Friday, April 10, 2009

The Dilemma of the Lonely Christian Man Part II




I approach this topic not as some type of critic, but as an observer and questioner. I honestly don’ know the answers to the questions but I’m just thinking outside my head.

Here’s a series of the questions that I have, and I will discuss them afterwards.

1) Is the Lonely-Christian-Man syndrome just my personal problem, or is it pandemic?

2) I was told by a pastor, as I graduated from college, that the college years are unique and I will never, ever have relationships again that close. Is this a fact and if so, does it have to be that way?

3) Assuming that I’m not alone in this syndrome, what are the causes?

4) Are they ways, “steps 1, 2 and 3,” that I can do to change things . . . at least in my micro-cosmos?

The Cause # 1, The Fear of Being Known:


I know I’m speaking out of order of the questions I asked above . . . but I think the cause has several factors. The catch-all answer is of course the fall of Adam and individual alienation that comes in its wake. But I want to think about the particulars . . . how that general idea works itself out on a day to day basis.

I’ve said before (in many posts ago) that if you boil down all human behavior, I really think you can say it is based on what I call the economics of self-worth. We all want to have value to our friends, our families and of course with God. Some would call it self-esteem but I’m talking about a concept that is a little more complicated than that.

I had a good, ex-Lutheran pastor, friend I will call "R". I don’t mention R haphazardly because he was one of my last good friends. I lost him as a friend, because he became more and more precise about doctrine (about the Lutheran church is the only true church) and eventually he, by his choice, stopped being my friend. But that’s a side topic.

What I was going to say about R was that he went in for counseling regarding some marital issues. He came out of the meeting with the Christian psychologist angry.

The reason R was angry was because the psychologist suggested that he had some self-esteem issues and depression. Being a scholarly guy, he wrote up a paper about his opinion on self esteem. He really believed that the whole concept of self-esteem was humanistic and not Biblical. Here is a children's video series with the same dogma. Dare I say that the Christian people, who put together this series, did it to boost their own feelings of self-worth?

R believed that Christians should have the attitude that we are all wretched, disgusting and appalling but that we only have value in Christ and his work on the cross.

I could easily get off on a tangent here, talking about this concept of self-esteem, but I do think that on a daily basis our self worth dose play a major role. We want to be respected, loved and valued. This desire is, at least, a part of the motivation for every thing that we do or say.

Men are, by fallen nature, very insecure. We feel that we must put on a perpetual façade to give the impression that we are better than we really think we are (deep inside). This applies to not only Christian men but all men . . . in my humble opinion. Christian men just add “spiritual” markers on the façade.

So, if we men are actually deeply insecure, but put on an intense façade to make others think we have value, then we don’t want other men to get too close or they may see the real me. When men do relate, they must keep up such a thick façade that, in the end, it is only one façade relating to another one. In another metaphor, one, remote controlled unmanned drone interacting with another remote controlled unmanned drone.

Now, I could agree with R at one point, that the insecurity problem has been solved on the cross. That is true in a theological or a redemptive perspective. I mean, the only issue of value that really matters is what God thinks of us. In Christ, when God looks at us, he sees perfection! It is a type of façade, but a Christ-façade, which God himself has built.

But this doesn’t change the reality of how I feel emotionally (or what one could say psychologically). No matter how “spiritual” we think we are, or how well we have our heads screwed out correctly (regarding the proper theology) still we operate from this primeval level of wanting to be valued by others.

So I believe that the first cause of men's loneliness is this alienation built around our fear to be known.

Non Christian men are bad at this . . . but I believe Christian men are worse. The reason being, Evangelicals believe that all our thoughts, desires and behaviors are at the rein of our self-control. They also

More to come . . .

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

R believed that Christians should have the attitude that we are all wretched, disgusting and appalling but that we only have value in Christ and his work on the cross.

i.e. "Worm Theology". Which makes Christ on the cross into a joke. (Appropriate that I'm posting this on Good Friday.) If people are no more than rancid piles of crap, why would Christ do what He did? Why, for something of no value whatsoever?

I remember some radio preacher 20+ years ago with the same attitude. What I do remember is one image from his radio sermon: "When you see a smiling baby, you see An Utterly Depraved SINNER!"

And the statement (from a book somewhere) about a church the speaker had been mixed up in: "They had the idea that for God to have supreme importance, nothing else could be allowed to have any importance whatsoever."

Think of someone who's come out of a background of abuse and belittlement. Worm theology says God is going to belittle you, too. Break That Bruised Reed!

(I'm rambling now. Crashing blood sugar does that to you...)

-- Headless Unicorn Guy

pennyyak said...

Made it to (or through) Ch. 11 of your book (anybody reading this, look under 2008 in archives), commented now and then. No, I don't think any of the comments are going to measurably improve the book - they're just comments about what I liked or identified with. No need to rush to read them. But it is really good and unusual manuscript. I've gotten so excited about it that now it's midnight, and I definitely have to quit for the day. It is cumbersome to have to read a long document online (no printer at the moment).

I suppose you could at some point podcast a chapter. I'll have to look at your comments in later chapters to find out about how the whole book process is going (or not going).

I see my fellow commentator Headless Unicorn Guy here. Why do I love that name?

adventuresinmercy said...

I was in the grocery store last summer and these two twenty-something young men were hanging all OVER each other, obviously having a great time, obviously infatuated with each other. I thought it was odd because we live in a very conservative area and open displays of homosexuality are...less than rare. Non-existant, really. So here are these two very affectionate, very close guys... It was just different. I tried not to stare, you know, but couldn't help but notice. You just don't see men hanging all over each other every day.

So I'm on another aisle, and they walk by me again, except that this time, there's THREE of them. Okay, that's weirder. Then, since they're close, I realize they're all speaking a different language, and they're all the same ethnicity. My guess is that it was Arabic of some sort...but then their father and their other brother/cousin/whatever walk up, and I finally get it: they're a FAMILY.

I saw them down a few other aisles and something in my heart was so happy and, at the same time, very aware of a big gaping hole missing in MY culture's life. Because these men had NO problem openly showing their deep affection for each other, having a great time, hugging, hands around each other's necks, backs...having a wonderful time and entirely unaware that they were SERIOUSLY breaking social protocal. It was just totally totally different from anything I've ever seen.

Could I do that with my female friends? Yes. We display affection for each other all the time. What was so shockingly different about this situation was that they were MEN. (The closest a man in my culture might get to a socially approved situation like that might be the football field).

It made me aware of just how culturally-based the American male's, "I'm an island" persona really is. John Wayne is cool, but I think that concept did my sons no favors. I confess to feeling very very sorry for American men while I was watching these men in the grocery store.

adventuresinmercy said...

Hey, Headless Unicorn Guy! :)
Nice to see you.
Warmly,
Molly

Anna A said...

I think that part of the problem, because I am in the same boat myself, is related to personality.

I am a woman, but work in a hard science (fell in love with it in high school.) I've always been more comfortable with men, because you play better. You fight, but then the air is clear. Not the lingering uncertainity that many women bring to conflict.

You want to fix things, and that is one tendency I have to watch for myself.

We don't pick up on social clues as well.

And yes, I experience the same kind of loneliness.

MJ said...

Great point HUG! Just go into any Evangelical church and ask for prayer that you would have a "better self esteem" and watch the jaws drop . . . or use the term "I deserve," like "I deserve a raise or a vacation."

My Nav friends use to respond to anyone who slipped and said, "I deserve," with "Hey bro (trying to soften the blow) you deserve HELL's fire for all eternity and nothing else!"

I feel sorry for the kids who watch those videos that teach them that they are garbage, punk, donkey shit etc. But God loves you anyway.

MJ said...

Pennyyak, thanks so much for you interest and diligence. I've been away from the computer for a couple of days and haven't been able to comment on your comments. Thank you for them and I will take them seriously.

I know that there are typos, plenty of them. I've proof read it once since I posted it and made many changes (including the title). I am now proof reading it again. But when you proof read your own writing (at least for me) my brain tends to read what I meant to say and not what I actually typed.

Regarding the impersonal giving rise to the personal I would state it this way. When you lay in bed at night and ponder your existence, are you really there? If you are only the product of endless evolution (from the material then time + chance) then your consciousness, as complex as it may be from neuro-circuitry, you are still just a carbon-based machine. You are not really there. What you think is “you” is just a projection of the circuitry. But if you, as a person, really are there . . . and more than just a complex machine, then something personal out there must have been your source. So are you really there? That’s all I was saying.

MJ said...

adventuresinmercy,

Great point. Actually in my next part of why men are lonely, I want to discuss my views on the barrier of . . . well, what I was going to call homo-phobia, but I think I will broaden it to effeminate-phobia.

Men do have the fear of not only looking or being perceived as gay, but as effeminate. This is true if they touch, or discuss emotions.

I love the scene from Airplanes Trains and Automobiles, where John Candy and Steve Martin wake up (in the same bed) and John’s hands are between Steve’s thighs. Immediately they both jump out of bed and start talking football.

I lived for two years in Egypt and your are right about the cultural thing. My best friend there (and now he is in the US . . . I saw him two years ago . . . back in Egypt) Mazen and I use to go out to the “juice bars” almost every night. He was my savor in the Arab culture.

But, when we walked down the busy streets of Cairo, he would hold my hand. I felt so creeped out at first that I couldn’t stand it. But finally I got use to it. Men there do hold hands and kiss each other on the cheek. I think they talk about emotional things easier too.

MJ said...

Anna A, I think that is a valid point as well, Men's personalities also make it easier for some of them to make friends than others and, as you said, the same must be true for women.

I do envy my wife's good friends. I can't remember her having any of the female-social difficulties that you allude to. However, I know that my daughter has experience that a lot. She is in college now, but I remember many times her talking about that so and so was mad at her and she doesn’t know why. Or, she doesn’t know if so and so was her friend or her enemy because something happened a long time ago and she wasn’t sure if she ever got over it.

It's also funny how you mention that you enjoy relating to men better. I know that right now my best local friends are my wife's friends. Our pastor and his wife will come over now and then (his wife is my wife's best friend). I can't get two words past the pastor before he starts looking at his watch or acted like he is disgusted in something (honest) that I've said.

However, I could talk to his wife for hours. I think it is because she puts her guard down and doesn't give a rat's ass . . .well, if I say "rat's ass" while it would make her husband very angry and want to leave. She can also say things in front of my wife and me that tells us she is human. Like she's mad about something or tired or . . . lonely.

pennyyak said...

Thanks, MJ, for your reply to my question. Of course, I personally believe I was made in the image of God, but that is obviously a moot point to an unbeliever. The passage makes much more sense to me with your explanation. I do understand it (I think), although my supposed IQ level and my actual ability to think critically seem to be at quite a mis-match at times.

The reasoning you presented does pre-suppose that the brain and mind are two different things, and I'm not sure about that. I know you are in the field of neurology, and I was in the field of child psychology, and neither of us neophytes on neurotransmitters etc. And from all I've read recently "mind" is still the deepest mystery (as we leap to guessing about quantum influences, a very interesting idea of late).

Animals that recognize themselves (bonobos being the best example), and can seemingly recognize dead members of their pack (or whatever you call a bunch of them together)while watching a film and have emotional reactions to it, seem to point out that maybe we are not the only things on this earth with some form of self-awareness, consciousness. I'm not saying they are thinking in some exactly parallel state to you and I, that they are feeling guilt and remorse for killing one another over power issues (although they certainly appear to feel or react in what looks like fear related to their awareness), and wondering if God is with them. Rather, they react in the way that would benefit their self-preservation.

But excuse me for wandering and wondering somewhat far afield. ha!

Now whether I am something apart from my circuitry, I have the pre-supposition that this circuitry is God-given and God-infused - yes, God-created. Well, maybe I'm a heretic in some way, I don't know. I know this is a supposition that has no basis in logic. And what you are stating is an attempt to apply logic to that whole issue. It is undoubtedly why I didn't major in philosophy or theology!

Yes, proofing my own writing goes about the same way. I don't know why that is.

Thank you so much for your time.

Anonymous said...

I am reading this many years after you posted and find it so relevant to my life. I think you have explained some new things to me about my life. I am constantly being blamed exclusively for my own loneliness (and I share some of the blame), despite my attempts to reach out to other men.

j. Michael Jones said...

I'm glad you found it and know that you are not alone.