"Godly manhhood" : evangelical constructions of masculinities in a South African context - a case study of the Mighty Men's Conference (MMC).
Men and masculinity studies is a significantly developed field of research in Western scholarship and has gained increased interest in Africa, particularly in South(ern) Africa. This study: “Godly Manhood”: Evangelical Constructions of Masculinities in A South African Context – A Case Study of the Mighty Men’s Conference (MMC) is one that seeks to make a contribution in this field of research from a religion (Christian theological) and gender perspective. The study investigates how faith discourses within the Mighty Men’s Conference (MMC) shape perceptions and constructions of masculinities within contemporary Protestant (mainly, Charismatic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity) in post-apartheid South Africa. The study sought to analyse the extent to which Angus Buchan and the MMC’s call for men to return to ‘godly manhood’ either re-inscribe patriarchal conservatism or contribute towards gender-social transformation. In seeking to examine what it means to be ‘Mighty Men’ and “godly men,” the study illustrates how faith discourses within the MMC as a Charismatic, Evangelical and Pentecostal religious grouping inform representations of masculinities. As the study reveals, Charismatic Evangelical theology, beliefs, and gender traditions/ideologies presented by Buchan in his MMC informs perceptions of what is understood as an ‘ideal’ Christian man. These, as the study shows, influence constructions of masculinities achetyped in patterns of ‘godly manhood’ as a process of “recreating Christian masculinity.” The study applied drawing on intersectionality as a conceptual framework. The study showed how religion intersects with other socio-cultural, political and economic factors that necessitate changes as Christian men seek to make sense of their masculine self at the cross-roads of various socialisations. Such changes seem to contribute to representations of emerging masculinities within this context of study. The study adopted a qualitative, multi-methods research design and in addition to my personal observations from the conferences, semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirty four men who have been attending the MMC. Analysis of findings reveals that there are multiple representations and constructions of contradictory and conflicting representations of masculinities within divergent voices of what it means to be ‘Mighty Men’ and practice ‘godly manhood.’ Although certain core commonalities regarding the concept of ‘godly manhood’ emerged from the thirty four men interviewed across the three shades of conservative, Charismatic and Pentecostal Evangelicals, this study makes two important conclusions. First, it indicates that ascriptions to “godly manhood” inculcated by Buchan and the MMC not only portray patterns of traditional and conventional masculinities, but also remain a patriarchal motivation for restoring Christian male supremacy, control and domination. Second, the study illustrates that while Charismatic Evangelical men have a desire to change, their ascription to ‘godly manhood’ is characterized by struggle between traditional/conventional male practices and a need to embrace egalitarian views of gender relations. Such results indicate the extent to which contemporary Charismatic and Evangelical Christianity portray expressions of masculinities which are ambivalent. The study concludes questioning whether Jesus Christ can be a resource for transforming religiously constructed masculinities. The study proposes alternative Christological discourses as counter-models to traditional and patriarchal masculinities.