Category Archives: Men’s issues

a request on the behalf of the “becoming-men” of bend

In lieu of my over-exposure to my computer in the recent weeks as I work on publications, emails, scheduling etc… I am now in the business of posting quotes from others and things I wrote elsewhere.

So this is an email I sent to a number of men that have reached out to me in the last year and a half. It is a vision I have… for men AND for women. I, however, can only handle the men side of things and will be looking for women to hand the vision over to. Together we will begin to restore the “village-culture” of community once more.

Men,
I have thought long and hard on what I want to write to you here. Many months of sitting with this… praying with this… and after a conference this last weekend the pieces began falling into place for me. This is why I am writing.

I have sent this to you because I know you have been involved either with men’s work in the past, or simply because I myself have experienced you to be an “elder” that has such a significant amount of wisdom to offer my generation of becoming men. Before red flags of commitments that can’t be made begin to flash in your mind, please hear me out.

We need you… and by we, I mean the young 21-35 year old men in Bend who are both trying to sink in roots and also those who are just here for a short time. We are to be the leaders of our neighborhoods and our cities… and many of us are confused about what it means to be men in this world. So many of us are in positions of significant leadership, or have it in us to be there soon, but we need you to vouch for us… and not just that, but to shepherd us into those places.

I only write this because I know how significant you all are to us. I have spent the last 5 years of my young age of 28 seeking out men for myself to show me the way and know how important this is. But if left up to the young men to find their “shepherd.kings,” it will never be more than an exception to the norm. We need you to pursue us.

So here is what I am thinking… I am only at the beginning of developing a strategy of how we can make these necessary connections happen… but I want to know if you are interested. I can promise you that you could make a significant difference in this city even in giving two hours a month to one of us. If it is in your heart to do it, we could transform this city with one or two hours a week.

Please send me a note back and let me know if you would be willing to gather with other “city elders” to talk about what we can do together.
Peace,
Nate Bettger

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The death before the life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the initiation processes within men and women and where.when we experience this… or how. It seems to me that the very deep.wise, the very spiritual men and women, whether they be Christian or not, have all gone through significant pain in their lives.

I think it used to be that this was something that the elders of the community gave to the men as a community experience… women, not as much as they have the very biological experiences that move them through these transitions. We are now, especially in America, a number of generations removed from this community initiation experience. Fathers and elders no longer know how to walk the young men through this death experience and so we spend our early years trying to shield and protect ourselves and those close to us from feeling any pain or insecurities.

But, as a friend said last night, we will be initiated. If not by our community, by life itself. Whether you call it midlife crisis or the second Saturn Return, we must face the death, rock bottom, or forever be floundering as we wonder why the hell we are here and what our life amounts to. Some men walk through the flames by their own choosing, some because of life itself. It seems though that to be able to go through this experience in our 20s, and to have the right support to process it, will benefit us immensely in our later years.

The truly rich spiritual path or a well balanced position of leadership involves significant time spent in the desert… feeling the pain… not having the answers… eating dirt. Jesus went through it before he dove into his cosmos changing ministry. And his 40 days in the desert was followed up, by what? A public affirmation of his place with God and society. Baptism and the voice of God saying, “this is my son… with whom I am well pleased.” How old was he? 30… It fits.

The question I am left asking myself is how we bring this back into a community experience? How do we actively begin to walk men through this dying and rebirth experience so that we can begin making a more significant impact in our communities now?

Spiritual Leaders

Richard Rohr in Adam’s Return

How do we explain the larger-than-life people we occasionally meet in every country, in most institutions, even the smallest churches, and hidden away in our neighborhoods? There always seem to be one or two people who hold the energy of a group together, strategic individuals whom the Bible would call “chosen people,” men and women who move events an history forward, sometimes almost invisibly. Where do such folks come from? I have given up thinking that such people come from any one religion, any one school of thought, any particular race or nation, any specific socioeconomic sector, or even, indeed, that they are always perfect or moral in the conventional sense. Spiritually powerful individuals seem to cross and defy all of these boundaries.

Something else seems to have happened to them, and one way to put it is that they have somehow been “initiated.” Initiated into their true self, initiated into the flow of reality, initiated into the great patterns that are always true, initiated into the life of God – choose the description with which you are most comfortable. Such initiations took specific ritual forms in every age and every continent for most of human history. They were considered central to the social survival of nearly every culture – and to the spiritual survival of males in particular.

Is it too much to long for this to be more of a reality… more common?

Answering the questions of patriarchy, masculinity, and femininity

A few questions were posed in regards to my last post on patriarchy and rites of passage. I think they deserve a post of their own.

Why is it so important to have rites of passage other than that is what we have always done?

Isn’t that sticking to tradition?

I think the question is whether we still have rites of passage and if the traditions that we have now work as these rites… I really do think that we have lost some things in our present culture. Mostly in regards to roles and responsibilities and recognition from the men of the community (or women, if you are talking about women). Robert Bly has some really good things to say about this in Iron John.

The father working away from home. The father coming home and presenting his spent self (tired, moody, “dinner and the news” dad). He eats, watches the news, and goes to bed. Then gets up and does it over again. This, of course, is not across the boards, by any means. We have gotten more individualistic, though, in how we as a community defines when we became a man.

What about circumcision both male and female?

This is surely not a rite of passage anymore and I don’t know that it every really was. For men, it was a sign of the covenant with the Jews… and then became about hygene.preference.etc. From what I know, female circumcision, practiced in Africa, may actually be more a rite of passage than for the men… at least one that is still remaining within cultures. I don’t really want to get into that here.

What about “first” communion?

Could probably be a rite of passage for some, but I would ask the question what purpose does it serve in general society… or amongst the community? For me and many other evangelicals, I would say it is more about the parents than the children.

Do you mean rites, like the Order of the Arrow in Boy Scouts, killing your first deer and eating the heart? Smoking a cigar, drinking a beer? Could you give an example of a rite of passage you think is necessary?

I would say that these could be considered rites of passage if they involved the greater male community and gave the men responsibility and honor in the culture. If it is about pleasure or individualistic, I don’t think they count. Vision questing was a rite of passage in many cultures.

How much influence does your community have on who you become?

A LOT!! Or at least it should. If it doesn’t, I think we become lost in individualism.

Is “our” patriarchy really blessed?

That was more of a sarcasm than an actual feeling. I feel that our patriarchy is much less than what it could be. With an effort to honor the masculine AND the feminine, we wouldn’t be as frustrated about patriarchy as many are.

Perhaps we need a “persons rite of passage” event??

I don’t think you can have rites of passage events with men and women together. Too many loaded emotions. You need women guiding the women and men guiding the men. You get mixed genders together and things get way too complicated.

I am curious to know Nate, what things you see as exclusively masculine and as exclusively feminine? You state “Women traditionally did not have rites of passage… at least there is not as much of a need for them. They have more physical transitions into womanhood.” I would challenge this view as being patriarchal and outdated. Reformed Judaism added the Bat Mitzvah, but Orthodox Jews still do not do it since girls/women do not lead in worship in these synagogs

I need to devote a whole post to this one! What things are feminine and masculine. Again, I would say, read David Deida. He’s got it down.