This is part 2 of a review of the chapter titled, “The Cult of Masculinity” from Chris Hedges’ book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Click here for part 1.
“The hypermasculinity of radical Christian conservativism, which crushes the independence and self-expression of women, is a way for men in the movement to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence, their abject obedience to church authorities and the calls for sexual restraint.”
Chris Hedges hit the nail on the head in this chapter when he explains the paradox of the “Cult of Masculinity” ~ on the one hand, fundamentalist believers are infantilized ~ taken back to the security and total domination of the womb ~ and at the same time, “the assault on freedom, human equality and reason … also engenders feelings of omnipotence. Death and decay seem to be overcome. All are empowered by God, promised a Utopian paradise and immortality.”
The movement, according to Hedges, feeds off of power and powerlessness, of subjegation and control. It is a morass of contradictions which keeps adherents off-balance, unable to discern the process which is taking over their lives.
Fundamentalist religious imagery portrays Jesus as “a man with muscles” and His male followers must be powerful warriors. The story of Christ and Christianity is related in terms of warfare, conflict and the will to conquer God’s enemies. Real men, godly men, must endure physical pain and suffering without complaint. “Jesus, like God, has to be a real man, a man who dominates through force.”
I found Hedges’ next assertion to be particularly insightful: “Hypermasculinity becomes way to compensate, especially since the unspoken truth is that Christian men are required to have a personal, loving relationship with a male deity and surrender their will to a male-dominate authoritarian church.”
Such submission, according to Hedges, is a potent form of emasculation.
He continues, “The domination men are encouraged to practice in the home over women and children becomes a reflection of the domination they are taught to endure outside of the home.”
So that makes it a pecking-order sort of thing. Like the fifth-grader whose gym teacher embarrasses him in front of the class, and in return, the kid picks on a skinny fourth-grader in the lunch room.
Not that this understanding makes me any more inclined to excuse away religiously-motivated male domination of their wives and children ~ only it does help to look past the individual man and to look critically at the system which sears his conscience and provokes him to conquer and control those whom he perceives to be weaker.
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