An interview with Bruce Stankavage
Onward Christian Warrior
Is men's work mutually exclusive to
Christianity? Not according to Bruce Stankavage, or
John Eldredge - Wild at Heart author who will be
interviewed next month here.
In this multi-culturally sensitive world, it
often appears that Christians are the exception
when practicing tolerance. Sure there's judgmental
Christians, but aren't there narrow-minded zealots
in almost every belief - including modern
secularism? Maybe there's just too many leftover
shadows from our own personal Christian roots
"People involved with MKP don't jump for joy
when they know about my belief," said Stankavage,
who was born a Catholic. "But I knew I had to deal
with loving myself before loving God. Something was
blocking me from feeling that I was unconditionally
loved. I intellectually understood my beliefs, but
not emotionally. I didn't feel them."
Stankavage was initiated into men's work through
The ManKind Project (MKP) in 2002 at Claymont
Court, near Washington D.C.
"That experience profoundly impacted my life,"
he said. "I dealt with my wounds and the history
around my wounds. MKP really brought some healing
for me and helped my clarity in my relationship
with the Lord. MKP's New Warrior Adventure Training
does great work, and I got huge gains from it."
Also, Stankavage has participated in two "boot
camps" for men and one "advanced camp" for men who
feel called to work with other men. The retreats
were lead by Eldredge's Ransomed Heart Ministries
in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Approximately 400
men attended each "boot camp" and 60 men attended
the "advanced" camp.
Having participated in a "Promise Keepers"
gathering once, Stankavage said that the event was
"more about singing and praising God, which is
good, but it didn't get to my heart and its wounds.
Until you reach a man's heart and understand his
passions - his wounds - he cannot understand who he
was meant to be."
Too often Christian nomenclature is off-putting
to the world at large. For example, the word
"repentance" may create the image of
self-castigating whips of cloistered priests. The
Hebrew name repentance "Shuwb" however, means to
change one's heart or mind. The Greek word is
"Metanoeo" - or to change for the better.
A little blessed change of heart sounds
Stankavage quoted Isaiah 61:1. "... he hath sent
me to bind up the brokenhearted ... and set the
He continued: "As human's, we can only do so
much for ourselves, and then we must invite Him
into our broken places - to open our eyes and heal
us as only He can heal. The source of my healing is
Jesus. I tried to heal myself and it didn't work.
In the Bible, it is Jesus who is referenced as our
comforter and counselor."
Having recently re-read John Bradshaw's Home
Coming, Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner
Child, I am reminded that an integral part of the
12-step recovery program is acknowledging a higher
power. What does anyone care if Bruce Stankavage
calls that power Jesus.
"MKP and Christianity are both about healing our
broken hearts and trying to get us to be the people
we were created to be," Stankavage said. "So when
we are living in our glory and our calling, we're
as close to being godlike as we're going to be -
when we're in our giftedness."
There is still a struggle for him in holding
both worlds together, he noted.
"Men's work or Christianity ... he mused. "It's
a tough question. Eldredge ties the two worlds
together better than anyone I know. He asks the
universal questions of 'why am I here? what is my
I recall C.G. Jung's approach to Christianity.
He confessed in his later years, in Memories,
Dreams, Reflections, that he was sympathetic to
Christianity. Jung had taught people during his
lifetime that his goal was to heal the human heart
so that the individual would then be more soulfully
healthy to pursue God - however God appeared.
Sadly, many of the prejudices against Christians
are well deserved, Stankavage stated.
"So many people, not just Christians, are
hypocrites wearing a façade of a godly
person but being different behind closed doors. The
answer is getting to a man's heart. How can I have
a relationship with the Lord if I don't know my own
The 34-year-old said that modern Christianity
puts up too many "don'ts and not enough "do's."
"As Christians, we've been told to be good girls
and boys - be proper and moral. That's good, but
that's not the goal. That's like sin management.
Don't drink, don't smoke, dress nice, don't look at
pornography - but until we deal with the unresolved
heart issues and wounds, no kind of discipline will
overcome our temptations. Discipline will break
down at some point because we haven't resolved the
"I believe that Eldredge, among other things,
focuses on the restoration of our hearts - helping
Christians live out of their calling and glory.
When we live there, we are living in freedom. In
order to do that, we have to access many of the
truths in the mytho-poetic work and go deeply into
our wounds to find our greatest desires and
passions. As I learned at my MKP initiation, Rumi
said something along the lines of our mission
coming out of our greatest pain - our wounds."
In our conversation by telephone from his
business in Durham, NC, Stankavage stopped me and
pointedly asked if I believed in "the Enemy."
Already being a Christian, a Mormon, I believe
the account in scripture that talks about a "war in
heaven" where Satan - "the father of all lies" -
was cast out. And, he's here with his minions among
us now. Plus, I'm a big fan of M. Scott Peck who
writes about evil convincingly in his book The
People of The Lie.
"In the Christianity of my heritage, the "Enemy"
was never brought out," Stankavage recalled. "It's
freeing to know that it's not all my fault. There
is another presence out there that wants to take me
out. There are demonic forces in nature."
One of my personal favorite New Testament verses
is Ephesians 6:12. "For we wrestle not against
flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness
of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
I think Papa Jung would have something to say as
well about the archetypal energies that influence
us mortals here on earth.
Stankavage, who is a partner in a self-storage
facility, said he grew up in a home that stressed
"duty and appearances over relationships and
"Being Catholic, for me, was about being dutiful
- going to church," he said. "My mom used to say
'God gives you 24 hours a day and you can't give
him an hour on Sunday?!' I remember sitting in a
pew and having her say 'Why can't you be like that
good little boy over there?' That wounded me as a
child. Then there was my dad's disappointment in my
misbehavior - that I was not like the other kids.
So I figured that if I wasn't like the others, I
wasn't going to be loved. As a result, I spent my
life trying to fit in and be perfect. I lived in
fear that if I was not perfect, I would not be
worthy of anyone's love and acceptance. It was
obviously a tough burden to carry. Thankfully, I
continue to heal and live in the freedom God has
called me to live in.
At some point, Stankavage said he realized there
was more to church than watching his mother say her
"I asked myself if she was living out of her
heart, or out of her passions that the Lord could
put in her heart, or whether she was living only
out of discipline. I knew there was more out there
for me. I am thankful for my mom because she
introduced me to the fact that there is something
out there that is greater than me that I cannot
The permission NOT to have to be a good boy, was
freeing to Stankavage.
"Jesus wasn't necessarily a good boy," he said.
"He'd piss a lot of those guys off, and had many
confrontations. Modern Christianity doesn't talk
about confrontation. We're not supposed to get too
emotional. But Jesus got emotional. He didn't
always turn the other cheek. He showed us it's okay
to express our emotions and still be in control. He
didn't say 'don't be angry.' In the Bible, Paul
says to be angry, but do not sin. There is a big
difference. That idea was very freeing, knowing
that I could express myself, and have conflict, and
still be acting Christ like - so to speak. It's
difficult to be masculine when everyone in the
church is telling you to 'just calm down, don't be
upset, don't express yourself.' Jesus ripped up
tables and called the Pharisees hypocrites. Jesus
had a glorious masculinity.
"It's all about a life with a vibrant heart,"
Stankavage said, quoting I Samuel 16:7, at the
point when David is chosen as king of Israel. "But
the Lord said unto Samuel, look not on his
countenance, or on the height of his stature;
because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not
as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward
appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
Stankavage warns men not to let the church
"strip" us from our hearts. "Guard your heart -
it's the wellspring of life!" (Proverbs 4:23)
Early Christianity focused more on the
resurrection than it did the crucifixion, he
instructed. The fact that Jesus Christ conquered
death was the more notable event. Instead of
wearing crosses, Christians might consider wearing
boulders around their necks, signifying the rolling
away of the stone covering the tomb and the
resurrection of the Savior.
"Total Christianity is about Jesus' crucifixion,
his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven -
not just his crucifixion," he explained.
So, are we ready to accept Christians into the
men's movement, yet? Stankavage said he is willing
to agree to disagree on potentially divisive points
with men. Quoting Romans 8:1 he said "There is
therefore now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but
after the Spirit."
"We get so judgmental, and condemning," he
continued. "That's my own shadow. Condemning words
are not from God. That's the "Enemy." Even the
words I hear in my own head, the condemning words
about myself, I have to realize they are not coming
Don't most people prefer to find what they have
in common with other people, rather than seeking
out divisive issues?
"I've learned in MKP to own my judgments," he
said. "I can see my own weaknesses better.
Eldredge's work has helped me by reminding me to
invite Jesus in to help. He can help me be who I
was created to be. In my own strength, I will
always fail. That's why I was drawn to God and
Jesus - that takes the burden off of me."
Although men's work tends to shy away from
religion, it openly embraces the concept of
archetypal energies - spirit. Ancient symbols of
the four basic directions (Read Robert Moore's
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover) personify primal
forces (or spirit) in nature.
"In the beginning [at MKP meetings] when
we were calling in those spirits, I didn't feel
quite right. I'd ask 'what am I doing?'" Stankavage
said. "Now, I see that the directions are all the
personalities of one God - because there's only one
spirit. Only one spirit that has power to heal.
That's what we're asking for.
For me, in my own beliefs, I see Christ modeling
the archetypal energy of the blessed King. Whether
He is (which I believe) or is not the Son of God,
He does carry the image of what Jung called "the
Christ figure" that is hard-wired within us.
"Too often I have gone after the sin in other
people, but now I want to call out their glory, and
bring that out of them," Stankavage said. "I want
to be a blessing for my glory to shine. If a guy is
an addict, I try to remember that that is not the
deepest thing about him. He's still an image bearer
of God. I work not to condemn him but to find that
guy's glory. Sometimes it gets messy, but it's
Stankavage said he lives out his mission,
starting at home with his wife and three boys.
Daily prayer and meditation also helps him to
connect "where God had affirmed His presence - His
Again praising Eldredge, Stankavage said he has
learned that there are no quick tips or techniques
"The main goal is to simply walk with God,
totally submitting and surrendering ourselves to
him. It's about relationships - trusting, following
the wild goose, the Holy Spirit. God is with us
when we open up our hearts to each other."
Stankavage said he believes he's been given
great gifts in his life.
"I have a wife and two little boys at home that
I can share my life with," he concluded. "My
challenge is to look at my wound and the message
that said I never had anything to offer anybody ...
and now, in a more intentional way, I'm stepping
out and calling on God's glory that is in me."
Stankavage helps facilitate discussion groups at
Martin Brossman's chat site at groups.yahoo.com/group/wild-at-heart/
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2005 Reid Baer
* * *
The fame you earn has a different taste from the
fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria
Reid Baer, an
award-winning playwright for A Lyons
Tale is also a newspaper journalist, a poet
with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide,
and a novelist with his first book released this
month entitled Kill
The Story. Baer has been
a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and
currently edits The New Warrior Journal for
The ManKind Project www.mkp.org
He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife
Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.
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