07: Spirituality cont’d

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Paul Coughlin’s No More Christian Nice Guy relies heavily on the work of Robert Glover, a psychotherapist who identified the so-called “Nice Guy Syndrome” where men are said to suppress their own needs by seeking the constant approval of others. Coughlin’s task has been to map the Nice Guy Syndrome on to his experiences of the church. Coughlin’s main argument is that Christian men are being sold an incorrect image of Jesus as a nice guy when in fact He was not nice, but good in a proactive fashion. Consequently Coughlin identifies, “passive naïve Christian Nice Guys. We sit next to them in church all the time, not realizing their identity is being squashed, their will being broken.” “Valorous niceness,” says Coughlin, “is often cowardly passivity in disguise.”

Coughlin sees the typical Christian Nice Guy rendering of Jesus as a “bearded woman” as part of “woman worship: the domestic cult,” which shares a distinct similarity with Robert Bly’s comment about, “When we walk into a contemporary house, it is often the mother who comes forward confidently. The father is somewhere else in the back, being inarticulate.” Coughlin believes that men have been domesticated and that home life has become the exclusive domain of women. Indeed, he sees this as part of larger program of what he perceives to be “America’s feminized faith.” In Coughlin’s view, men need to toughen up in the home and in the church, and bring both back into line with more authentic Christ-like masculine values. Men need to assert their God-given masculinity. The typical form of Christian meek masculinity that Coughlin bemoans is what keeps men away from the church. He argues: “When we’re free from the myths that Jesus is the Supreme Nice Guy, that the Father is the cosmic teddy bear, and that the Holy Spirit is a docile, breezy presence, men will find the church more compelling and relevant.”

Consequently, asserting God-given masculinity is about rediscovering the real Jesus who, far from being passive, was very assertive. When opening up to the real Jesus, Coughlin highlights the following words and phrases that describe the tough Christly context Christian men should keep in mind when their faith suggests they be nice: “shouting, wilderness, sins, camel hair, locusts, slave, split open, tempted, Satan, arrested, the time has come!, possessed, evil spirit, destroy, be quiet!, screamed, convulsed, amazement, high fever, victims, alone, leprosy, begging, moved with pity, be healed!, examine, secluded.” Counter to the passive Christian masculinity Coughlin sees around him, he reminds readers that, “the gospel includes dirty feet, stinky hair, fish guts, bugs between the teeth, dirt under it’s nails … smell the adrenaline, feel your heart pound, taste the locust that lingers on your lips.” In short, Jesus righteously kicked ass—hard and often—which is what Christian men should be doing to embody their Christ-like masculinity.

But short of defining masculinity as whatever Jesus and other divinely-inspired Biblical men did, what does Coughlin actually mean by masculinity? Coughlin looks to the 1905 edition of Webster’s for answers: “virile, not feminine or effeminate; strong; robust.” It is also singular and particular in nature: he refers to “real men” and “true masculinity.” In the “masculinity defined” section Coughlin writes that “Biblical masculinity is guys doing what God wants guys to do, and doing it in line with their true identity—before it was marred by human sin and especially shame—leading to a virtuous life marked by redemptive creativity, protection, purpose, and love.” Further still we are told that “masculinity is spelled p-r-o-a-c-t-i-v-e … Accept these facts: Life is a difficult battle, demanding conflict and struggle … You’ll make much more progress when you’re offensive” (original emphasis). Christian men, writes Coughlin, should “embrace Christ’s tough, courageous, protective, assertive personality, which invigorates real male sensibilities.”



Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I always wonder, what of the women who are attracted to the “passive naïve Christian Nice Guys” (not necessarily needing to be Christians). What makes them different to women who like ‘manly’ men? Why are they attracted to this particular type, while having strong negative feeling for manly men?


    August 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    • Good question. The cynics might tell you it’s because they want to be able to control their men. I’m more likely to believe it’s because they actively reject the values associated with manly men and seek out the alternative.


      August 9, 2012 at 7:21 am

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