Dying for God
The Christian Soldier
As He died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free. . .
"Battle Hymn of the Republic’’
•Men s hesiuncy is documented in Wby Men Are dbe Way They Are, in the section called The Worst Infidelity. Male bashing is in the chapter called The New Sexism.
A man who died to save was said to be loved. For the Christian male, Jesus was love. Jesus saves. But Jesus also saved others by dying himself. The military was the secular form ofJesus Jesus in uniform. For many boys, the bribe of military rank, the faith in God’s support, and the power of music fell, in combination like a personal call to put his life on the line: "Onward, Christian Soldiers."
Pressure on a man to become a savior or protector is part of every religion. Hindu men see the male images of Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna; Buddhist men see Guatama Buddha; Christians see the male Christ; Moslems see Allah. . . Priests, rabbis, and ministers are mostly men. . . always protectors.
The message of religion for boys is that there really is no choice but to save. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begged God to take from him the cup that represented his role as savior. The lord Jesus was so distraught he sweated blood. God would not grant him permission to forfeit the cup – God said nothing. When, ultimately, Christ was to die, he felt betrayed ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’’).
Theologians have debated whether or not Christ had a choice in playing his savior role: could he really’ have refused? Theoretically, of course, he could have; but God’s approval symbolizes the approval of everything that is meaningful and, when everything that is meaningful is saying, "You have a role: to save,’’ sure, you can turn it down, but. . .
Today, men are returning to their Gardens of Gethsemane, asking an old question, seeking the courage to find an answer for our times.
Gladiators and their virgins
During Roman times, the highlight of the religious holidays was the gladiatorial combats. Essentially these were slaughters of men – ranging from slaves (who hoped to be freed) to knights and nobles (who hoped to be heroes).24 The slaughters were presided over by female deities: the Great Mother, Ceres, and Flora.25 Solemn religious processions kicked off the games as our national anthem might introduce a football game. While males were the ones subject to death, the vestal virgins (who, you might guess, were not males) occupied seats of honor at the games.26 The vestal virgins were to the gladiator what the cheerleader is to the football player: female support for male violence. Both were socialized to play their roles before what we would call the age of consent.
Why did female deities bless violence against men? Because the deeper purpose of violence against men was to prevent violence agaiast women. Both sexes wanted the protection that came when potential invaders, upon seeing the strength of their potential victims, chose another village to pillage.