Our Culture Today
The point at which a boy transitions into manhood may, at least in our culture, be difficult to identify. Many men in our culture have never gone through a rites-of-passage ceremony that initiates them into a community of manhood. Thus, there has likely been no clear moment of distinction, for themselves, or one recognized by others.
Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, speculates as to why, except for within certain religious circles, we do not see manhood-initiation ceremonies being practiced in our culture. He points to the Industrial Revolution as one of the causes. During the Industrial Revolution, fathers worked outside the home and mothers raised children from within the home. “It became a cultural value,” says Haddorff, “Dad works. Mom raises the kids and we tend to pass things down to the next generation.”
Many cultures, outside our own, do practice a rites-of-passage ceremony in which a boy’s transition into manhood is formally recognized by a community. In “8 Interesting (And Insane) Male Rites of Passages From Around the World” Brett & Kate McKay compare rites-of-passage ceremonies from different cultures. Their analysis identifies several similar factors, which are shared by many cultures, such as rituals that test a young man’s bravery, endurance, or faith.
The community of men itself is also a common factor among different cultures. A rites-of-passage ceremony usually takes place in relation to the culture’s community of men. The boy is then initiated into the community. Also, the young man trying to complete the passage usually has to undergo a trial that commonly involves physical pain. Thus, another common factor in these ceremonies is pain.
Manhood and Pain
The passage to manhood is in someway connected to pain. This is another value that seems to be cross-culturally shared. In many of the rituals, the young man must undergo an excruciating test of pain and, in many cases, he is expected to suffer silently. This silence accompanied with pain again seems to be another phenomenon shared by many cultures around the world.
Haddorff examines the meaning the rituals, especially as they are related to pain. He explains that every young man in every culture desires to answer the question as to whether or not he “measures up.” The rituals are designed so that young men can finally answer the question for themselves and be recognized by the community for doing so. “The enduring of pain was the means to answer the deeper transcendent question of ‘Do I have what it takes?’” says Haddorff, “They were forced to face their own mortality, even their own death. Ironically in so doing it was their preparation to live a full and meaningful life.”
Connection to Christ
There is a connection between manhood and pain. The connection then between manhood and Christ is perhaps an easy leap, but Haddorff says the connection to Christ goes far beyond his crucifixion. “His walk,” says Haddorff, “was a walk to death, but that’s not the end. There’s a resurrection.”
When young men transition into manhood through a rites-of passage ceremony they ask whether or not they are enough. Among the cultures of the world, this is always answered in the context of a community of manhood. The passage to manhood is a passage through pain. As Christ is our model for both manhood and suffering, we do well to remember that as he lay down his rights and suffered for it, he did so by his own choice in obedience to the Father. Jesus did not give up or give in. He endured and with our hope in him so must we endure.
1. Brett & Kate McKay. http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/02/21/male-rites-of-passage-from-around-the-world. October 22, 2013.