By DAVE BELLEFEUILLE-RICE
Detox! The Spiritual Path of Jesus for 21st Century Men By Craig S. Pesti-Strobel. Resource Publications, 2021, 252 pages, $28.00
Author Craig Pesti-Strobel is a veteran United Methodist pastor. Weaving together his experiences of marriage, family, metanoia, prayer, and forgiveness with well-informed spiritual, psychological, and sociological scholarship, he offers us a quite readable book of Gospel-inspired stories to serve as one guide along our journey.
He describes a spiritual awakening at a high school church camp when he clearly “heard” Jesus ask, “Who do you think you’re fooling?” That awakening remains a force in his life.
Detox! offers the reader insights into how our personal being can be enmeshed ominously with interpersonal and social systems. Rather than simply offering an assortment of discussion questions, this book suggests additional individual and group work for the readers, presented in a variety of creative forms.
As for his focus on masculinity, Pesti-Strobel noticed that in the gospels, Jesus spends a lot of time working with his group of males, who had their own first-century systems to contend with. He finds in those gospel narratives and teachings a male spirituality. As the oldest of eight boys, son of a beloved father (and mother!), and a father himself, he does not presume to be able to offer a spirituality to anyone but men.
The author begins in naming one crisis before us: a world-wide, multi-pronged violent emergency in which men play a dominant, destructive role. He quickly moves into engaging male readers about injustice, violence against women, nonviolence, and disentangling from the Domination System. He writes about these things as if they are ordinary, church pew-friendly, Jesus-loving concerns, not leftistonly passions. Isn’t that refreshing!? Isn’t that true!?
This ordained Christian is not much interested in systematic theology. He wants men to walk the path of Jesus, the road that leads us into seemingly unanswerable questions and deeply murky waters. He invites us to pursue the way of living that can feel like dying. To him, what counts is not so much what we know as how we live. Whatever path you are attempting, does not that make sense? And don’t we all need encouragement and company to practice living any path of integrity?
The beating heart of the book is Pesti-Strobel’s marriage story, told memorably in just a few paragraphs. He is on his third hyphenated last name. After entering adulthood determined to devote himself to healthy, egalitarian, happy family life—for family’s sake—and to set an example of sanity for his congregations, he is now twice divorced. Bewilderment and sorrow forced him to ask himself what one does when determination just does not cut it.
To his credit, this author does not reveal (for the price of a book) a success recipe he has gleaned from his mistakes and from the Bible. Don’t we all know down deep that even when a good recipe can help, it is not enough to sustain us when we are lost in the mire?
Rather, Pesti-Strobel urges the path of Jesus, a path he has been attempting since his high school awakening. He has found this path endlessly fruitful. In facing his questions, though, he has seen that he must go deeper, though it seems he is not quite sure where that will take him. The challenge to go deeper accompanies everything he writes about.
Taking my cue from him, I urge men to consider reading this book, although I imagine anyone else who delves into it might find useful wisdom. Most of us human beings have witnessed the crumbling of some of our dreams, dreams we had been determined to realize. Most of us have then been tempted to put our faith in a recipe for success, or maybe an anti-recipe. Pesti-Strobel asks us, instead, what about going deeper?
Dave Bellefeuille-Rice is a long-time friend of the L.A. Catholic Worker.