Men united

2009-04-24 00:00

THE 2009 Mighty Men Conference gets under way today at the Shalom Farm in Greytown, home of Christian evangelist Angus Buchan, probably best known for his book and the consequent film, Faith Like Potatoes.

This is the sixth Mighty Men Conference. The first was an informal affair held in 2004 when 240 men attended. In 2000, 600 attended; in 2006 it was 1 060; in 2007 it was 7 400. Then, in 2008, it was 60 000 plus.

This year, 60 000 have registered but upwards of 200 000 men are expected in Greytown today. What is the appeal of the event?

“Fellowship with fellow Christians. Seeing people give their lives to the Lord. It’s fantastic as a Christian to see people accept Jesus as their lord and saviour,” says Gerald Walsh, a Methodist who has known Buchan for 20 years. “We have similar backgrounds—I’m a farmer in Richmond.”

Walsh says the conferences are liberating experiences. “People are really freed up.” He says that Buchan has struck a chord among Afrikaners. “Last year, there were 60 000 men, and of those, 40 000 to 45 000 were Afrikaners,” he says. “They look at him as their spiritual father.”

“Today, Afrikaners are a bit rudderless, leaderless as such. Angus speaks their language. Many of them are farmers like him. They understand what he’s saying. He’s a man’s man. Yet he’s humble.”

Andrew Trodd, a Methodist and farmer near Bergville, says Afrikaners feel threatened in the new South Africa. “Here they are finding a bit of hope. And it’s the farmer connection that makes it click.”

Trodd says that the conference he attended helped him draw closer to the Lord—“and to see other men fellowshipping is great”. According to Walsh, the theme of last year’s conference was the man as the priest of the home. “Today, many wives take on that role,” says Walsh. “They don’t need a husband, that’s where it’s going wrong. But Angus says to wives ‘put God first, then your husband, then your child, then your job’.”

Does that mean a woman’s place is in the home? “In today’s world that’s not going to happen,” admits Walsh. “Wives have to go to work and they earn good salaries. But the world is upside down. The husband does his thing and the wife does her thing. That doesn’t make for a happy home. The man is not taking the role as the head of the home. Angus is very strong on family life.”

With all the emphasis on men, don’t women feel left out? “Maybe they do,” says Trodd. “But that’s not the purpose of it. It’s about being better husbands. And wives see the benefits of it—they see a changed husband. Wives see their husbands making decisions for the better. They don’t feel degraded.”

Trodd says that Buchan’s message is that the husband has a God-given authority to lead the household — “but that’s not happening, but that’s what the husband should be doing: upholding the true values of Christian life.”

According to Graham Lindegger of the School of Psychology on the local campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Mighty Men Conferences fit into a worldwide pattern of men’s movements attempting to reconsolidate fragmenting notions of masculinity. “This is in the context of what is called ‘the crisis of masculinity’.

In the face of post-feminism, the foregrounding of gender rights and women equality has left men in crisis.”

Lindegger says there have been two ways of responding to this crisis. “The first is a mythopoetic one. This sees men claiming an essentially mythical root to their masculinity. The sort of idea that’s espoused in Robert Bly’s book Iron John.

It is an attempt to reconsolidate as powerful men, to reaccess a patriarchal view of men and there is a great deal of religious appeal to that. The second response is pro-feminist and this sees patriarchy as something that has to be dismantled and not reconsolidated as it has caused so much damage.”

Lindegger cites David Tacey and his book Remaking Men. “He looks at masculine spirituality against the backdrop of the decline of religion and the upsurge of spirituality. In the context of this, men are renegotiating their masculinity and it must include both a political and spiritual dimension. This requires returning to an authentic spirituality and not one rooted in a conservative religious mentality.”

Joseph Gelfer, author of Numen, Old Men, says that since the early 1990s there has been a fear that men’s experiences of the spiritual are being marginalised.

“Masculine spirituality is therefore about promoting what it perceives to be authentic masculine characteristics within a spiritual context.”

“In itself, this is no bad thing, “ says Gelfer, writing in the London Guardian. “However, the type of masculinity these ministries promote has the power to broaden our horizons or turn back the clock. Unfortunately, men’s ministries have a habit of encouraging a rather unsavoury vision of masculinity that has been described by one sympathetic sociologist as ‘soft patriarchy’, where evangelical men assume an allegedly ‘symbolic’

position of authority in the family as reward for their emotional engagement.”


WE believe…

• The Bible to be the inspired, the infallible, authoritative word of God.

• In the eternal triune God.

• In the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his virgin birth, in his sinless life, in his miracles, in his vicarious and atoning death through his shed blood, in his bodily resurrection, in his ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in his personal return in power and glory.

• That for the salvation of the lost and sinful man, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.

• In the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

• In the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto resurrection of life, and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.

• In the creation, test and fall of man, as recorded in Genesis; his total spiritual depravity and inability to attain to divine righteousness apart from God.

• In the Lord Jesus Christ, the saviour of men, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, very God and very man.

• In the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

— the Statement of Faith on the website

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