Questions about the relationship of violence and men are being asked in the aftermath of mass shootings in Texas, Wisconsin, and Colorado. A Time.com article points out that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men and that more needs to be done to address this condition. It reports that “men are nine to ten times more likely to commit homicide and more likely to be its victims” (Erika Christakis, “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide,” July 24, 2012).
Such statistics are a sharp rebuke for us to rethink our expectations, education, and biases about manhood. Violence is about extreme fear, but is not a defining element of true manhood. True manhood counters violence.
We need to see what is behind the association of men with violence and challenge it. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your lifework, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models” (p. 248). To get beyond matter models, we need to see ourselves and others in spiritual terms. We need to go much deeper than the body’s chemical composition, biological, and hereditary makeup, or social roles and gender issues.
Even on that night in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, this higher model of manhood was visible in the devoted parents who got their children out of harm’s way, the unselfish protection by the men who shielded their girlfriends, and the alert and dedicated firefighters and police officers—both men and women—who secured safety for dozens of people, and the hospital staff who cared for the injured.
Courage, unselfishness, boldness, action, intelligence, compassion. Isn’t this the model of manhood we are looking for? And it’s found not only in the aftermath of tragedies but in the millions of men who daily provide for, protect, and love their families; cooperate and help their partners and co-workers; strategize for and build their homes, communities, and nations.
This model of manhood is based on spiritual qualities that can be applied to both men and women. As Science and Health puts it, “Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness” (p. 57).
Courage, unselfishness, boldness, action, intelligence, compassion. Isn’t this the model of manhood we are looking for?
The Bible makes a clear distinction between the spiritual and material models in the book of Genesis. In the first chapter, God creates male and female in His image and pronounces His work as good. There is no isolation here, neither is there a limited concept of manhood or womanhood. The second chapter of Genesis presents the story of Adam and Eve, which portrays man as weak and vulnerable to temptation. From this premise grows the idea that we live in conflict, that one can take away the good of another, that good is limited and needs to be fought over. This model is divisive and unsustainable.
The self-destructive model can and must give place to the sustainable spiritual model. This true model includes goodness, productivity, wisdom, and security rather than animality, fear, or violence. Science and Health says: “Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness” (p. 407).
This spiritual light removes the dark vision of manhood and reveals the God-created model, which is empowered by love, not defined by violence. In this light, men and women alike find peace and healing.
Kim Korinek is a Christian Science practitioner.