Detail of Michaelangelo's David. copyright unknown. Best not sell this picture, just to be on the safe side.Lately I have been thinking a lot about testosterone, the drug of choice for half the world's population. As a pastor and counselor I am very aware of the damage that testosterone has done to some women and children and men. Also, I have spent my entire ordained ministry in a church where the word "patriarchy" is a pejorative and where oestrogen friendly concepts such as inclusiveness and openness are often treated as synonyms for the gospel. And it seems sometimes that, in our church at least, there is not a lot of testosterone around. Some time ago, Leon Podles wrote a book called The Church Impotent, which examines why men are greatly outnumbered by women in the Western Church - as they very demonstrably are. When my friend Graeme Brady favourably reviewed the book for an Anglican magazine, he was hounded for months by those who were infuriated at his insensitivity in even raising such a question. The reaction suggested that the Church is not a particularly friendly environment for testosterone, which is pretty much Podles' point.
The question, for me has suddenly become a whole lot more personal. In the medium term future, I face the very real prospect of someone turning off the tap (stop smirking, Mr. Freud) as far as my own testosterone is concerned and I'm wondering what it will mean. There are obvious consequences, of course, which are not the most alarming as they are fairly easily treatable given a bit of chemical ingenuity. The deep consequences are the ones that I wonder about.
Once, when I was nineteen, at 1:00 am on a clear moonlit, frosty night, I drove a Mark II Zephyr at 100 miles per hour over the mile long span of the Rakaia bridge . Halfway across, just for the rush it would give me, I turned out the headlights and plunged the car into utter darkness. That was testosterone. Many times, in my thirties I lay awake thinking about my parish, and wondering how I might make it bigger. Then I went out and gave everything I had to make it happen. That also, was testosterone. Testosterone is what makes my foot slip onto the accelerator a fraction faster than it might and makes my eyes linger on a decolletage a fraction slower than it might; it is also testosterone that fuels the engagement I have with an audience and makes a live sermon infinitely more compelling than any written or recorded version might be. Testosterone fuels my desire to pursue a quarry and chance my arm and drive myself to achieve. Testosterone often fuels the growth of large parishes which supply other, smaller, gentler places with leadership and resources and money.
Now here's the bit I would never say except for the strange position that I find myself in with regard to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand: The church has no rewards on offer that I want, and no sanctions in hand that I fear. So I can say that the malaise of the church is due, in part, to a lack of testosterone. We lack what we once had in abundance: the energy and intiative of men, particularly young men. The church is no longer a place for a young man to emulate Parsifal and venture away from home and risk all in the pursuit of a great goal. The energy of young men has all but gone from the church, and we all suffer because of it.
Of course masculinity can cause problems. One of my early experiences on the path to ordination was of being mercilessly bullied by a (male) examining chaplain - erudite, learned, twice my age - who exerted his considerable verbal, intellectual and emotive skills to reduce me to wreckage purely because he could. But I have lived in the church long enough to have experienced, more than once, the effects of dysfunctional matriarchy which are every bit as destructive and oppressive as those of dysfunctional patriarchy. Rather than gender, it is the inability to handle power, which causes all the problems. I do not intend to denigrate the contribution of women to the church, or to belittle the damage done to the church by centuries of oppression of female energies, but in our championing of the oppressed we have sometimes not so much corrected a wrong as made a mirror image of it. We worship an incarnate God, who redeems - that is, buys back and makes holy - all of human worth, including testosterone.
Just when I am in a place to truly appreciate the wholeness and holiness of testosterone I am being asked to return it to the counter for repairs. Perhaps now it is time for me to accelerate the path I have been on for a while anyway: the one described by Jung, away from doing and into being. It is a welcome prospect in many ways... but sometimes I look at the insipidity of our androgen deficient church and quake.