to develop. Midmornings are dedicated to skill acquisition, and the afternoon to team competition and/or challenge simulations. Evenings provide time for rest, relaxation, prayer and fellowship around campfires. Sleeping accommodations consist of small rugged-style cabins without electricity.
Into the Wild is for just about any man. First, ITW is great for an outdoorsman looking to be with other faithful men in the wilderness. Second, it is also excellent for fathers and sons and men looking to a tremendous bonding experience. Finally, it is good for men who have a longing to better understand the wilderness and be trained in outdoor skills.
CW: Would the “Into the Wild” weekend and King’s Men activities be open to spiritual seekers?
DW: Absolutely. Many men who have attended ITW have told us that the weekend was the most spiritual weekend of their lives.
CW: Your patron is St. Augustine. How did you choose him?
DW: Most men can relate to St. Augustine’s struggles with purity and see him as a passionate man who had a radical transformation that lead to a heart that pounded for God alone. He’s a role model for men of all walks of life.
CW: If you could offer three bits of advice to young, single men who are interested in dating and relationships, what would they be?
DW: One, when the Lord places a strong attraction to a woman in your heart and your intellect agrees, pursue this woman with purpose and passion. Do not be afraid to ask a girl for her phone number or out on a date. Simply by showing a strong and genuine interest in a healthy way, you will separate yourself from the vast majority of men who lack in this area.
Two, be very clear with your intentions. Let a woman know that you are not about casual dating, but have the desire in your heart to someday be a husband and father.
Three, if you are lukewarm about the girl you are dating, do not continue to pursue her. A woman deserves a man that wants to be with her and only her. Once you know that she’s not the girl God is calling you to be with, let her know that you have discerned this, even if you’ve only taken her out once or twice.
CW: What about three bits of advice for men who are engaged or married?
DW: One, be a man after your wife’s heart!
Two, always put your wife’s needs above your own.
Three, never talk negatively about your wife to your friends.
CW: I’ve written about misandry — the hatred of men — in this column before. How can women support men and encourage them to be all that they can be?
DW: Realize that for men, being respected can be as strong a need for a man as a woman’s need to be loved. I have found some women to be overly critical of men and quick to point out a man’s faults to others. This is crippling to a man.
Also, as hard as it may be, try to trust a man until proven otherwise. Sadly, many men have let down women in very tragic ways. This has led to a strong distrust of men, in general. However, there are good men out there who can be trusted and do have a desire to do the right thing and can thrive when he knows the women around him trust and admire him.
So, is it the “end of men” — or is there another way to foster equality between the sexes? Ladies, do you trust men to respect you? Would you like your guy to embrace the role of leader, protector and provider? What do you think about the man’s role in dating and family formation? Guys, does the calling of The King’s Men speak to you? Do you feel like there’s a crisis of masculinity in your community? How big of a problem is pornography? Post your comments below and we’ll get a conversation started.