Interview Chronicles: Fratboys, God, and Me?

by P. Braithwaite

I conducted my first interview with an entire fraternity – 19 men ranging in age from 18 to 28. As I walked into the classroom, I was totally unprepared for the amount of testosterone I encountered. Despite all of my interviewing experience, I was nervous. I looked around at the fraternity brothers. Nineteen men sat before me. A camera was rolling to capture every second. I adjusted my glasses (I didn’t wear makeup or contact lenses because I wanted to blend in). I smiled warmly at the group. Nineteen men stared back at me. Some of them looked confused, their eyes avoiding mine and their legs shaking underneath the table. Others seemed excited and wanted to jump right into discussion.

As I launched questions at the group, there were so many different responses — some I had never thought of and others that felt contrived. The conversation unfolded naturally, and I found myself having a great discussion about God. At the end of an hour, I felt compelled to continue. Instead of closing up discussion, I spontaneously said, “Please complete the following sentence: How a man sees God…”

I am still unsure of what made me pose this question. I had not written it down prior to arriving. I was, after all, only there to find connections between men and romantic relationships. For me, that was the only link that mattered. As I waited for the men to answer, one guy looked at me and smiled. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “How a man sees God…is how he hopes to see himself.”

I kept thinking about his statement as I drove home that night:How a man sees god is he hopes to see himself.” It took me several days to digest his words because if men see God how they hope to see themselves, then what did that mean for women, like me, who imagined God as an old guy with a white beard who lives among the clouds? In that question I found a startling realization: I see God…as a man.

I wondered what it must feel like to share the same gender as God. I likened it to the way New Yorkers feel about the Yankees: an innate pride that you are represented by winners. Or maybe, I hypothesized, men feel an overwhelming pressure to live up to their leader.

Either way…I realize that my ideas about God need some work.