[A most generous review of Numen, Old Men from the new issue of Reviews in Religion & Theology]
This volume stands within a series on gender, theology and spirituality edited by Lisa Isherwood and Marcella Althaus-Reid. It is the fruit of Gelfer’s doctoral research in New Zealand and explores the possibilities for what is conceptualized as ‘exciting theology’ (p. ix) as it attempts to listen to a range of different voices and perspectives, especially those marginalized by both church and society. The aspiration is for positive, masculine spirituality, a nonpatriarchal spirituality which still manage to retain being masculine.
There is a helpful overview of the framework of masculine spirituality which introduces the reader to some of the questions that shape Men’s Studies in Religion. The discussion of Wild(er)ness and Fatherlessness along with the analysis of the work of Sam Keen are particularly clear and insightful.
In subsequent chapters the Evangelical Men’s movement and the Catholic Men’s Movement are examined exploring the themes of networking, Violence, Sport, Sacraments and Adoration. Some of the most stimulating text opens up Gay Spirituality where we see a form of masculine spirituality that resists patriarchy, suggesting that the queering of spirituality could be useful for all men whatever their sexual orientation.
The overall result is a fascinating, insightful and constantly stimulating text that has embraced a number of key movements and influential literature in this area. There is an attractive and convincing appeal to neo-Jungian archetypes as an integral spirituality is articulated embracing both the masculine and the feminine.
The question of how far religion is able or willing to listen to marginal (and sometimes oppressed) voices remains problematic even in the liberal fragmented and individualized West. In what way these disputes about change, moral boundaries, patriarchy and diversity of identity and practice are resolved remains a threat to the relevance and truth of theology. Gelfer is a wise and informed guide – but I suspect not a hand that many will take to negotiate their way through the battles around sex in and between churches.
Gelfer is to be congratulated on providing such a rich inter-professional work which should appeal to a wide ranging number of disciplines and practitioners. It is a stimulating text.
James Woodward, College of St George, Windsor Castle.