Men and Their Religion: Honor, Hope, and Humor

By Linman, Jonathan | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Men and Their Religion: Honor, Hope, and Humor


Linman, Jonathan, Anglican Theological Review


Men and Their Religion: Honor, Hope, and Humor. By Donald Capps. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 2002. xix + 204 pp. $17.00 (paper).

"The wife, she does religion for both of us." Years of pastoral ministry and conversations with men in various settings have seen this and similar remarks pointing to a common assumption that men are not religious. Drawing on the insights of classical theorists-the likes of Freud, Erickson, and James-and others who explore the relationship between psychology and religiosity, Donald Capps makes a convincing case that men are in fact religious, and deeply so, especially in ways they may not be aware of or capable of articulating.

Capps argues that men's religiosity tends to emerge in reaction to melancholia resulting from loss, particularly various expressions of separation from the mother, for example, at age three or four, in adolescence, at the time of marriage, and on the occasion of the wife's death. In response to such experiences of loss, and reacting to attendant feelings of grief, guilt, and anger, men are driven to compensate for their melancholy by typically embodying at least two expressions of religiosity: that of honor, in the context of which men hold to moral uprightness (being the "good boy"), and/or that of hope, where men engage in quests through which they preconsciously seek to replace the object of loss. Not unlike the reality of the common cold, religion either of honor or hope cannot offer a cure for primordial losses, but such religious expression can serve as a remedy that can at best relieve symptoms (p.

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