A practical guide towards becoming a holy man
An argument can be made that singleness is the default position to be supported and marriage the exception. In putting it in this way, we make a kingdom-focused life and personal calling central, which then re-frames marriage as a means of supporting this larger frame. As we have it now most marriages are at most about "family" and not a platform for enhanced kingdom service. In this universe "family" can easily become an idolatry--a socially acceptable one, but an idol nonetheless in some contexts. There needs to be a fuller and more robust conversation about the marriage-centric orientation of most evangelical churches.
There is no reason that a church cannot develop a mentorship strategy for all the young men who want one. It should not be so hard for young men to get the support that they need. Generic small groups and general community are not going to be sufficient to their specific needs.
I felt like there were some good thoughts and an excellent attempt to be inspiring, but I was very distracted by the use of the Passion 'translation.' Any use of paraphrase to make a point that isn't as present in a translation message me suspect the point, even if it is true.
As for the singleness, I think identifying and celebrating it as a calling is right and good, because that is clearly scriptural - but the frequent framing like this leaves a bad taste in my mouth - it seems like the calling is assumed where singleness exists and is also assumed permanent. The calling to singleness may or may not be permanent, but absent the calling and support from the church, I don't think singleness is something we should pursue.
Yuck. 1) It wasn't purity culture that created the thought process that lust was a big problem for men, it was the Bible. Over and over it is a primary problem that men have, including many of the heroes of the faith. 2) Way too much emphasis that singleness is the best state. God created marriage for men, and it is what is normative.
I was going to buy his book, but have now lost interest.
I appreciated this very much.
A lot to think about!
It was interesting, but quite frankly not inspiring. It was supposed to be practical advise, but I saw little “practical” in it. A little too esoteric for me. And where was #6? I missed it.
In the Book of Revelations John uses symbolism instead of concrete language to describe the end of the world. I think he did this in part because it's impossible to describe the future state of things concretely.
And that's the inherent struggle in describing how to fix masculinity in a non-abstract fashion. The contexts of masculinity which were understood before are dead and gone now... inaccessible to us. Masculinity essentially has to be reinvented. John Seel, and all of us really, may as well be John the Revelator on Patmos: groping toward an understanding of something that won't be fully understood until it happens.
Great essay. The picture it paints is beautiful.
These long newsletters are why I subscribe 👏 going to read this today and distill the practical tips that I can implement immediately.
Overall reaction: This is interesting framing. I definitely see a need for men today to be on a quest of some sort - or, rather, to need to reframe their life in terms of a quest, something to actively pursue, which then requires all sorts of other behaviors. Thank you, Dr. Seel, for thinking, acting, and writing about this.
Questions to explore:
1. How many people are really moving to Eastern Orthodoxy or some sort of mystic-based version of Christianity? I see this referenced at times, but in terms of actual numbers, my sense is the hard number is actually quite small. While Dr. Seel's argument is not dependent on this, it seems central to his (I will call it) aesthetic vision.
2. I've been blessed to know many faithful men in many different (American) cultural contexts. I don't think the faithful men I've known who are rural / small town / 'salt of the earth' people would describe their faithfulness in the terms of this article, with the frame of a mystic or poet. They exhibit some of the characteristics described, but I don't know that they would ever think of themselves this way nor be motivated by this framing. Which could be fine.
Could it be that this framing is aimed at the modern, city-dwelling, laptop-working men who are dis-enchanted (I use this word deliberately)?
“Most men do not have the time or patience for theory and abstractions. We are by nature a hands-on practical lot. It is for this reason that much of the religious discussions about masculinity, when they occur, leave us cold. Their pious sentiments provide few practical steps. It is not surprising then that men are turning to secular podcasts for their advice on masculinity.”
Did I miss the practical steps? Honestly this was a good entry to the start of a mini-series or set of essays, but what I just read felt this was a lot of “pious sentiment”.
It’s a shame too, because there are so few male voices that speak to the issues of sexuality and the way purity culture affected/affects men. I’d want to read more.
When I click on an end note reference number, while reading the email, I get an error from Firefox that says it has detected a redirect that will never complete.
When I read from Substack instead of from my inbox, nothing happens at all when I click on a footnote. Confirmed on #6 and #7 and seems to be the case for other numbers that I don't remember.
1. Much too long. I lost interest. Overwhelmed. Where do I start? 2. How to do all that? Yes, I know, be “in Christ.” I’ve been trying to do that my entire adolescent/adult life. Where is Christ? Emotional experience? Ritual and liturgy? Charismatic expression? I’ve tried it all.