Male Spirituality and the Men's Movement: A Factorial Examination of Motivations

Article excerpt

The growing visibility of the grassroots movement of men's support groups throughout this country and a resurgence of spiritual interest and faith within the American population come together in the emerging phenomena of men gathering together to worship. To better understand the motivations behind men's participation in such events, the Xavier Religious Index (XRI) was designed to identify factors forming underlying motivational constructs and was administered to two separate groups of men who had attended one or more such religious events. Sample 1 was comprised of 1190 men who attended a large, religious, men's conference. In order to cross validate the XRI, it was administered to Sample 2, comprised of 301 men who had attended one or more men's retreat weekends at a spiritual renewal center. Results from both samples were factor analyzed. In both samples, the factor identified as comprising the largest portion of the variance was that of Male Bonding. Other factors identified included: Self-awareness, Relationship with God, Isolation or Emptiness, Faith/Prayer Community, Father-Son Relationships, Coping Strategies, and Fear or Grief. The data were also examined for differences across the lifespan. When the first and fourth quadrants of Sample 1 were grouped for age and compared, corresponding values existed. Although an examination of Factor 2, Self-awareness and Existential Concern, suggested that the directions in which these men focused were diametrically opposed, with older men endorsing a higher satisfaction with quality of life, a t-test failed to confirm that these differences were significant. The implications of this are discussed in light of developmental theory.

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Two contemporary phenomena occurring within the shared domains of psychology and religion have been the growing visibility of the grassroots movement of men's support groups throughout this country and a resurgence of spiritual interest and faith within the American population. The former suggests an emergence and growth of interest in the concepts of masculinity and male identity, in as much as it has been estimated that well over 10,000 men's support groups exist in this country and Canada (Guarnaschelli, 1994). Furthermore, millions of Americans have taken public their search for a clearer understanding of the core principles of spiritual beliefs and how they can be applied to the daily experience (Moyers, 1996). The vast majority of Americans believe in God or some higher power. According to a national poll, 94% of younger Americans (ages 18-29) and 97% of older adults (ages 50 or older) believe in a God. A similar poll found that 58% of Americans indicated that religion was very important in their lives (45% of persons under 30 and 73% of those over age 65; cited in Koenig, 1997).

Men's Movement

The men's movement had its origins in the early twentieth century self-refinement groups of upper class privileged young women and self-improvement groups which began to flourish in the 1950s with the rise of the middle class. The popular "personal growth movement" of the 1960s and 1970s that gave rise to self-help groups began as an experimental offshoot of therapy groups. The success of the small group process in helping people help themselves became apparent (Kauth, 1992). Men increasingly became aware of their changing power status and vulnerability. They began to question their own identity and sociey's expectation of them. Coming together in community, many began to address issues of their own sense of isolation and numbness and the emerging realization of the commonality of these issues as well as an awareness of support in their exploration for meaning, as coming from other men. The product of this nurturing of men by other men is the inevitable product conceptualized as generative masculinity (Guarnaschelli, 1994). In essence, the movement seems to involve men gathering together to consider what it means to be a man today, to positively charge, inspire and empower each other. …