As Synod 16 wraps up, I can’t help but think — and pray — about the importance each parental role holds within the family, and how the uniqueness of our sexual natures lays the foundation for a well-rounded culture.
I’m the only guy in my house. Even the dog is a female. I also taught at an all-girl school for a few years. Currently, I teach all guys. This probably comes as no surprise — but there is a difference. It’s complementary, exigent, and intriguing at the same time. Perhaps one of the most notable facets is the way we uniquely approach spirituality.
I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have a doctorate degree in human development or sociology. But I do have experience on the “front lines” witnessing human behavior and the disparities that both bless and plague us as humans. In my former job, you either developed the ability to adjust to those disparities … or fail.
One thing that’s become abundantly clear to me is that boys and girls approach spirituality differently. The opposite sexes complement each other in a way that God understands, but our culture fails to the more it embraces this idea of sexual equality – or inequality – and ultimately attempts to snatch the God-given natures given us at birth. Our culture is now replete with attacks on our sexuality, and I would argue that’s carried over even to the way we view Jesus.
I remind my students regularly to remember that all human beings are equal in dignity regardless of race, religion or creed; most importantly regardless of sex. But equality is not “sameness.” My wife and I are equal in dignity because God created us that way. That our culture has difficulty understanding this is a symptom of God’s absence within it and our infatuation with secularism. My wife and I look at things differently. There are insights I bring to the family. And there are many things that she provides. In fact, my prayer cycle usually goes something like this: I pray for wisdom about something … and she gets it.
How does this relate to spirituality of the sexes? Well for starters, the desks in my classroom are set up differently now than when I taught all girls. Girls love to talk about things. Trying to get a teenage boy to participate in anything is a mission unto itself. “Just tell me what I need to know for the test, and I’m good.” Or, “tell me what the Church teaches and how much I can get away with and I’m all set.” With girls, discussions often turned to compassion, service and love. With boys, it’s as much about spiritual warfare as it is anything else.
Something struck a chord in me recently: Girls need to understand their “feminine genius.” They need to channel their emotions toward the good for which they were created, to help them realize that “if they are what they were meant to be, they will set the world on fire.” Boys need to be challenged and called to “battle.” When my own daughters see someone in need, it’s almost inherent for them to want to help. When the boys know they’re being called to fight against the evil in the world, they’ll step up to the plate.
Part of the problem is that our culture has taken the “battle” out of the conversation. Now, there’s no such thing as evil. The devil doesn’t even exist anymore. I wonder if perhaps we’ve emasculated Jesus to be a figure who shows compassion, but never says “no” out of fear someone might have their feelings hurt. That’s not the Jesus I know. And that’s not the type of parent I long to be.
Our culture’s young men are hurting because they’ve been led to believe true spirituality is more about “feelings” than spiritual warfare. And our culture’s young women are hurting because they’ve been led to believe being a strong woman is more about what they do than who they are.
I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in our Church. Hence, the synod. Where it will lead us, only God knows. But I think it must begin by embracing who we are as male and female, and letting that steer us toward what we do best, as mother, father, sister, or brother. In fact, as male and female.
Paul Stuligross is director of campus ministry at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory High School and is a former police officer.