Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: Christian Masculinity: Men and Religion in Northern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: Christian Masculinity: Men and Religion in Northern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Article excerpt

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Christian Masculinity: Men and Religion in Northern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries . Edited by Yvonne Maria Werner . Leuven, Belgium : Leuven University Press , 2011. 322 pp. $49.00 paper.

Book Reviews and Notes

In the introduction to Christian Masculinity , the book's editor, Yvonne Maria Werner, explains that the work is the product of a research project that received its funding from the Bank of Sweden (whose willingness to support religious and gender studies certainly differentiates it from banks in America). The project brought together academics from all over Sweden, and it drew in a few scholars from other northern European nations as well. Most of the people who participated in the project conduct gender studies in Sweden, and their essays in Christian Masculinity dwell on that country. Not every piece in the book, however, is about Sweden. Rather than exploring the manliness of Swedes, some essays in Christian Masculinity focus on countries such as England and Denmark, while other essays in the book provide theoretical perspectives that are applicable to every Western nation. All thirteen of the essays in Christian Masculinity , the Swedish and the non-Swedish, are based on painstaking research. They are also skillfully written in the international language of English, making the book in which they appear accessible to readers throughout the world.

The contributors to Christian Masculinity represent several different academic disciplines. Two contributors, Callum Brown and Anna Prestjan, are sociologists; a third, Inger Caisou-Rousseau, is a literary theorist; and a fourth, Gösta Hallonsten, is a theologian (whose piece on modern-day, pro-Vatican feminists seems strangely out of place in a book about manliness in the past). The remaining contributors are historians, or at least they employ the methodology of historians, focusing on the chronological development of ideas, institutions, and individuals. All three of these categories receive coverage in Christian Masculinity , but institutional and abstract intellectual histories (as exemplified by Elin Malmer's essay on Swedish soldiers' homes and Olaf Blaschke's essay on the "re-masculinization" movement in the churches of fin de siècle Germany) are outnumbered in the book by portraits of missionaries, monks, and other individuals. Among the best of these portraits is David Tjeder's essay on J. A. Eklund, a bishop in Sweden's state church, the Church of Sweden. Using Eklund's life and ideas to elucidate the men's movement among Swedish Lutherans in the early twentieth century, Tjeder cleverly weaves together personal, religious, and gender history. The other biographers in Christian Masculinity endeavor to do the same thing, but unfortunately not all of them are as successful as Tjeder.

Despite their different methodologies, most of the contributors to Christian Masculinity share a desire to shed light through their writings on the men's movement that affected bourgeois Western churches (most of them Protestant) in the fin de siècle period. …

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