Podcast: The Ache of the Modern Man and Living an Enchanted Faith with Dr. Richard Beck
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Below you will find the unedited version of the podcast transcription.
Lantz Howard 0:01
Welcome to another episode of champion hope. I’m your host Lantz, Howard, you can find out more at champion hope, calm. This resource and tools that are available to you are intended to help men become fully alive and the adventure of following God through mastermind and one on one coaching. Once again, you can find out more at champion hope, calm, and if you’re like me, you’d like to get quick wins and get moving down the road I have created a guide just for you, called jumpstart 46. quick wins for the modern man to get moving in life and feel as if they are winning from the bedroom to the boardroom. Today’s guest is Richard Beck. Richard Beck is a professor at Abilene Christian University, and an author specifically we dive into his latest book, hunting magic kills, recovering and chanted faith in a skeptical age. Now that is a mouthful. Let me say that again. Hunting magic gills recovering an enchanted faith in a skeptical age. goes on to say we live in a secular age world dominated by science and technology. increasing numbers of us don’t believe in God anymore. We don’t expect miracles and we’d grown up and left those fairytales behind culturally and personally. Yet, 500 years ago, the world was very much enchanted. It was a world where God existed and the devil was with real. There was a world full of angels and demons. It was a world of holy wells and magical hills. But since the Protestant Reformation, and then beginning of the Enlightenment, the world in the West at least, has become increasingly dis enchanted.
Dr. Richard Beck 4:41
Yeah, so so I’ll let you lead me okay. No, yeah, absolutely. So, so in,
It wasn’t necessarily an ache, it was just a long season of like deconstruction of my of my faith. So I don’t know if I had a crisis of personal meaning per se. Because I felt like I was fairly successful in my career.
Lantz Howard 4:49
in your journey, in your own personal ate per se. How long was that season?
Dr. Richard Beck 4:59
So it was more of a deconstruction of faith and kind of reaching the dead end of kind of a season of doubt and skepticism where I had so question and unraveled, of my faith that I was functioning agnostic, I was still going to church. But that was mainly I think, some just inertia. And some of that is also being a father being at being a spouse or some it was concerns about legacies, even though I couldn’t maybe hold it all together legacies of impacting my children in my wife, Jana, and I think I see that and also in a lot of men that they’re, they’re in church in a dutiful way, they’re not getting a whole lot out of it, but they feel like they need to be there because it’s meaningful to their wife. Or they do have a sense that church is a good thing for children or my kids, and they’re getting some mentoring or some friendships or some moral education. And so that seems to be good for the kids. So I go for that as well. But, but that sense of this is my faith, and I have an energized, engaged presence here in the pews. I didn’t have that I think a lot of men experience that sense of disengagement, that fidelity to tradition, and this is a good way to parent be spouse. So I kind of played that string out at my life and, and just kind of realized that was a bit of a dead end as far as kind of where I was with God. And I had been kind of hold in a holding pattern for quite some time. And so that was kind of what that journey was, and I said was a 20 year journey. Kind of right, right after grad school into my my 40s. So 20s to 40s, I would say I was more of a skeptic than a believer didn’t pray for much at all, during that season. Read a lot, you know, I mean, in my faith, because I’m a kind of a scholarly guy spent a lot of time reading and thinking and talking about faith. So I was good. I was good at that. So I so that’s kind of maybe, in many ways, is a way to kind of hold on through through just the, you know, treating Christianity as kind of maybe a an intellectual interest, maybe even hobby in that sense. So anyway, that’s kind of what that season look like. So less less this season of meaninglessness and where I was in my career, but kind of the deeper spiritual sense of what it all mags out connected with God. And a distancing from from church. Wow.
Lantz Howard 7:49
Well, so so 20 years, I don’t think you came out directly set it in that way in the book. But that’s a that’s a long, long season to be dutiful, alright, to be a Pew sitter, to kind of do the do the thing for the wife and the kids. But your story is probably not much different than many men sitting in the Pew today.
Unknown Speaker 8:16
How would you speak to leaders
Lantz Howard 8:19
just at large of giving space for men? to deconstruct and, and the flipside of that is how do we give space to men to allow them to rise up to see something different other than just the dutiful act of church?
Dr. Richard Beck 8:38
Yeah, I think, to kind of get into some psychology, I would describe, one of the things that churches struggle with is what I’ll call the problem of agency. And what I mean by that is, in the psychological literature, we often will distinguish between what’s called like agency and communion, as like personality traits. So the communion dimension is relational nurturing, in touch with one’s feelings. So we all we all kind of vary on that the degree to which we have empathy, leaning towards sociability and relationality. That trait, that communal trait used to be called femininity. We don’t call it that anymore, because we know men can be very high on that communal dimension as well, but it used to be called femininity. And then the other dimension that kind of runs out right angles to that is the agency dimension. And so this is the dimension of dominance, assertiveness, aggressiveness, competition. And that dimension used to be called masculinity, but now we call agency because there are women that are highly a genic. And so it seems like to me one of the things that we’re struggling with in churches is how do we deal with the agency dementia Because obviously a drive towards again, more typical males than females and we can debate how much is nature or nurture, but just descriptively speaking men tend to be more a genic is how we in Christian spaces allow the spiritual gifts of agency to flourish? Because I think it’s a working assumption in the culture and in the church, that agency and communion are, are working as bipolar opposites, that the more a genic I am, the less communal I am right, the more I’m interested in like, assertiveness, dominance, creation, entrepreneurship, building something right, the more eugenic I am, then that has to be sacrificed and like a zero sum trade off against the communal dimensions, emotionality, intimacy, relationality, empathy, and so on. And so consequently, we feel like that anytime a man is B, A, or a woman is a genic. That that is toxic. Right? That’s the toxic masculinity. And so all that to say is, I think one of the things that that men have struggled with is that general sense that agency motives are either bad or sinful, are not welcome here. And this, in a roundabout way is coming back to your question. doesn’t have an outlet. Right? So most of church is set up in a very relational mode, in most descriptions of Christ’s likeness is set up in a relational mode. So it’s privileging the communal dimension, okay? And a highly agentic male sits there and goes like, I can definitely do that I can work on that I, you know, a better spouse a better father. I could be relational. But but but sometimes they struggle to deal with like, but what do I do with this other part of my personality, the genic part of it. And to me, I think that’s where churches struggle with what to do with that, like, like, we just don’t know. And I think the culture has made it harder to discuss what high agency individuals have to contribute to church. Because mostly what we’re offering them is passive it in the sense of sitting in a Pew, singing worship songs, being highly relational around, you know, coffee and donuts, and those kinds of activities. So, so anyway, my advice to church leaders would be let’s not be careful, think through the fact that agency and communion are not opposites, that they exist at right angles. And so so what psychologists would describe as a very healthy masculinity would be somebody that remains highly a genic. But they also are highly communal, right? So you’re you’re trying to not to invest in communal traits, relational traits, and Pathak traits at the expense of masculinity, right? expensive agency, but you’re trying to get those to flourish.
together. And I can go off in a long, little. Hey, are you familiar with Jordan Peterson and his talk about those kinds of things? And this is where I think Jordan Peterson makes some mistakes. Because Jordan Peterson when when he pulls in the Union stuff, I talked about this when you’re talking about before, so so when when Peterson talks about the union idea of the masculine and the feminine, okay? He will, he will often say right, that the you know, the male has those that assertive masculine traits, and then the feminine is associated with like chaos. And therefore, the male has the male part of the person who has to kind of tame, tame the chaos or structure the chaos. It is in his the union metaphor, like slaying the dragon. And, and then the mistake there is that he’s getting young wrong. Because young is the saying that the masculine has to defeat the feminine. But if you read you in properly, yoga is saying what happens in our personalities isn’t one part of the personality defeating or controlling other but both flourishing together, right? So so that there are a genic masculine traits that we have, but we become balanced when we’re also able to express our feelings and be relational. So this is the basic simple advice and here’s a, here’s a, here’s a man’s man who needs to be able to be physically affectionate with his children, or be able to say I love you, to write, to write to be able to express both of those. The trouble is to wrap this up is what I think happens in churches, because of the larger cultural conversation, we’ve tended to see those as pitted against each other rather than seeing those as both ends. So I don’t know if that’s, that’s a bit of a ramble, but, but to me, I would just kind of put out The first thing I say to church leaders is that communal traits are not the opposite of a genetic traits. The best psychological science that we have suggests they coexist together and we’re healthiest when they’re balanced out. I think churches really good, giving us outlets for communal traits, we don’t yet quite know what to do with highly genic individuals in the pew.
Lantz Howard 15:23
Man, you just downloaded a whole bunch of rich content. Jordan Peterson, okay. Hey, who is fame and popularity? Like if you if you don’t know, when you’re listening, just Jordan Peterson YouTube and find a wealth of information, go find his books. But he is highly popular among I would say guys in their 20s and 30s, for sure. Without a doubt. How, how do we reclaim and I’ll go back to your language in the book, how do we reclaim that ache that he’s speaking into? But But we point people in the direction of meaning and purpose and hope in God? Christ?
Dr. Richard Beck 16:10
Yeah, to keep it in the conversation. So this again, this wasn’t my particular story. Right. But if but if you’re speaking about the ache of that Jordan Peterson is speaking into the, you know, the kind of crisis of masculinity that we’ve seen where it does, it seems like young men are struggling to launch and his message of, again, of slaying the dragon, ordering the chaos, you know, in simple things, like getting up and making your bed right, so getting up and making your visit basic, basic things about kind of self energizing, it has been really profoundly impactful for a generation of young men. And so we can go into like, Why Why is that crisis of masculinity exists, I was just named two quick things. I don’t want to be simplistic here. But but the one is that I’ve already described is that we have tended to describe a genic traits in the culture as toxic forms of masculinity. To be highly A genic is a is to be Don’t you know, dominant, assertive progressive, that’s just bad. It’s not. It’s when that dominance is uncoupled from the communal dimension, right? Men at their best, and even women at their best is when they’re showing both traits. Equally, that was my prior point, right. So I think men have just internalized the sense that these these traits of mine are inherently problematic. And so that that has kind of a deflating impact upon some men, they don’t know how to act in the current cultural climate without being stigmatized. And so I do think churches can help rehabilitate some of that self image and say, know that drive in you can be put, put to powerful use, if it is channeled properly. But we also know that that drive for dominance is going to struggle with certain challenges in in a in a christological, Christ shaped culture where we’re also supposed to be not the one on top but the one on the bottom and acts of service. So So agencies going to run up against Jesus there. And so that’s, that’s where we need to kind of do some spiritual formation work about all of that. But the other thing I think about why there’s an ache for for young men is I would say it’s socio economic, I think, the, the struggles, okay, let’s go back a generation or two, you go to high school, you know, you plan your football team, you graduate, and you go down, and you work. This is like the Bruce Springsteen story, right? You go down, you work at your, you know, this is kind of what Joe Biden speaks to pretty clear, right? You know, my dad was, you know, got his lunch pail, went to the factory, had a pension, you know, you know, went down to the local bar had drinks with a friend, and you did that for four years, and you can send your kids off to college, and he had a little patch of green yard out front. And you could achieve kind of that middle class, dream and take pride in being you know, somebody who kind of built built cars in Detroit, or was a steel mill worker in Pittsburgh. So that there was, I would say that there was kind of an arena of heroic moral performance and vocational performance for males during the golden era of manufacturing. That shifted with globalization and all of those jobs go overseas and now unless you become an college educated person and entering kind of white collar areas, and here’s the other thing I would say to your listeners, is that as As education increases, the genders look increasingly similar. Okay, so as men get college degrees and advanced degrees, their interests look more dragoness. You know, men might get interested in cooking or poetry or go to the theater. Right? So men, as they get more educated tend to have
less stereotypical gender norm interests in what they do. Like so for example, I work on a college campus. Well, very few college professors are like NASCAR fans, or hunters, where you know, but you’ll they’ll go to the theater, and they write poetry, right. So their gender interests diversify. The same goes with women, as women get higher education, their their interest become more traditionally masculine, they become more career minded. all that to say is the genders as they educate, tend to look more similar as far as their kind of worldviews. But but at the high school education level, gender don’t interest are gonna be more separate. Your classic, you know, male interests and female interests. And so I’m saying all that to say is that is that when, when you just get a high school degree, and you try to launch out to blue collar work, well, that doesn’t exist anymore. Now you’re working like at Walmart, you’re working in a fast food industry. So there’s, there’s not a sense that you’re part of a company that builds things that is building up America, so you’re proud, you’re dead ending into kind of the service industry. So not only does that work kind of not have the same kind of meaning or dignity, it’s definitely not going to allow you to get off your parents couch, and on your own home, as a home owner, and to have insurance and a pension and the ability to raise a family in a little suburb and send your kids to college, you’re, in fact, you’re probably sitting on your parents couch with a lot of college debt. And so I think because of the the so this is why I think you saw a lot of this, why you see a lot of energy for somebody like Bernie Sanders on the left, and Donald Trump on the right, because they’re both were speaking into a sense that the middle class kind of stalled out. And I think because of that arenas of heroic action for men, had they have stagnated. And so the only way they can become successful is to go white color, more education. And that works for some men, like it’s worked for me, it’s worked for you. It works for the pastoral, the pastor class, so that the guys in the pews are looking up at everybody on the stage with at least college degrees, if not master’s degrees on the stage, and so there’s a kind of class of successful men on the stage are leading in the church. And then there’s another group that feels kind of disjointed from them. And cannot write church is not church, because of that lack of education can’t be an arena of like heroic moral performance, they lack the education for that to do this, you know, to lead sermons or to lead adult faith Bible classes, because they don’t have graduate degrees in that area. And so so I would say that’s the other thing that is that is caused some of the ache is that man, especially if they if they don’t want to persist through higher education, are struggling with the economic impacts. And, and so you just see that all across with the devastation that has happened, and all those kind of classic manufacturing jobs. And so that’s where I think there’s also a sense of not just age, but also grievance and anger and lashing out interested in gun culture, interesting conspiracy theories, interest in while other arenas home of heroic moral action, because that’s that a genic motive, I want to, you know, I just don’t want to work in the service industry job. So I will, I will get into an arena where I can feel like I’m being a part of something kind of like meaningful and purposeful, right. So anyway, those are just some thoughts about that.
Lantz Howard 24:09
So, so deconstruction, in the spiritual age, right, whether your journey is as a 20 year journey, mine is much shorter, just in terms of trying to put meaning and context on experiencing God and new ways, right. Most of most of my church of christ heritage has been about experiencing God from the head down, you know, and that last 10% were rarely ever happens. How do you how do you help create environments that are safe for men to go on a deconstruction journey, but also point them in the right direction? Because Because, like for example, right, you bring up deconstruction and all of a sudden, it’s If you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in the church, you don’t believe in the greater good of attending church like all those things, right? So, so we hear the word deconstruction, and we just think they toss everything out.
Dr. Richard Beck 25:17
Yeah, no, I mean, I think definitely there’s there’s kind of deconstruction, and then there’s not feeling like my gifts have a place in church. And so I want to kind of set those two. So what I’ve been kind of describing up until this point is more about somebody just struggling to kind of connect with a local, local church, because I lack certain personality traits that allow me to kind of settle into the highly relational highfill worship experience, the highfill relationships, experience of small group Bible studies and those kinds of things, you know, or, right, so I lack the personality trait to enjoy that. And also, I lack a creative outlet for my you know, I like to build like, build things, I don’t mean build things physically, like I like, like entrepreneurship, like, I like to create things. And, and I don’t, if I’m just sitting here, I feel useless I can, there are things that can be doing at home. Or so I know a lot of my my male friends that are highly energetic get nothing out of church, but they they do all kinds of amazing service activities in the town, and that becomes their, their tether to God is through their actions through their contributions to taking care of people. So So um, so that’s, that’s not deconstruction, per se. That’s that’s trying to find a way for me to stay connected to my local church in a way that makes me feel useful. Okay. deconstruction, what, what I talked about in my book is, is a loss of faith itself, not not a not struggling to find a place at church, but a loss of faith itself. That feeling like the whole thing is make believe. Now that’s the thing, right? So because atheism, what I describe is disenchantment in the book, and so for your listeners, disenchantment is a sociological term to describe the trajectory going from an enchanted world 500 years ago, we’re believing God was the given belief in miracles and the supernatural was a given to a disenchanted experience were increasing rates of atheism and agnosticism and skepticism and doubt, is more more prevalent. And so that’s kind of what I was about in my journey was more about this journey of faith. But But atheism is kind of a is kind of a white male thing. And, and so there is a kind of male draw towards, I think a lot of it is kind of a perhaps it’s excessive rationalism, that, that kind of white male, especially educated white males kind of get into. And so therefore, they’re often trained if they get graduate degrees in kind of a critical analysis, and that deconstructs their faith, and that they’re actually trained into asking hard questions of their faith. So that’s, that’s a piece of it. You know, as well, so how do you create a space? to have those questions with males? Well, I think I think some of it is for, for your church leaders to be more transparent about struggles. I know, as an elder of my church, I gave once a testimony where I shared what I just shared with you this journey of like, I began asking all these hard questions, and was functionally on the edge of agnosticism for a long period of time, and I just kind of said, Hey, that, like, that was my story. And I had, I just had a ton of really good conversations. And every time I kind of tell that story, or share parts of that, I just have lots of men come up to me and say, like, that’s, that’s been my experience, I felt that. So I think you create safe spaces by being kind of transparent with it from from the stages, wherever those are. And sometimes you need to create spaces for it like like a men’s Bible study or prayer group where that conversation can be had, and, and dealt with. So so like with many things, you just got to try to create cultures of transparency about that. So the
Lantz Howard 29:36
PID on several things that kind of try to piece several things together. agnosticism, atheism, you’ve mentioned Biden and Trump. So let’s talk about this moralization. Political zation Sure, okay. Because Because this is so seems like so much of what we’re facing. We can’t talk about anything. We can’t be transparent, we don’t know how to create safe places. Because if you mentioned eggs, somebody is gonna blow up. And you could have mentioned them why they’re gonna walk out of the room. Yeah. But but it’s really real. And, and we are, by and large, there’s too many functioning atheist Christians sitting in the pews. So, sir, kind of talk us through that in your book as well.
Dr. Richard Beck 30:24
Yeah. Well, I want to apologize at this point in the podcast and say that, that I’ve been trying to kind of fit my book into a conversation about masculinity. And I don’t know how. So this, this conversation might be very confusing to people listening. Because very little, what I’ve been talking about is really from, you know, it’s really from the book and so, I apologize if that’s been kind of confusing. But, um, but I yeah, so I think one of the concerns, one of the trajectories I described in the book is how we’ve lost track of the transcendent, so that so hunting magic eels, recovering an enchanted faith and skeptical ages about how we have lost that sense of transcendence in our lives. And how we recover in this increasing age of skepticism. And the age that I describe isn’t necessarily a good masculinity, but it kind of is, it is the sense where life, the meaning of our life, and the durability of our senses, significance in life has become rendered fragile. So for a man, right, working a job that doesn’t seem to have kind of a heroic place in the cultural honor shame code, or somebody has been very successful that is, you know, going through a season of prolonged unemployment, we deal with men deal with their shame all the time. And, and we need a transcendent ground of dignity meaning in the face of those failures in the face of those setbacks, so so that that’s kind of where I described the ache in the book. So So um, but what what has happened to faith, one of the reasons why I think we’ve lost track of that enchantment or transcendence is what you’re describing is this trajectory, mainly in Protestantism, but elsewhere of the kind of moralization and, and now even political politicization of faith, where we’re kind of unpacking our Christianity increasingly moral terms. So you see, you know, I see this in guy culture all the time in churches, right, you look at a bunch of men in a room and say, we have to step up, you know, this kind of client server, we got to step up, we got to be better fathers, we need to be their coach and our kids. And if we’re not coaching our kids, you need to be on the sideline, you need to be a faithful spouse, you need to stay away from porn, you know, you just so we just unpack what it means to be a man in a kind of a moral, masculine list of pi artistic acts, right? You know, you got to have devotionals, with your family, you got to be the spiritual leader. And so constantly just saying what it means to be a Christian is moral performance, okay? Or we unpack it in increasingly political terms, as the culture gets increasingly politicized about, you know, where God is in national politics. And so we become, or Christianity manifests itself by being a politically engaged Christian and fighting that fight. And, and but my point in all that, before we get into the kind of how you deal with the toxicity of the current political climate is just simply to say that we lose track of God, that the God in those those moments because it’s we’re reducing Christianity to kind of my heroic moral action in the world. And that becomes a source of self esteem for us. As we step up as men, as we reclaim our homes, as men, or as we win in the next election for my political party, there’s a kind of a reward circuitry that gets activated there. But to me, that also renders faith pretty fragile, because we’re not talking about God anymore. Talk about me in my moral performance or political performance. So how do we get, you know, how do we get past that? Well, one thing is I think we need to do
I think is recovered just the central role of the church. And I think this is the way I would say one of the reasons why our political conversation got so toxic. And I’m talking, you know, from to the left and the right here is that increasingly, our our imaginations are, have been reduced the thinking of the old Way to change the world for the better is pulling the lever of electoral politics. Like that’s the only game in town anymore. And, and so I think what Christian leaders need to do is give people, other arenas in sandboxes of moral heroism that isn’t net like that is local, not national. And so we d center what happens in Washington, DC, and center, something local that we can invest in. Because when we do that, when we when we when we work side by side with our people in our community, and with our neighbors, we finally have a lot more in common. So I’ll give you an example. I’m involved in prison ministry. So I lead a Bible study for about 50 inmates at a maximum security prison. And my my co teacher in that herb is he’s a boomer and he is a fox news watching Beto O’Rourke hating, you know, Trump, if not supporters sympathetic, right, that’s him. I’m a college professor, right. So I’m gonna be on the more the liberal side of this conversation, the man on the drive out to the prison, we will just disagree. We’ll disagree. But that’s not that’s a marginal part of who we are. Because the central thing that we do is walk into that prison, and serve side by side is dear friends in that local Ministry of reaching out to those inmates. To me, that’s the way past the political divide, you got to find you got to marginalize your politics. And so for herb and I, our national political views are really peripheral concerns of ours. And it’s the local work that we do that is central, we got to create that flip in our people’s minds and go like you can have your political views, you can argue, but if they’re marginalized, they then you just you know, you have a good fight over beers or whiskey or coffee, or whatever you do, right? You just go have a good fight about it. But what makes us friends and partners in the kingdom is a shared labor that we have in our neighborhood in our church. To me, that’s the wait. That’s the way forward is a local imagination, and the partnerships that are formed there, because it’s hard to hate somebody that you’re friends with. And so anyway, that’s that’s my quick thought about how you get past and political polarization.
Lantz Howard 37:43
So the heroic arena, that you briefly touched on it in this book, but I’ve heard you speak about it several times, just serving in the prison ministry. That’s a space that’s lacking, right? Because Because many of us are serving in our job 40 5070 hours a week, and there’s very little time margin, to go out and serve and find meaning and ourselves. But let’s go, let’s talk about this transcendent nature of meeting God in the everyday spaces and what you call the mattering, right. Everything matters. But you use a very unique term a couple of different times that I’d love for you to unpack about the dancing gorilla. Okay. I just kind of love that that sense of a dancing gorilla. And I even googled dancing girl. I don’t know if you ever did that. But there’s there’s only one or two videos out there. From the Dallas Zoo back in 2017. Have you seen that? Now there’s an actual dance grill at the Dallas. Yeah, there’s a dancing grill in this pool and splashing water. But I know in the context of your book, you’re talking about the dancing gorilla and like paying attention to these, these transcendent spaces. So let’s let’s kind of, I guess, turn the conversation towards pragmatic ways in which we can help men go in that direction.
Dr. Richard Beck 39:05
Yeah, so. So the crisis of belief that we were talking about the rise of skepticism, doubt, agnosticism, deconstruction that we were talking about? has, you know, most of us would describe that as a journey from, you know, belief to doubt, or faith to skepticism. And the argument I make in the book is that the journey from that enchantment to disenchantment isn’t a journey of belief, but it’s fundamentally a change or shift in patterns of attention. So the dancing grill it comes from the psychologist Daniel Simon’s who did this experiment, that so it’s a real experiment, but it has become a YouTube meme. Where your listeners have probably seen this video clip where you’re you see Have two basketball teams one dressed in black one in white. And the speaker says count the number of passes made between the White Team. So they start all moving around and the passes are back and forth, back and forth. You count 15 passes. So it says, okay, you can have 15 passes. That was correct. But did you see the dancing girl? Daniel Simon’s is discovered in the experiment. 50% of the people don’t see the fact that a guy in a gorilla suit has come out and done a dance. And so he calls it observational, I call it the book attentional blindness, where attention causes us to see parts of reality, but it blinds us or obscures very obvious things. I think that’s a profound insight. Right? The most obvious thing on the screen is a person in a gorilla suit, like that, visually speaking is the most optical least, you know, obvious thing. And yet, that’s the thing we can’t see. So are you in the book, falling argument from a theologian Andrew root, that what has happened in in our world is our attention is shifted away from God. So that God is yes, this is probably heretical to say it, but God is the dancing gorilla in this metaphor, right? The obvious thing in life, but we can’t see the presence of God in daily life anymore, because of the way our attention has shifted. So speaking practically, to men listening on the podcast, right? Here’s a simple thing on asked, like, what is the what is this? What is that sacred thing? What is that holy thing that will be right in front of you today, that you will miss because of the way you’re paying attention to your life. Right, so maybe it’s going to be a spouse, or maybe it’s going to be a child, maybe it’s yourself. Maybe it’s somebody you’re serving at work or a co worker. Maybe it is the holiness and the sacredness of the work itself. And the dignity of that like there is going to be some sacred truth or reality that is as clear as day like a dancing gorilla. And yet, you won’t see it because of your hurry your stress, your distraction, whatever your your shame, whatever you’re dealing with. And so to me, that’s the kind of the call of the book is just like, what is that sacred thing that appears in every second of every moment between every heartbeat that I am just missing, because of the way I’m not paying attention to my life.
Lantz Howard 42:32
We recently got a bird feeder. And it has a magical way of slowing everything down. Like for two weeks, we were like, Are there gonna be any birds that show up? And all of a sudden, like the birds are there and the wonder about four girls and alive even this morning? Or yesterday? It’s like, Hey, did you see that bird with the orange bee? You know? So it’s all around us? What are what are you doing? Maybe it’s new, maybe it’s experiment? What are one of the new things that you’re up to? I know, you expressed some of those in the book, and maybe you can share some of those. But what are those ways that we can practice slowing down or attention?
Dr. Richard Beck 43:19
Yeah, I talk about a lot of different ways. One of the ways is to just, yes, pay attention to the aid, right, that restlessness that we have in ourselves, that’s a good starting place, because it’s a very Augustinian way of saying that St. Augustine wrote his book to confessions, our hearts are restless until they rest in God. So maybe in a negative way, paying a sense, the sense that the way I’m not happy or satisfied and trying to fill the void with with whiskey or pornography, or you know, Gall for whatever, whatever you is you’re filling your life with to try to distract you from the pain that that hole is you’re you’re yearning for God. That’s one way to pay attention to that eight, don’t, don’t fill it. Use it as a compass. Let it point you back to God. But yeah, another way to think about this is we talk about God with a lot of men and I’ve had conversations with some friends that that they can’t we always unpack the presence of God like a supernatural kind of way. Like we’re like, it’s got to be miraculous, or it’s got to be like some of these main Jelic visual presentation. It’s got to be the audible voice of God. But there’s so many different ways where God I think prompts and nudges us if we pay attention and say, You know what, I might have ignored that like little niggling in my mind, but that was like God speaking to me. And that so like quickly I kind of taught a Bible class about this yesterday at my church I say, quickly, there’s like experiences of like love and affection like when your heart surges. Yes, Tory spouse, or you just see your kid do something beautiful and you just kind of like love them all over again. Right, you pay attention to the kind of the certainty that the surges of love, or the feeling of assurance, there’s a quote I read in my class, which says, sometimes you just need to hear a voice outside your head, that says, Christ died for you. And I think like that is so necessary for a lot of men here, you need a voice outside your head that tells you that Christ died for you that sense of assurance. And sometimes we feel that, you know, in worship, but sometimes we feel that in other spaces, and other locations, you know, there’s also feelings of calling, well, God kind of puts on your heart to go, you know, what I need to, like, do this thing I’ve been, I’ve been delaying action in something that God is calling me to do. And maybe that’s something as simple as like, taking somebody out to lunch. I’ve had people that start, like nonprofits, because God called them or adopt children, because it God called them like, God puts calls in your heart. And don’t delay, right, like, I act on those things, or feelings of conscience where God is convicted us of, of sin, or, or a cold heart toward a spouse or, and we got to say, you know, I got to kind of confess that name Nat to somebody. So conscience is an example of that. And then presence, just God’s presence all around us, like you were saying, just looking at that bird feeder, but God is all around us. And so maybe that’s out like, you know, bass fishing, like that’s what you feel God right in nature. So so a practical thing is that if you kind of widen the bandwidth, of where God can have, how God can speak to you, and in what ways, you kind of realize that God is kind of all around all the time, pulling it your heart, convicting you calling you, reassuring you is with you. If you just become don’t become shy in saying that is God, then you’ll suddenly see that you’re surrounded by the Divine Presence. The dancing gorilla is been there the entire time in front.
Lantz Howard 47:05
When I finished your book last week, I ordered a I’m going to mess up the Orthodox prayer bracelet. But how do you say it to your body? And I don’t know. Yeah, but it’s an orthodox prayer wrote, yeah. Do you use one yourself?
Dr. Richard Beck 47:22
Yeah, yeah. Well, I use I use that in prayer beads. Word of we’re not on audio, or this audio or is this video, but like, I like I have my pocket. I live like prayer beads. Like this is actually a rosary. Hey, this is I can sell this. This is from Rugged rosaries and Berger, gays is rugged rosary. It’s like rosaries made out of military grade. paracord No kidding. Yeah, you got it. You got a rugged rosaries calm. And and like, if you’re like a Catholic military personnel, like you can get all these kind of like hardcore rosaries. So I carry around a rugged rosary in my pocket. And yes, I still have a orthodox prayer group. So that yes, another example I talked about the book where, again, I’m not Catholic, so I don’t pray the Hail Mary with with a rosary. But so I use other prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer, and you just, you know, but the feeling of it in my pocket. So, a rugged rosary, my pocket, prayer quarter in my wrist, gives me a visual, tangible reminder to think of God into pray. I call this rosary all the time in meetings, like when I hate meetings. So when I need great peace, I’ll pull it out and hold it in my hand just to kind of remember, right? So yeah, you can use material things like prayer beads or ropes to again, focus one attention back upon God, it’s a very common thing in the Catholic tradition as Protestants don’t have a whole lot
Lantz Howard 48:54
of great grounding practice, you know, the, the the title, I mean, I love how yours was right there with you grab it, and it’s very much a real way. And that those those things, I think, the only reason to bring them up or are new and they need to be explored, right? It may or may not be for you. But if you don’t know about it, how do you even begin to explore those spaces? Yeah, I
Dr. Richard Beck 49:19
mean, because again, if it’s if it’s not about believing in God, but just remembering God, right, attending to God, then yeah, these kinds of things, or have been helped so many different, you know, Christian traditions, maybe, maybe it’s for you, it’s not like that, but it’s like a scripture that you put on, on your mirror every day. You know, so there’s lots of different ways you can play around with it to your comfort level. But the question is, unless you’re doing something very intentional in directing your attention, then then you do what I do in the morning was just get up and look through my phone. And then you’re, you’re already in the thick of the world in life and your feelings about it and you haven’t thought a lot about God at all. The day and then the day is over. So so that’s the other thing I’d add other than material reminders is kind of like, like habits and prayer. And maybe maybe you got to go outside to do it like, like, for me a good prayer time for me was like walking the dog. Like I did that in the morning. And I just made sure that I prayed during that during that during the walk the dog. And or maybe it’s when you’re mowing your lawn, right, right during your activities, like put on an audio book or a podcast as a spiritual content to it. So while you’re doing your yard work, right, again, you’re thinking of God attending to the holy things.
Lantz Howard 50:40
So, so resilient people, just kind of enclosing here the next few minutes, he talks about gratitude and this gift of grace. And it’s a common theme and resilient people that they just kind of have a sense of openness about them right there. They’re extending grace, but they’re also receiving the gift of grace and their posture and gratitude. I know for for many people, it seems like there’s this fear and scarcity about us that, you know, everything’s going to hell in a handbasket. And one learning sin, that posture of gratitude, but to your your with a lot of young people just 1819 2025. And you see the hope of of the best we get to contact with Bill. What do you see that that gives you hope, from from our conversation, the people you serve? Because I guess I’m paralleling this with so many leaders in the church are, are super anxious about the future of the church. But your presence is one that you’re surrounded by hopeful people and leaders that are coming up out of the university.
Dr. Richard Beck 51:58
Yeah, so where, where and how I see hope. Well, I think I think it’s just let me let me be clear, though, I do think there’s challenges that we need to face. But I would say I see hope for the church and that I definitely see a spiritual restlessly yearning and young people. One of the reasons why they’re turning like young people are kind of turning kind of social justice, is that kind of great deep interest in wanting, right, wanting to find that heroic outlet, right, wanting to make the world a better place. And so instead of seeing that impulse of social justice amongst young people, I see it as very hopeful, like I see them as not what like this current generation is they’re not checked out. They’re not cynical. They are trying to change the world. They’re channeling that kind of activist culture. But to me, there’s great hope there because I also think that they’re currently starting to realize is that an activist culture without Christ without grace, without mercy about peace is pretty sad, just a lot of toxicity and anger and burnout. And so when you offer them, Christ, there is there is just a kind of, it’s like, giving water to a thirsty person. So to me the spiritual hunger of the young people, in their optimism in the sense that they can make a difference, but we need to do is give them a compelling vision of the church being the place where they need to show up. I think that’s our challenge there. But but but as far as the desire on their part, I have a lot of hope for that. So I do think there’s a the the field is bright for the harvesting. I do think we need to the church needs to reclaim her confidence in proclaiming the gospel to the age of the youngest generation. They’re very moral. They’re very politically engaged, but they’re also kind of lost. So I think if the church can get more aggressive and confident in proclaiming the good news that I do, I think it’ll be a lovely harvest.
Lantz Howard 54:10
I love how you speak into them just know that aggressive nature like we need to speak Jesus Christ into this scenario versus the ignorance and bliss and let’s let’s just ignore it and it’s going to go away but but they’re, but they’re hopeful. They want something that that transcends them. The new Barna research I was reading today shows of this, this mystical thing that you talked about in your book of like, we’ve got to give them spaces that are beyond the head and actually connected the heart. So I’m thankful for you and your time, energy and resources and pointing that out into the book in ways that are tangible for us to grab ahold of. Always a pleasure. Yeah. What just in closing What word would you leave with? Um, just just man? Granted, we’ve covered a gamut of conversations, but what would you leave with men are in this deconstruction, but they want to have this passionate faith in Jesus? Like, what would you leave them with?
Dr. Richard Beck 55:23
I would say that that’s a good question. Maybe I’m trying to swim for a home run rushing, just
lay down a good bunch. But I would say for a guy that’s been on the deconstructing journey, to say, you know, as if you can’t get all the way, you know, to, to like, yes, to complete assent to just look at Christ. And ask yourself, you know, is that a good way to live? No, what was the story I tell to one of my students who’s going through all of this skepticism and doubt, and he wanted to talk to me about all the all the things evolution, probably evil. And we talk, talk, talk about all that kind of stuff. But at the end of the conversation, because name is Brad, I said, Brad, can I ask you a question? And he said, Sure. I said, Well, Brad, do you want to live a beautiful life? And it kind of took him aback. But he said, Yeah, I do. I said, Okay, then what’s your aesthetic? Like, how do you judge a good day from abandoning? How do you how do you decide what a good father is from a bad father, a good spouse, right? A good neighbor, a good leader? How do you decide that like, like, what’s what’s, and I said, Bob, for me, one of those, one of the reasons why I’m a Christian is because of that Jesus is like my aesthetic, when I judge myself or another man, I kind of keep laying Jesus up against him as the metric is the is the measure of what I judge a life worth living. And during my season, deconstruction, I would say that was my tether. I even though I don’t know if I could have said, I fully believed, I definitely was continuing to follow the path of Jesus, because I just couldn’t find a more compelling path. And I looked around, like, I kicked the tires of a variety of other world religions, and, you know, went down a Buddhist rabbit hole for a while, but at the end of the day, I just kind of kept coming back to, you know, if I have to pick one way to live my day, that guy in the gospels is a great way to do it, you know, and, and so that’s what I would say to the deconstructing man, it’s like, Okay, I get the belief thing is hard. But what kind of person you want to be, you got to pick a model, you got to pick a, you got to pick a direction. So like, you know, pick it and go, you know? So that’d be my, my advice. And I think that’s
Lantz Howard 58:27
just in summary, the challenge of, of our churches is to is to position Jesus as the heroic figure, right? I mean, he’s a man of courage, Authenticity, transparency, full of self esteem, full of valuable meaning.
Dr. Richard Beck 58:45
And it goes back to what I was saying before about agency and communion brings full circle, highly genic, like you could not do Jesus of not being like a confidence, tough leader. And so but but the guy that was hardly a generous, highly communal, like, was able to weep was able to wash the disciples feet, was able to embrace children. And so he in many ways, is the picture of a fully developed human being a man of being able to show empathy and strength, not against each other. But together that both and that was the point I was trying to make earlier. He’s like, the perfect example of, of a balanced human, human person.
Lantz Howard 59:30
And I feel like we could have another hour just about the integration of the whole person and this conversation and so rich and vital to our health of families, churches, leaders. So thank you so much for your time and helping us explore just the tip of the iceberg with this. Hey,
Dr. Richard Beck 59:49
it was a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you was a kind of a rambling after a lot of stuff. But you know, but thank you for letting me do that. So well, thank you.