In my humble opinion the book “Under Construction: Re-framing Men’s Spirituality” is one of the more important books on the subject of male spirituality to be written in the past decade. Cause, well, frankly there is not really anything out there like it. It is firmly grounded in Anabaptism. So, when I had the opportunity to ask Gareth a few questions about the book and the process of writing it I naturally jumped at the chance. A big thank you to Gareth for taking the time to answer them… even though I tried to prompt him to give away a big chunk of the book .
1. With so many books on men’s spirituality hitting the shelves in the last few years why did you feel compelled to write a book on men’s spirituality?
Well, basically because I read about a dozen of them one year when I was on sabbatical and most of them made me feel like a complete loser of a man and so I had to write one myself that made me feel better J. I actually did not feel compelled to write a book. I was on a quest to find myself as a middle aged man [see below]. More officially, I think there was need for an alternative voice in this genre. I wanted the main metaphor for men’s spirituality to be a constructive [craftsman] rather than destructive [warrior]. I wanted to be a voice for men who had not found themselves to be spiritual according to previous models, to be affirming rather than guilt-inducing.
2. Can you explain the process of writing the book, and why you see that as important?
It started out as a reading project rather than a writing project. I had never read or been exposed to anything on the subject so I thought I should give some of the literature a try. When the reading did not satisfy I began to journal and then invited 6 men from work and church to join me on a year long project where I would send them a “chapter” which they would read in advance and then we got together at a local pub to talk about it. I eventually expanded this to include some friends from around the continent using the internet. One of them happened to work for a publisher and he thought it needed a wider audience, passed it on to some people, and it began to be a book manuscript. This is important because men’s spirituality has often been very individualistic and this was a more communal approach.
3. In the chapter on sexuality you identify sexual fidelity as a metaphor for men’s spirituality. How does this metaphor challenge men in faith and practice today? Why is it important?
I can’t give away the content of the chapter! In brief, this metaphor is challenging because we live in an age of sexual liberation and promiscuity. In such an age, fidelity seems radical and counter-cultural. I also like this metaphor because it cuts across the lines of sexual orientation and marital status. Fidelity is a challenge regardless of orientation or status. We often get side-tracked by those issues when I think the primary issue for men is fidelity in all our relationships.
4. What is your hope with the message of this book? How would you like to see people and churches use it?
I want it to change the world. I hope it stops war. This may sound like a utopian fantasy that belongs in a women’s beauty pageant, but I believe one of the roots of war and violence in the world is man’s craving for power and dominion over others. If men would embrace a more constructive, egalitarian and communal spirituality, the world would be a better place for all people. As a follower of Jesus who believes in the power of the Spirit, this transformation in men’s lives and in the world, is not by our will power but it is God’s work so what I hope that men do in response to reading the book is to place themselves before God so that God can transform them and their relationships. I would like to see church men’s groups read and discuss the book [there are discussion questions for this purpose in the back] and I would like to have people give it to young men as a gift.
5. You were recently featured on the cover of the Canadian Mennonite. How does it feel to be a cover model?
For a Mennonite preacher it’s like having your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone! They did not ask for my permission to take the picture or put it on the cover.
Author Gareth Brandt is a professor at Columbia Bible Collage in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Check out his book “Under Construction: Re-framing Men’s Spirituality” and find him over at www.garethbrandt.wordpress.com. He also has a website directly focused on men’s spirituality at www.mensspirituality.com.